So I was feeling a case of the winter doldrums. It was February and I wanted out. Not that winters in the Bay Area are particularly harsh, but in California you get used to the sun, the cloudless sky, and the complete lack of snow and rain. Anything short of perfection begins to feel like a drag, and I had gotten sick of the sub-seventies temps we’d been experiencing the last couple months. I had a case of those It’s Slightly Chilly Blues. But how could I alleviate them? In what way could I find a reprieve? I wanted summer now. Think “Christmas in July,” but in reverse.
Since I happen to be a multimillionaire with my own plane, I gathered together a couple of my Beltramo’s cohorts for a trip down south to sunnier climes. I wanted a taste of the tropics to escape this grey season. “Taste,” I thought, “hey, that might be what I need: some potent concoction to cure what ails me and otherwise change my frame of mind.” Though, now I had to decide what could be the perfect beverage for countering Seasonal Affective Disorder. I figured that this would best be pondered in-flight while my disposition brightened. Rick, Mike J, and I boarded my super jet, the Rangpur Runner, and by the time the plane took off we were feeling better already.
We touched down in the Bahamas only a sentence or so later bristling with excitement. “Gin,” I yelled as we got off the plane! My companions stared at me as my non sequitur hung in the humid air. Rick yelled back, “Rummy,” because he thought we would be playing cards all weekend, and since Mike J was hungry he heard us say, “In Tummy,” and began walking toward the restaurant across the street from the airport. Since the restaurant in question had a bar, I followed after Mike and along the way I tried to explain my idea for our trip, the theme, the raison d’etre for the vacay, if you will. “Gin,” I repeated. “I want something a little exotic. Something bright and fresh and herbaceous to bring a little summer into the winter.” My compatriots agreed whole-heartedly without any need to mull it over. Mike J decreed that we should call our holiday Gin-uary and we should take turns picking a gin-based drink to imbibe each day. This seemed like a high-quality, high-proof undertaking, and we shook hands as we stepped into the bar.
On entry, the bartender shot us a sideways glance (a gesture I always appreciate), and Rick told her, “It’s Gin-uary and we would like some Gin.” The bartender smirked saying, “Your pun’s off. We’re past January. It’s a month late and your joke’s gone bad.” I replied that it’s February, which still ends in –uary, so it’s close enough. We sat down on the stools at the brass rail in front of our new hostess as she polished glassware, no doubt waiting for the usuals to stroll in as the day wore on. After a moment of silence caused by the effects of jetlag and the near-oppressive heat, Mike J asked, “And so who goes first? Who picks the cocktail of the day?” I decided that since the mess had been my idea to begin with that I should bite the bullet and take first crack. “Get us a round of Elder Gin Germainy Yummy Lime Drinks,” I boldly announced. Rick, Mike, and the bartender stared at me. “Not catchy enough,” I asked? Rick looked down at the surface of the bar, shaking his head softly and said, “No.” “Okay then. I’m not great at coming up with drink names, so just mix me up
Combine the Gin and tonic water in a highball glass, pouring over ice, then add splash of St. Germain and garnish with lime.
Mike took a sip, smacked his lips, and said, “You should just call it an ‘Elder Fizz,’ or a ‘Juniper and Germain,’ but aside from your inability to come up with snappy names this tastes great. The Distillery 209 Gin has a real bright flavor, with citrus notes that pop with the tonic and lime. Then you have the St. Germain that has some honey sweetness, a little more citrus flavor, and a slight floral character that blends well with the herbal character of the Gin.”
Rick Clay came to the bar the next day fully prepared. He provided us with our Gin Map (safer to travel on foot), which oriented the many types of gin we would visit.
He also came prepared with our second drink. My beverage made use of the Modern style of Gin, and so Rick wanted to take the flavors back to Europe with a taste of London Dry for his drink, The Clay Rickey.
Combine the Gin, Framboise and Lime juice in a shaker. Stir ingredients then pour into a rocks glass filled with ice, top with soda.
Rick informed us that the Broker’s Gin distillery, located near Birmingham, England, is over 200 years old and previously had been a brewery. The distillery conversion came when owners found that gin-making had become more profitable than making beer. The distillery only uses pot stills, which is less efficient than column stills, but better for infusing the gin with the botanicals.
