What's the best way to appreciate gin?
November 3, 2006 1:53 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to appreciate gin?

So last night I was at a bar that stocked about 15 different brands of gin. I like gin well enough, but after trying a couple with tonic water, I found that what with the ice and tonic, it was hard to really taste the difference between them. So what's the best way to appreciate the unique characteristics of a specific gin? Should I just drink it neat or with water, like whiskey? I'm not really a martini drinker, but if that's somehow different from G&T, let me now
posted by GuyZero to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
A Martini is totally different than G&T. Take a look at the master recipe (if I may be so bold): mostly gin, no real dilution. Martinis would be a great way to try, but 2 or 3 are enough. Really, you need to take very small samples---and probably spit them out, as at a wine tasting. Best done at home.
posted by LeisureGuy at 1:58 PM on November 3, 2006

Just don't ask for the martini to be "shaken, not stirred." Shaking a martini melts too much of the ice in the shaker and will dilute or "bruise" the martini. Personally, I think martinis are incredibly nasty, but this is what afficianados have told me.
posted by SBMike at 2:11 PM on November 3, 2006

I'm not a fan of gin martinis either, but I love me some G&T. If you put less tonic in, obviously, more of the flavor of the gin will come through.

For the purest experience, though, you're pretty much stuck with the martini. The vermouth will cut the bite of the gin enough to drink; water won't.
posted by mkultra at 2:36 PM on November 3, 2006

when i forced mysefl to develop a taste for gin, i started on gin and tonics with lime. the lime made it taste a lot better. then i worked up to plain gin.
posted by kendrak at 2:44 PM on November 3, 2006

yeah, i never liked gin until i started drinking quality gin, on the rocks. the chill and the dilution made for a very pleasant combination - the first few sips are full-ish strength, and then after that the drink tapers off.

FWIW, my personal fave (currently) is Hendrick's.
posted by casconed at 2:49 PM on November 3, 2006

You could also try gin and soda, and it's hypoallergenic as well.
posted by claudius at 3:03 PM on November 3, 2006

A G&T is a good way to appreciate gin. Buy the best that you can afford. I have found that Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire are great value for money. Tanqueray 10 is my current favorite.

But there is more to a G&T than gin and one really should be equally discriminating with the other parts. Buy small glass bottles of Tonic water. You want as close to a single serve of tonic water per bottle as possible. If you use larger bottles, then the water will go flat and that is bad.

Ice is also important. A warm G&T is an utter abomination and serving one is a severe breach of decorum. Use quality ice - either make your own from bottled water or buy a bag of ice. In warmer climes, it is even more important as the ice wil melt more and tap water is, well, tap water.

Citrus. If you don't have a wedge of lemon, then you are not drinking a G&T. Use a fresh lemon where-ever possible. I don't go for the lime in a G&T, but use lime if you have no lemon. No lemon or lime? Pour something else.
posted by dantodd at 3:05 PM on November 3, 2006

Try some Hendricks. It's the most unique tasting gin I've ever had.
posted by dobbs at 3:13 PM on November 3, 2006

Gin isn't like Wine or Vodka or Whiskey or Scotch. There just aren't nearly as many places making it, so you probably don't need to worry too much about being an afficianado. The problem is, however, that you really need some kind of mixer to make Gin not some weird version of beverage homework.

It just isn't very palatable on its own. (I'd argue that vodka isn't either, but I've hung out with enough Russians to know that isn't universally true.)

Hendricks is good, though Tanqueray 10 is almost certainly the best. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, then go with Bombay Sapphire. Beefeater is mediocre, and a lot of bars use it as well.

A tonic with Citrus (even orange) or a dry martini (not my thing) will be your best way of judging them against eachother. But if you aren't already a G&T or martini fan, when there's no real reason to make a big deal about differentiating. Gin neat is a very aquired taste with little reward. If you like gin, just go with 10 or Sapphire and be done with it.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:20 PM on November 3, 2006

On the rocks is goodo for comparisons; you get just enough h2o from the ice to take the edge off and let it bloom a little (though IMO you can taste the differences well enough in a G&T). Try gin & lime, too -- just gin on the rocks and squeeze in about 1/4 lime. Or gin shooters with pomegranate seeds -- a shot of gin from the freezer with some seeds in the bottom, take it all in and chew the seeds with the gin.
posted by transient at 3:30 PM on November 3, 2006

If you don't have a wedge of lemon, then you are not drinking a G&T.

Indeed. I think it was Sydney Smith who said that his definition of lack of civilisation was being more than 12 miles away from the nearest lemon.
posted by greycap at 3:34 PM on November 3, 2006

How are YOU planning on drinking it? Then taste it THAT way. Silly ;)
posted by Cosine at 3:37 PM on November 3, 2006

I'm passionate about gin (any way I can get my hands on it). To appreciate the characteristics of a specific gin, either a well made G&T or martini will do the trick. Even for me, neat, warm gin is not a very delicious thing.

