Gin trends you need to know
Wondering what the next trend is in Gin? Well look no further! Leading bartender and author of the The Curious Bartender’s Gin Palace, Tristan Stephenson, gives us some insight into the current trends in Gin and offers us a recipe for one of his favorite Gin cocktails.
Over the last number of years, Gin has exploded in popularity, evoking a kind of patriotism and return to old British values, while also speaking of flavorful botanicals and of place and provenance. As more bespoke Gin bars open up and customers look for more experiences from the Gin category, it doesn’t look like the popularity of this spirit is going anywhere! So here are a few current Gin trends to know and some tips on how to use them in your bar.
The Classic Gin & Tonic
Besides the relentless glow of new Gin brands peppering our back bars, the current trends in Gin remain largely focused around the humble Gin and Tonic. Helped along by a steady influx of tonic water brands and line extensions of existing brands, the potential number of Gin and Tonic permutations out there has drifted well into the millions. Some would argue that every Gin has, somewhere out there, a perfect tonic to pair with it. While working them out sounds like a long and fun experiment, I’m more of the mind to stick with one Gin brand and select my tonic based on mood and occasion. For me, I like to pair juniper-forward Gins with the most bitter tonic waters, amplifying the natural bitter sweet characteristics of the berry. Gins that lean towards floral or citrus characteristics need a similarly citrus-driven approach where tonic water is concerned.
Once upon a time, a lemon slice was seen as a sign of a good Gin and Tonic craftsmanship and a lime wedge was just showing off! Now though, it’s not unusual to find a veritable fruit/vegetable/spice salad decorating the effervescent surface of your glacial (in temperature and size) copa glass. The G&T is no longer a simple drink composed of two ingredients, but a cocktail derived from two liquids, each with their own array of flavors, decorated with more flavorful ingredients. It is in danger of becoming a mess.
I was served a G&T garnished with juniper berries the other day, which at first seemed like a nice touch, but as I ventured further in to glass they became distracting. Not so much through their repeated attempts to invade my mouth but in the flavor and aroma that they began to impart. So I asked myself, if the Gin already contained the right amount of juniper flavor, surely these berries threatened to unbalance things?
It’s for this reason that I view the garnishing of a Gin and Tonic in the same way that I view "other" Gin botanicals. By "other" I mean the botanicals that are not juniper, which is of course is the only botanical that is essential to Gin production and the one that should (by law) be the dominant flavor. In the past, these "other" botanicals were used to bolster certain facets of the juniper flavor spectrum—coriander seed for citrus notes, angelica for woodiness, licorice for earthiness, and so on (or not in the case of Tanqueray London Dry Gin, which is composed only of those four botanicals). Garnishes should perform the same role. They should elevate and celebrate, not cause chaos and imbalance.
To this end, I recommend using woody herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme for garnishing bright and citrus-driven Gins. Use citrus (lime, lemon, grapefruit) for classic Gins with lots of juniper flavor. For delicate and floral Gins it’s tempting to say don’t garnish them at all, although soft fruits and vegetables (raspberry, cucumber) can work nicely.
Innovating Classic Gin Cocktails
However, Gin isn’t only for Gin and Tonics. It still has a role to play in classic cocktails too and, after all, Gin is featured in more classics from the early twentieth century than any other spirit. The emergence of boutique Vermouth brands and new releases from old ones is helping to drive new innovation in old recipes.
Some of my favorite classic cocktails to serve are:
- In summertime, it is Martini time in my house, where a bottle of Tanqueray takes up permanent residency in the freezer drawer.
- The Gin Fizz is my go-to cocktail when it’s too much trouble to choose. The combination of citrus and egg white gives an almost meringue-like texture to this drink, and the gin offers an undercurrent of spice and fruit.
- The Clover Club is an excellent option if it’s zingy citrus and sun speckled woodland berries that your guests are after—it’s a drink that relies heavily on good-quality grenadine however, so where possible make your own using fresh raspberries and pomegranate.
My Salted Gin Rickey Recipe
Another favorite Gin recipe of mine is the Salted Gin Rickey. The original Rickey was a Bourbon-based drink born in the 1880s. A few years later, as Dry Gin became more readily available in the US, the ingredients were swapped out and the Gin Rickey became one of the most popular drinks of the 1890s.
The key to making a good one is to forget about the Collins or the Fizz, to which the Rickey is often mistakenly considered the lime equivalent of. A true Rickey should contain no sugar and be served ice cold. The salt in the drink actually does the same job that sugar normally does; it buffers the acidity of the lime and gives a pleasant mineral balance to the cocktail.
- 1.75 oz. TANQUERAY London Dry Gin
- .75 oz. lime juice
- .25 tsp salt (or .5 tsp of 50/50 saline solution)
- Club soda to top off
Build over ice in a small frozen highball.
Stir for ten seconds and garnish with a couple of kaffir lime leaves.
(*One standard drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol)