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Sunday Serendipity
The Gin Is The Thing

By Stephen Eliot

You will not find chocolate in a true Martini. A Martini is not made with Sake, it is never pink and it is not served in a glass whose rim has been sugared. As a critic and teacher, I do try to keep an open and somewhat catholic mind when it comes to food and drink, but there are some inviolate truths in my world, and one of them is that a Martini is about Gin, a short splash of dry Vermouth (preferably Dolin’s) and a twist…with the olive optional for those who believe they must.

Vodka, you say? I say not. It is the botanical complexity of Gin that is the very soul of the drink. The inherently faceless and anonymous nature of Vodka makes a drink composed of little more than a fast track to inebriation. Devotees may argue about shaking or stirring. I, as a rule, choose the former as I prefer the slight dilution and extra cold that comes as the corners of the ice cubes are rounded by vigorous shaking, but either technique is just fine so long as one remembers that Gin is the thing. A properly made Gin Martini refreshes and fortifies and stimulates and soothes all at the same time, and there is something about it that civilizes when the events of the day do otherwise.

Needless to say, the pleasure of a drink so simple is profoundly revealing of the particular Gin used, and all Martini true-believers will be more than happy to tell you just which one is best. I confess to liking more than a few and will often choose one over another depending on whim and mood, but not long ago I came across a new label that instantly moved to the very head of the class.

Bluecoat American Dry Gin made in Philadelphia is nothing short of a revelation. Gin is typically the product of continuous column stills on what we might call an industrial scale, but Bluecoat is a small-batch craft spirit distilled in a hand-hammered copper pot still with a proprietary blend of organic botanicals including juniper berries and American citrus peels. It is a wonderfully complex spirit of real depth and polish, and its subtle but insistent juniper themes are perfectly balanced by its bright streak of citrus and back-notes of bitter orange. It is at once both immensely flavorful but never pungent, and, while checking in at a full 94 proof, it never tastes hot and exhibits an uncanny sense of balance and refinement.

Small-scale craft-distilling in the United States has seen significant success of late, and as we have devoted past columns to the remarkable spirits of producers such as St. George Spirits, Osacalis and High West distillery, so will we continue to report on indigenous beauties as we find them. Bluecoat Gin fills a hitherto unfilled niche, and it comes with highest recommendation.


by Terry Rooney
Posted on:2/6/2011 1:47:39 PM

Hendricks, with a touch of cucumber in it, is our favorite, especially when my wife muddles some basil and cucumbers into the mix

by Charlie Olken
Posted on:2/6/2011 1:59:57 PM

Hi Terry--

I am not much of a white spirits drinker, but I do find that cucumber is a nice touch. In fact, I have had a cucumber vodka that was quite interesting, and could be made more interesting with dashes of herbs or with some added fresh cucumber.

But, on the whole, I leave the white good to Steve and to my wife. She will like this gin as well.

by Daniel Hanson
Posted on:2/6/2011 4:29:29 PM

I beg to refer anyone who has not encountered it to "The Hour: a Coctali Manifesto" by the redoubtalbe Bernard DeVoto.  Seldom have equal measures of truth and wit been combined to such pleasant effect.

Gin: the real deal
by Erica Brown
Posted on:3/16/2011 7:09:52 AM
As much as I appreciate Hendricks-- 'tis now been dethroned by a true London gin with the first proper copper pot distillery in almost 200 years-- (never mind sourcing the Thames!)-- Sipsmith in Hammersmith, Greater London that is. It literally grabbed my attention with its freshness (akin to buying from the farmer's market rather than a stale grocery store). It had a clarity and vivacity that was not unlike my first Kiwi Sauv after having been raised on Fume Blancs. Oh, and did I mention that I, a native San Franciscan usually consider myself a scotch and red-wine drinker?!

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