If all you're tasting in the G&T is tonic and lime, think about proportion and ice quality. Also, the quality of the tonic and whether it comes from a gun, big bottle, or (preferably) small bottle can make all the difference. The tonic should soften the alcohol and let you appreciate the aromatics. A G&T made with Bombay Sapphire is a totally different animal than one made with Boodles.

Still, a martini is the ultimate expression of gin's gin-ness. Thankfully, there is no single "correct" martini. Personally, my taste is a little old fashioned. I like mine a little on the wet side (more vermouth), especially with a cleaner gin like Boodles, Plymouth, or regular Bombay. For more perfumed, nuanced gins like Sapphire or Hendrick's, I use a bit less, but still more than is fashionable. Either way, I prefer stirred to shaken and I garnish with a lemon twist. The way lemon oil droplets float on the surface of the cold gin and waft up to your nose is really a lovely thing.

My point is, expirament to see if there's a variation you'll love. And remember, a almost straight gin martini (unlike a Cosmo or something made with juice) shouldn't be more than 4 ounces, and frankly, that's generous. It'll just get warm before you finish it and made you too tipsy too fast to appreciate it.
posted by mostlymartha at 3:42 PM on November 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with Navelgazer on brands.

Otherwise, I'm a weirdo who loves the taste of gin all by itself, so you probably shouldn't take me seriously when I recommend that as the best way to appreciate it. I also despise sugar in my coffee.
posted by treepour at 3:47 PM on November 3, 2006

dobbs: Have you tried Anchor's Junipero? It's my favorite martini gin these days.
posted by harkin banks at 4:20 PM on November 3, 2006

I'm a huge fan of the gimlet, the recipe for which is quite variable but is dependent on a good gin. I prefer mine with lots of fresh lime and not with Rose's. The quality of the gin really does matter in this cocktail. I also like Hendricks but am happy to settle for standard Tanqueray.

I trust that we don't need to have the discussion about whether a gimlet is made with vodka or gin. It's fine if someone wants a vodka and lime but that is a vodka gimlet.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:20 PM on November 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Thankfully, there is no single "correct" martini.

There's a correct vermouth, though: Noilly Prat dry. If you're using some other vermouth, you're wasting your time. Vermouth is a magical concoction, with centuries-old secret recipes, barrels aged outdoors by the seashore to pick up the marine flavors off the breeze, etc.

You want to adjust the ratio (2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1) of gin to vermouth; now your only other option is which gin. At the higher gin:vermouth ratios, the character of the gin starts to assert itself. I am fond of Sapphire for its black pepper flavors, but I have had many sips of my girlfriend's Hendricks martinis and they are quite good as well.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:20 PM on November 3, 2006 [3 favorites]

You might want to note that for different drinks and different tastes, you'll want different gins. I like a dry Tanqueray Ten martini with a lemon twist instead of olives, a martini with Tanqueray with olives or a little dirty, while Bombay Sapphire can go either way. I've been to restaurants that can make a Saketini that usually use vodka, but if I request gin then they lean toward the Beefeater end of the scale since Tanqueray tends toward a citrusy taste and Sapphire almost has a pinecone-type flavor due to the botanicals.

Gin's a little harsh if neat, but don't blend it with water -- chill it, make a g&t, or temper it with a little vermouth in a martini.

(You're not really adding water to whiskey, are you? Water's for the side, just sip the whiskey slowly and take a sip of water occasionally.)
posted by mikeh at 4:26 PM on November 3, 2006

"The problem is, however, that you really need some kind of mixer to make Gin not some weird version of beverage homework.

It just isn't very palatable on its own."

I was going to answer your question with a facetious "Orally," but this bullshit above will not stand, man.

Gin on the rocks, or chilled neat is incredibly good. A martini or G&T can be excellent as well, and my favorite trick with a G&T is to add a dollop of gin on the top of it after I've mixed it.

As for tasting, it's a breath through the nose. The differences in gins are subtle, and come down to what kind of herbals you prefer. I like things that are less bitter and more floral. My favorite is the premium gin from Leopold Bros., out of Ann Arbor. I know they've got distributorships in Georgia and New York, and I highly recommend it.
But there really isn't a "best gin." All of the top shelf stuff (Saphire, Seagrams, Tanqueray) is about equally good, just different tastes for different folks. Just avoid Old Colony and Five O'Clock.
posted by klangklangston at 4:54 PM on November 3, 2006

My preference is for the Gimlet, however, I am quite fond of martinis as well.

I prefer a close to 10:1 ratio of gin:vermouth, generally, and I DO like mine shaken. If you pre-chill the gin, it doesn't melt too much ice, and it gets the drink colder. By using a higher ratio of gin:vermouth, I don't have to worry about dilution.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 5:00 PM on November 3, 2006

The best way to enjoy gin, vicariously, of course.

