Episode 060 - The Gin Dictionary

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What’s shakin, cocktail fans?

Welcome back to another episode of the Modern Bar Cart Podcast!

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Our guest this week is David T. Smith, author of The Gin Dictionary, who was happy to pull up a mic and share with us his personal journey through the wide world of gin.

He was also kind enough to donate a signed copy of The Gin Dictionary, so we’ll be doing a giveaway on the day this episode goes live - August 8, 2018. If you want a chance to win this book, all you’ve got to do is keep an eye on our Instagram page on August 8th, and we’ll be posting a giveaway picture with detailed instructions for how to win.

In this interview, some of the topics I cover with David T. Smith include:

  • The fascinating world of spirits judging and awards - essentially, all those cool medals your favorite distillers keep winning.
  • How David fell in love with gin, and became the author of this gin-driven reference guide.
  • A stroll through the most common botanicals used to make gin around the world.
  • Some discussion of different gin styles, both old and new, dry and sweet, aged and unaged.
  • How to properly operate a Martini tester
  • Why Timothy Dalton might not be the worst James Bond (key word being might)
  • And much, much more.

You can purchase The Gin Dictionary at most major book retailers, and you can contact David T. Smith by visiting summerfruitcup.wordpress.com, emailing david[at]summerfruitcup.com, or finding him on twitter (@summerfruitcup). 

Featured Cocktail - The Pink Gin

Pink Gin - photo credit: Greg Azorsky (@kccool11)

Pink Gin - photo credit: Greg Azorsky (@kccool11)

This week’s featured cocktail is a Pink Gin.

And, if we’re being really nitpicky, this isn’t technically a full-blown cocktail. It’s just gin and Angostura Bitters. And as we well know from the development of the Old Fashioned cocktail, a cocktail has a spirit, bitters, AND sugar. Angostura does have a bit of sweetness to it, so we could split hairs on this topic until we’re blue in the face, so instead, let’s just be pink in the glass and be done with it.

To make a pink gin, you’ll need, very simply:

  • 2 oz gin
  • 2-4 dashes of Aromatic bitters (depending on your taste)

You’ll combine these in a mixing glass with ice, stir for about 20 seconds until well mixed, and then strain into a chilled stemmed cocktail glass.

Dilution and coldness are key for this drink, since it’s basically a crazy-dry martini. So if you’re someone who doesn’t usually go out of your way to chill the glass - trust us, this is one recipe where it will make a big difference.

Show Notes

Juniper Beries

Juniper Beries

Gin is a spirit that has been flavored with botanicals - typically herbs spices, peels, roots, leaves, and spices. Here are a few other important qualities that sets gin apart from other spirits.

  • The botanicals must contain juniper (juniperus communis)
  • There are no restrictions as to the grain or fruit used to make the base spirit
  • Botanicals can be infused during the distillation process, and/or via maceration (after distilling)

Important Gin Botanicals

According to David, the holy trinity of gin botanicals includes: juniper (the father), corianders seed, and angelica root (the son and the holy spirit, respectively). 

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Secondary flavors often include:

  • Lemon & orange
  • Orris root (a flavor binder)
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon & cassia
  • Star anise
  • Lime & grapefruit
  • Rose, lavender, & violet
  • Rosemary, thyme, & bay leaf

Gin Styles

Apart from the classic "London Dry" gin that we all identify with the use of heavy juniper, there are a few other important traditional and new styles on the market.

  • Old Tom Gin - Before continuous distillation evolved, the base spirit for gin was rougher than what we have today. Old Tom gins were made to be more botanically intense (and sometimes sweetened or barrel-aged) to cover up the roughness of the spirit. Today, the hallmarks of an Old Tom gin are botanical intensity, and sweetness (from sugar or botanicals like licorice root or cassia). 
  • Young Tom Gin- Not much information exists on this style, but it is thought to be a higher-strength version of Old Tom gin.
  • Flavored Gins - More popular in Europe than in the United States, flavored gins are beginning to take fruits like rhubarb, strawberry, and citrus (even pineapple and asparagus!) and infusing those into their gins to complement their botanical profiles.

Lightning Round

Favorite Cocktail

Whisky soda (or a whisky highball). Johnny Walker Green Label & St. George Baller are two really nice options for mixing with club soda.

The infamous Martini Tester

The infamous Martini Tester

If You Were a Cocktail Tool or Ingredient, What Would You Be?

A Martini Tester, largely because I really like martinis, but who wouldn't want to be a martini tester? It's essentially an eyedropper, and it was around in the '60s and '70s when there were all sorts of bizarre martini gadgets on the market.

The martini tester uses the specific gravity of the liquid to check how dry your martini is. When you take a sample of your martini, three small plastic balls float differently depending on how much vermouth is present.

Cocktail with Anyone, Past or Present

A martini with Sir Roger Moore. I remember an article where he described his ideal martini, so that's what we would drink, and the place to enjoy it would be Duke's Hotel in London. Just one martini in the afternoon, and then maybe we'd grab a bite afterwards.

Influential Books

Advice to New Home Bartenders

Two tips:

  1. Make some space in your fridge. You need it for your club soda, tonic water, and vermouth. If your mixers aren't chilled before your pour them, they'll be sweeter and not as fizzy as they could be.
  2. Get yourself a good ice tray. To start, invest in a nice solid silicone tray that produces 1" cubes.

CC Attributions

Featured Cocktail Background Music

Backbay Lounge Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/