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Gin testing?

Hello everyone, I recently turned 21 (well, beginning of the year) and decided it's time to sit down, build up a liquor cabinet, and learn my cocktails. Of course, being a college student, I'm not terribly overburdened with money, so right now I'm mostly researching and experimenting occasionally with recipes, although frankly I think that doing my homework first is a good way to get started. I've spent a fair chunk of time the last couple of days lurking around on here, and there seems to be a lot of people who really know their stuff. It always helps to talk to people who know more than you do, right?

Mostly, right now, I'm working on gin, and I was wondering if anyone could recommend a good variety of gin-based cocktails that I can try each gin in; I want to have a diverse selection so that I can discover how each gin affects the flavor profile of many different drinks, and therefore which gin I like best for each kind of drink. The list doesn't have to be all inclusive or anything, just one that touches on a lot of bases.

Right now, I mostly stick to Gordon's, because it's a fairly good gin with an unbeatable price. Otherwise, I'm afraid my gin experience is mostly confined to Beefeater's and Bombay Sapphire. Beefeater's is another gin that I feel is very flexible, like Gordon's, and a bit better- I'm more likely to use this for a martini than Gordon's if I have both, but also more expensive. I am not a terribly huge fan of sapphire- I've had it on the rocks, in gin and tonics, and martinis, and I find that, unlike Gordon's and Beefeater's, I prefer it on the rocks over mixing it with anything.

This is what I currently have in my lineup of drink tests:

Rocks glass, chilled, with about a 1/2 oz of straight gin, no ice or water mixed, for a straight taste.

Rocks glass, chilled, 1.5 oz with ice, for gin/water taste

Gin and Tonic, schweppes tonic water, don't have an actual highball glass, but I have 8 oz. glasses I use (For the taste, I'm thinking of sticking to a 2 oz standard for the gin- usually I free pour my G&T's, though) for the tonic taste- a must for me, since I make G&T's pretty much whenever.

Martini- Don't have martini glasses, so I drink these in a rocks glass- usually on the rocks too, but probably not for the tasting. Right now, I make my martinis 3:1 gin-vermouth (Noilly Pratt) 1.5:.5, with a dash of orange bitters and a lemon twist. Stirred. I'm considering trying 4:1 ratios for tasting, just to get more of the gin in there. Thoughts?

Dirty Martini- I love olives, so it broke my heart when I discovered that a good martini with bitters tastes slightly off when you actually garnish with an olive. So when I feel like an olive with my martini, I make a dirty martini, substituting a tsp.of olive brine for the bitters and two olives for the twist. Otherwise, same recipe as above.

Pink gin- Rocks glass, stirred. 1.5 oz gin, 3 dashes angostura bitters.orange bitters, depending on the mood, but I'll probably stick with angostura for the testing, since that's what the recipe actually calls for and what I'm likely to get if I order out. Also, in my opinion, bitters are more important with gin than any other liquor, and since I have orange bitters in my martini, I'm thinking using the angostura here will get me a better all-around understanding.

That's what I have so far on my list to try, and it uses up about half a 750 ml. bottle. I will not be testing more than two of these a night, and probably only one a night from each test bottle. I'd love more suggestions on what other cocktails would be keystones for giving me a complete understanding of the flavor profile. I think I need something with a major citrus element to it, but I don't want to go with a gimlet because I feel that the Rose's isn't indicative of citrus gin cocktails as a whole. I'm intrigued by the Pegu Club- I haven't had one before, though, and I'd need to pick up some orange curacao before I started experimenting. Do you guys think it's the way to go for an indicative citrus drink?

Any other recommendations, of any kind, are more than welcome, though don't feel offended if I opt not to pick yours- while I don't mind going through an entire bottle just testing it (the knowledge gained means better use of my bottles in the future, right? I like to think of it as a longterm investment), I'd like to save a couple drinks worth so that I can have some of my friends try a few cocktails with me and get their input as well.

Additionally, is it a good idea to have a standard to go by before each individual test? I'm thinking each night I test a new gin in a cocktail, I'd also have the same cocktail made with Gordon's (Gordon's because, well, a 1.75 L bottle costs less than most other gins' 750 ml bottle). I think this is a good idea since it will give me a consistent frame of reference fresh in my mind, but I can't decide if it would be better to have the "control" Gordon's drink first to establish the standard in my mind and mouth, or to have the "test" first to avoid preconceptions. I'm leaning towards test first, but what do you all think?

Finally, I just have a general question: seriously, am I like the only person my age who liked gin the first time they had it? From personal experience, I am, and looking around on the net, it seems like that's par for the course. What's up with that? Is this part of the vodka fascination of my generation? I smoke decent cigars ("premium," I suppose, but that really just means "it's not made by a machine or spray painted with artificial flavors")- could that maybe have jump-started my palette? I just want to know why gin is so unloved... it's my spirit of choice, and while I'm making converts one person at a time, I think it deserves more attention.