Gin is not as versatile as your other well liquors. Gin and Tonic is lovely on a hot day. Tanqueray #10 brand gin, a little sweeter than most gins, straight out of the freezer or on the rocks can be sipped solo, but a little lime rind rubbed around the rim of the glass is a welcome touch.
posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 5:18 PM on November 3, 2006

Personally, I think most gin tastes like kerosene. However, I love Tanqueray. It tastes distinctly different. I've tried with everything from tonic to various carbonated and non carbonated fruit drinks, and it always works for me.
posted by ninjew at 5:40 PM on November 3, 2006

I've been drinking Citadelle gin from France, and enjoying it.

My gin and tonics at home are always made with a twist, and a dash of Angostura.
posted by gimonca at 5:44 PM on November 3, 2006

Since the gin-people are here, has anyone tried Blackwood's?
posted by hototogisu at 5:59 PM on November 3, 2006

If you want a twist on the standard gimlet, try a pineapple gimlet:

1 part lime juice
3 parts gin (Bombay Sapphire for me)
top with 2 parts pineapple juice

posted by youngergirl44 at 6:21 PM on November 3, 2006

hototogisu: I have a bottle of Blackwood's Vintage Dry Gin (the 40% ABV, not the rare 60) on the go right now. It's very good, but it's very subtle, nothing like Hendrick's or Old Raj where you go "Wow, that's an interesting gin." (I'm surprised no-one here's been talking about Old Raj, incidentally. Saffron!). It's a gin for people that like juniper, and there's some mint and Maritime influence in there.
posted by mendel at 6:24 PM on November 3, 2006

I think any G&T with less than a 1:1 ratio of gin to tonic is going to be too overpowered with tonic taste, so it's difficult to distinguish between brands. That said, I didn't develop an appreciation for the taste of gin until after I was trained on G&Ts, so you might not be ready yet for drinking it on the rocks or neat and chilled. If you want to stick with the tonic, just request your drinks with a splash of tonic, or to be made as a double.

Nthing the recommendation for Hendricks, and the necessity for drinking gin cold. I like it on the rocks with a cucumber garnish.
posted by twoporedomain at 8:54 PM on November 3, 2006

For the gin people - Slashfood is doing a series of reviews of different gins and how to drink each brand. So far they've reviewed Citadelle, Tanqueray 10, #209, and Seagram's Extra Dry.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 9:13 PM on November 3, 2006

To understand what a particular gin is, serve it from the freezer, on the rocks, and drink slowly. That way you'll get a sense for which ones are G&T gins (usually ones with pungent, punchy juniper like Gordon's or Beefeater, but also Tanqueray) and which are martini gins (I'd say Sapphire). And which can do both.

If you mix it, mix it simply. The martini and the gimlet and the pink and the sling map out the palette for other combinations. I'm with mostlymartha: gin is a 'proper' drink, in that it comes with a sense of propriety, and you fuck with that at your peril.
posted by holgate at 3:06 AM on November 4, 2006

mostlymartha, nothing wrong with old fashioned tastes when it comes to martinis, especially when cutting-edge fashion in them leads to vanilla-infused vodka and chocolate schnapps. And don't get me started on the appletini.

While I wholeheartedly support the people here saying that the martini is the best way to make love to a good gin (Bombay Sapphire and I have a tumultous relationship), it's very under appreciated in other drinks. I like to mix it generously with Lipton's Peach Tea. The botanicals in the gin have a little dance with the peachiness, and you wind up with the best of gin and the best of tea. Really good way to enjoy bolder gins, and it even makes Beefeater's tasty.

It's also nice with lime and lychee juice, but I suspect that this paticular combination is easier to wrangle in a tropical climate.
posted by Jilder at 3:54 AM on November 4, 2006

Don't get me wrong, I love martinis...but...

If you get yourself some top-shelf gin (Bombay, Old Raj, etc.), it tastes wonderful simply on the rocks. A bit of an acquired taste, but not much.
posted by PreacherTom at 5:53 AM on November 4, 2006

What's the gest way to appreciate gin?

Drowned in tonic, with a twist.
posted by Netzapper at 9:04 AM on November 4, 2006

mikeh: (You're not really adding water to whiskey, are you? Water's for the side, just sip the whiskey slowly and take a sip of water occasionally.)

This is just simply not true.
posted by The Monkey at 2:48 AM on November 5, 2006

Word. The Monkey's right-- scotch and water is a tradition. And yes, you mix the two.
posted by LGCNo6 at 1:56 AM on November 6, 2006

Response by poster: (I'm surprised no-one here's been talking about Old Raj, incidentally. Saffron!).

Is that what that flavour was? A friend order a G&T with the Old Raj and I thought it tasted like... rubber. Saffron - sounds more likely.
posted by GuyZero at 8:07 AM on November 6, 2006

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