There were so many aromas and flavors I didn’t know quite where to begin. “I get scents of Juniper and cassia bark along with citrus bursting from the glass” I said. “And a wonderful viscous texture is the first sensation I get followed by a refreshing mixture of licorice, juniper, and citrus with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon forging through the palate leaving a warm and fuzzy tingling on the lips and tongue. A hint of juniper lingers as I pull my glass away. Ah.”
The third day meant that it was Mike’s turn, and he pulled out a little gem he called The Demeanor.
- 1oz Hayman’s Old Tom Gin
- 1oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
- ½oz Rothman and Winter Crème De Violette
- Dash Orange Bitters
Stir over ice and strain into a Martini glass and enjoy.
“Old Tom Gin is a sweeter style of gin that was popular in the 18th and 19th century when sugar became a hotly traded commodity in parts of Europe,” Mike told Rick and I. “Everyone who could afford it wanted sugar in their spirits and cocktails, so Old Tom Gin became the cornerstone to numerous classic Gin-based cocktail recipes. What it brings to a mixed drink is a certain balance and nuance because of the unique combination of the sweetness with its intensive botanicals. Hayman Distillers also happens to be the oldest family-owned Gin distillery in England, still under the watchful supervision of Christopher Hayman using an old recipe from the family archives.”
On the fourth day, Rick wanted to take another swing at our Gin roulette game so he asked our bartender to whip up a round of Pink Gin cocktails.
- 2½oz Plymouth Gin
- 2 Dash Angostura Bitters
- Garnish with Lemon zest
Fill mixing glass with ice then add the Plymouth Gin and Angostura Bitters. Stir until chilled, strain into a (frozen) Martini glass. Add the garnish and enjoy.
Rick gave us the skinny: “Originating from the city of Plymouth in the southwest corner of England, Plymouth Gin is its own protected style of the spirit. Plymouth Gin has used the same small and unique blend of seven botanicals since 1793, infusing them into pure grain alcohol and the local Dartmoor water at the oldest working distillery in England, the Black Friars Distillery. What’s great about the Pink Gin is that it has great flavors, none of which are masked in this eloquently simple drink recipe. Plymouth Gin has a perfect balance of flavors from the botanicals, especially with the notes of lemon, juniper, and a certain earthiness. The Bitters and the Lemon zest make the Gin sing. Everything is right in your face and the finish is long and dry!”
I took a little inspiration from Rick’s choice for my next pick the following day. I liked his Plymouth Gin angle and decided to run with it. At first I thought I wanted a Sloe Gin Fizz, but I decided I needed something more creative and thought-provoking to bring to Mike and Rick. I went with The Wibble.
Fill mixing glass with ice, add Plymouth Sloe Gin, Plymouth Gin, grapefruit and lemon juices, and syrup de gomme. Shake well and strain into a Martini glass.
“Combining Sloe Berries and Gin is about as English as fish’n’chips,” Rick stated. “Plymouth’s recipe goes back to 1883. In their process, Sloe berries are steeped in Plymouth Gin with a little sugar in a process that takes about four months. The berries have a unique flavor and have a nice dry acidity, melding well with the citrus juices in this drink. This has great, deep flavors and an alluring color too.”
It was the last day of our stay. We had to finish boldly. The bartender suggested to Mike that he go “old school” and he immediately started break dancing. The bartender cut the room’s tunes as quickly as she could and said, “I meant you should take it back to Amsterdam. Order a drink that incorporates Genever.” Then she showed us what she had in mind by mixing us all some Dutch Trade Winds.
Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well, strain into a cocktail glass.
I immediately loved this drink because of how different the Genever made the cocktail taste compared to the others we had earlier that week. Luckily, I also had the lowdown on what made the taste so special. “Genever is such a cool style of Gin because it contains some amount of “malt wine,” meaning that the grain mash for the basis of the Genever has a lot of barley. Boomsma uses a high percentage of this malt wine for their Genever, resulting in a spirit that’s especially robust and flavorful. They double distill to get a delicate smoothness without losing the flavor of the barley and then they infuse the spirit so it has a light juniper berry aroma and taste. This drink ends up crisp, sour, and sweet with a subtle perfume and something I just can’t put my finger on.”
The week ended on a high note and our vacation to Gin-topia had been an utter success. I felt refreshed, reinvigorated, and I was ready to face anything that California wanted to throw at me. Mike, Rick, and I gave one final farewell to our wonderful hostess, the bartender we found out was named Diana, and we boarded the Rangpur Runner to head back Beltramo’s way.
Rick C., Beltramo’s Spirits Buyer and Neal. F., Beltramo’s Spirits Staff