Sorry for the massive first post.

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  1. I was a gin guy in college, I'm sure there are others of us out there.

    A nice cheaper gin that I like for mixing is Plymouth. Very clean, not too much stuff in it. Gordon's isn't a bad choice either.

    For a citrus and gin drink you could try a Bronx cocktail.
    1.5 oz. gin.
    3/4 ounce each French and Italian vermouth
    3/4 ounce OJ.
    Shake and serve.
    Buy a cocktail glass, they're cheaper than a half gallon of milk.

    You seem to be putting a lot of thought and time into this, which in some ways is good, because I'm invested in cultivating young gin fiends, but I hope you're having fun doing all of this "testing." Gin is loved in some quarters more than others. Get some disposable income and explore. Here's a recent post on a website about one of our favorite libations: http://lupecboston.blogspot.com/2008/...

    Cheers!

    2 Replies
    1. re: sailormouth

      Thanks for the tip- I'll give the Bronx a shot.

      And, well, I can get fairly obsessive about things I'm interested in, and I have fun doing that. Of course, I simply enjoy drinking gin and cocktails, and I highly doubt that I'll actually not enjoy any of the cocktails I mix up. Plus, I find the experimenting itself to be fun- I'm a bit of a nerd, I guess. It just isn't fun when you already know the answer.

      Also, I'm surprised that you call Plymouth a "cheaper" gin... while certainly not terribly expensive, only three gins that are commonly available here (NH) are actually more expensive: Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks, and Bulldog. But then, since all our liquor stores are state run, the list doesn't include a whole lot of boutique gins, which I'll have to order for shipping (I'm putting that off for a while... more expensive gins+shipping and handling=more money than I can afford atm).

      Keep those ideas coming!

      1. re: OckhamsFolly

        For what it's worth, in Boston I think I paid +/- $15 for for 750 mL of Plymouth, about the same as Beefeater, Gordon's will typically be a little less. Don't bother with shipping: just come on down here; it's a hoot now that I can think of Massachusetts as a liquor destination. If you visit, do a search on the Boston board for some places to have a few tastes of some great gin cocktails without having to buy the bottles (and the various components of each, aieee!) and some of the better liquor stores to check out.

        Now I am going to have a martini.

    2. I too was a gin lover starting in college. My go to gin drinks these days are either a G&T or a Tom Collins. Both are refreshing on a hot day and can usually be free poured with little ill effect. Although super cheap I enjoy the flavor of Burnett's gin in both of these cocktails as it has a nice citrus note that plays well with the tonic and juices.

      1. Always nice to see more gin folk.

        As a general note, I'd recommend checking out thrift stores for glassware. You be surprised what you can find cheap at many places.

        For your G&T's you might want to get a some of the more "boutique" tonics that are on the market such as Fever Tree or Q. They can be a bit pricey, but not too much so, and the difference in quality is amazing.

        I think any one person's preference for the ratio in their Martini is entirely on personal. As long as you don't end up with that wave the bottle over the glass garbage I'd say experiment until you find what works best for you. The one caveat would be that ratios will change depending on the Gin your using. I'd put more vermouth in a martini made with Junipero Gin and one with Plymouth for example.

        As for drinks, I would go ahead and give a Gimlet a try, just use fresh lime instead of Rose's -- Just keep in mind that you'll want to add some simple syrup to compensate not having the sweetness of the Rose's. I can't recommend the Pegu highly enough. Properly executed it's one of my favorite drinks.

        As for recommendations, here are some for my favorites. I'm not sure if maraschino is in your budget but if it is, I highly recommend picking some up for the first two. It's used fairly sparingly so a bottle will last you a good while. Also, if you ever get a windfall and feel like splurging for green chartreuse I'd recommend checking out the Last Word, and Corpse Reviver #2.

        Martinez
        1 oz. gin
        2 oz. sweet vermouth
        1 dash bitters
        2 dashes maraschino

        Aviation
        2 oz. Gin
        1/2 oz. maraschino
        1/4 oz. lemon juice

        Negroni
        1 oz. gin
        1 oz. sweet vermouth
        1 oz. campari

        I always think it's good to try the same drink with different Gins as the character differs enough to make certain gins optimal for certain drinks (I'm on a pretty tight budget myself, and I try not to think about the fact that I feel like I "have" to have three gin's in my liquor cabinet). Personally I'd go for the control cocktail first as I would be more familiar with the flavors of that Gin even in a new cocktail. Familiarizing yourself more with the non-gin elements of the drink may make it so when you try the test drink you're more focused on what the new gin elements are doing. But trying it both ways to find out what works best for you doesn't sound too bad either:)

        7 Replies
        1. re: boozemonkey

          OF,

          I'm not usually one to point to another source, but my gin buddies and I thought this was a great article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/02/din...

