Gin Fueled Ramblings of a Jersey Spirits Guy

By Josh Beer – South Jersey Spirits Rep
Friday, April 26th

Over my career as a professional in food and beverage, I have had the unique privilege of influencing and observing in the recreational habits of scores seeking relief, exploration, or general numbness from the typical blandness of a world gone wildly convenient, sterile, and artificial.

Dining and drinking have persevered as art forms and cultural expressions, showing a unique human understanding of nature’s bounty, presenting a means by which to not only observe through sight, but to experience the world around us through smell, taste, and texture (and occasional inebriation!). Sure, modern comprehension of food science, including gastronomy, distilling, fermentation, and brewing have played a key role in our current ability to manipulate the ingestible gifts from nature to please our moods of the moment. At a certain point the manipulation must cease, and we must open the proverbial doors allowing ourselves to bask in nature’s vastly diverse palate of sensory experiences.

Believe it or not, this rambling introduction has a direction and intent, with the following ideas showing far less extrapolating and didactics. Gin is the point, and as I sip on a room temperature pour of clear spirits, packed with an intercontinental blend of botanicals and essence, I reflect on the wonders of modern creative distilling fueled by human imagination and innovation.

When I am in the field sampling spirits for industry folks and neophyte consumers alike, I am often confronted with narrow perceptions of what things can and should taste like. When imbibing, people are largely habit driven, prisoners to what they think things can and should taste like. Reminiscent of the human tendency to stereotype, singular perceptions of “things” are developed, fortified, and defended as these define comfort zones and justify personal habits.

According to the taste memories of most people, gin can be reminiscent of an unpleasant walk through a soap factory featuring pine as the pitch point for production. Juniper, lemon, and some other smelly stuff are what most people can recall when asked what they think gin typically tastes like, and this is where I finally get to my point.

For over two thousand years, humans have traversed the earth, settling and exploring exotic outposts that individually showcase the great regional diversity of our natural world. Over time we have developed a unique understanding of taste, smell, and touch, and through this we have learned the many ways that we can manipulate naturally occurring phenomena such as flora, fauna, and the like, to satisfy a range of modern applications. Modern distilling is one way in which we build on this generationally developed understanding of nature and science, and through the innovation of craft we are able to add the component of human creativity and imagination to embrace this bounty and reduce limited perceptions of what can and should be detected by our trusted senses. So do yourself a favor, let go of what seems safe, and step outside of what you think things must be.

Put down the ‘whipped cream flavored plastic bottle of whatever’, stop drinking the mildly “beer-like” can of ‘ultra-lite lime flavored’ nothingness, and enjoy the jungle log flume ride of craft. Traditions can and should be broken broken, and human imagination in the world of adult beverages is truly the ‘botanically bouquet-rich-neat-pour-of-spirit’ that I call life.

These two gins embrace tradition and still manage to shirk the dustily stodgy foundations set forth by our imbibing forefathers, who by the way, deserve a huge slap on the ass and high five for having the stones to start figuring out this whole booze science thing a couple thousand years ago.

Remember to drink all alcoholic beverages responsibly. When origin-less accents start to spew forth from your mouth, sounding as if you are an 18th century British Lord, then perhaps it’s time to switch to water and call a cab.

Right Gin- Sweden
This is a great gin for the spirits drinker who enjoys the botanical and aromatics of gin, but enjoys a softer juniper presence. Corn based distillate.

Palate/ Nose: Black pepper, Italian orange peel, with notes of lime and lemon; soft juniper and cardamom. Black pepper finish gives a fun savory quality.

Applications: Enjoy in a classic dry martini with a sliver of orange peel, and even a twist of black pepper into the glass before stirring. This also makes a really excellent Bloody Mary, savory notes of the gin play with well with the tomato, spice, and depth of traditional Bloody Mary’s (try a splash of fresh squeezed oj in your house Marymix… it’s delicious)

Caledonia Barr Hill Gin- Hardwick, VT
This beauty offers a great “taste of place” terroir driven gin, showcasing local juniper and honey sourced from the region, in Northern New York and Vermont. Barr Hill gin is a great entry-level gin for folks seeking a softer juniper presence and is also a great discovery for the general gin enthusiast. Juniper and raw honey are the only botanical used in production, which create a straightforward, clean profile. Corn and Honey based distillates.

Palate/ Nose: Sweet juniper on the nose, but less prominent on the palate; rounder mouth feel, with slightly sweet finish from the addition of raw honey, which mellows the burn.

Applications: Excellent on it’s own chilled, but also clean enough to drink neat at room temp. Bee’s Knees and Tom Collins using this gem are super clean refreshing. Innovate with honey based simple syrup, and use that in any citrus driven summer gin cocktail, such as a Honey-Collins garnished with a sprig of lemony thyme.

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