          1. re: Monch

            I love the inclusion of Seagrams in the 4 spot. I always kinda feel ashamed when i read these boards because i don't have the cash to supply my gin habit with the Hendricks and Tanquerey i want and often turn to Seagrams (bumpy face as we always call it). I think it is woefully under appreciated and a bargain! My local often sells it for $14.99 for a handle and sometimes offers $5 rebates. Can't beat that.

            1. re: wagoneer79

              it really is a very nice gin, and the biggest bang for the buck in the gin world.

              1. re: wagoneer79

                I'm not afraid to say I drink it ... My second favorite and moderately priced Gin where I live is Boodles, which is worth a try if you like Seagram's.

            2. re: boozemonkey

              A note on maraschino: this varies greatly depending upon brand, far more so than you will find with other quality ingredients. I've altered recipes by as much as half the amount called for depending upon what I'm making.

              3 great drinks there. Ask for green chartreuse for your birthday!

              1. re: boozemonkey

                Thanks for the suggestions, boozemonkey, though I'm afraid that I took a look at the liquor stores' stock online and they claim that they don't have a single bottle of maraschino liqueur in stock in the state, so tracking down a bottle here won't be terribly easy, especially since I use public transportation. The Negroni is a possibility though... I'll have to give it a shot. Although I've always been told that a Gimlet just doesn't taste the same without Rose's, I guess I'll give that a shot too.

                Monch- read that article a little while ago, and it does seem that the consensus of everyone who I've talked to that Plymouth makes the best martinis. Good read though. I know I'd like to have a twenty martini lunch, as long as I didn't have to do something right after.

                1. re: OckhamsFolly

                  Correct. A gimlet does not taste the same without Rose's: IT TASTES BETTER! For godsake, do not ruin a perfectly good cocktail by haphazardly mixing with Rose's. (Being a bartender myself, I prefer fresh lime juice and simple-syrup. Though I do know a bartender at a local beer-bar who can somehow pull off cocktails with Rose's.) Simple syrup is incredibly easy to make, and fresh limes are in every grocery store. Personally, I wouldn't chance it.

                  GIN GIMLET
                  (Martini glass, chilled)
                  ~ 2.5-oz Gin (I prefer Beefeater-24 -or- Tanqueray Rangpur)
                  ~ 1.0-oz Simple Syrup
                  ~ 1.0-oz Fresh Lime juice (approx 1 lime)
                  ~ Splash of QUALITY Sours mix (Daily's is the bottom of the barrel, IMO...
                  ...-or- Muddle a single slice of Lemon in your shaker before adding the other ingredients)

                  SHAKE. Strain. Enjoy!

              2. We have three copies of The Bartender's Black Book that we use at home to find new drink recipes. They are 2,700 drink recipes listed along with general bartending information. The book is not very expensive if you can find a copy.

                http://www.amazon.com/Bartenders-Blac...

                1. "Finally, I just have a general question: seriously, am I like the only person my age who liked gin the first time they had it? From personal experience, I am, and looking around on the net, it seems like that's par for the course. What's up with that? Is this part of the vodka fascination of my generation? I smoke decent cigars ("premium," I suppose, but that really just means "it's not made by a machine or spray painted with artificial flavors")- could that maybe have jump-started my palette? I just want to know why gin is so unloved..."

                  This is strictly anecdotal, but while here in New England, gin is associated with WASPy folk in tennis whites and golf slacks at the country club, it has some unsavory connotations in other subcultures. My college girlfriend, who was born in Houston's Fifth Ward (to give you an idea, the notorious '90s hardcore rap act the Geto (sic) Boys were from the Fifth Ward), absolutely refused to drink gin. Would not go near it, because she associated it with the hometown crowd she referred to as "roughnecks," for whom it was the favored hard liquor. (See also Snoop's great single "Gin and Juice.") And think of all the negative terms associated with gin, mostly from the early 20th century: "bathtub gin," "ginmill," "gin-soaked," etc. I mean, no one gets referred to as being "vodka-soaked."

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                    just to add my two cents here.

                    There is a pretty big "gin movement" within the black communities right now as well. I have several friends whom I work with that are black and when we get together for cook outs and or to go to a sports bar, most of them are drinking gin and tonics.

                    As far as gin lovers go, I do think that giving an assesment of not knowing many gin lovers would be pretty accurate. Gin is just one of those spirits that you either love or hate. I like gin the first time I ever tried it as well and have liked it ever since. But I don't know anyone else besides my before mentioned co-workers who likes gin. It's either Vodka, Tequila, Rum or Whiskey, but not gin. I think the biggest thing for people to get over is the "this tastes like a pine tree" feeling. Once you get comfortable with the juniper taste, then you can really enjoy everything that a good gin gives.