Gin's Back on the Menu

Gin season is in full swing: Amateur gin drinkers have returned to the fold, while the professionals fancy gin all year round, helped recently by the endeavors of many bartenders and gin fans. Michelle Madigow can be considered a bit of a fan. The co-owner of Licorous in Seattle, which carries on its backbar more gins (13) than vodkas, generally offers gins among her spirit flights and serves a rotating list of house-infused gins. Recently, she included a Meyer lemon-infused Bombay among her offerings. A recent Licorous flight included Martin Miller’s, Rayn Anjel and Bellringer gins; two of which are new to me, another sign of the explosion of interest in gins old and new.

French Twist

Nolet's Silver French Twist features Nolet's Silver Dry Gin, lemon, Kelso Pilsner and

There are other gin-mad bars: At New Heights Restaurant’s Gin Joint in Washington, D.C., manager Amy Smoyer previously offered a flight of three gins connected to Holland — Genever, the Dutch Damrak and New Amsterdam. Currently, the flight's trio includes Plymouth, Krahn and Aviation. The Gin Joint carries more than 30 brands, including Smooth Ambler from West Virginia and Ethereal from Massachusetts, and currently offers a Gin and Tonic tasting: Broker’s gin paired with Fever Tree, Citadelle with Schweppes and 209 with Fever Tree Bitter Lemon. Smoyer stocks 40 or so gins on her menu, with notes highlighting the dominant botanicals in each: Bombay Sapphire is noted for angelica and cassia bark notes, Old Raj for saffron and orange peel and New Amsterdam for blood orange, blueberry and juniper.

This time of year, Gin and Tonics rule, but many bartenders are branching out with the now well-established cucumber and melon route: In another part of Washington, Italian bistro Casa Nonna has added several granita cocktails to its menu, including the Ginny Hendricks (lime granita, Hendrick's Gin, muddled limes and cucumbers, fresh-squeezed lemon juice). In Chicago at the Cityscape Bar at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, the summer list includes the Watermelon and Cucumber (Beefeater Gin, muddled watermelon, cucumber, mint, lime juice, simple syrup, soda and ginger ale). It makes sense: The standard botanicals in gin go very well with nearly all summer fruits, peaches being the only fruit that naturally seem to pair better with bourbon. Blackberries, raspberries, nectarines, cantaloupe and other melons all are brightened and enlivened with a little gin and lime.

All of this gin creativity hasn’t been lost on the world’s distillers – for instance, the Nolet family, creators and still part-owners of Ketel One, are putting their energies behind a new rose- and raspberry-prominent gin, Nolet's Silver Dry Gin. Then there’s No. 3 from famed London spirits merchant Berry Bros. and Rudd that employs only three fruits (juniper, sweet orange and grapefruit) and three spices (angelica, coriander and cardamom) to create a London style that is much more straight down the middle, but different enough from the big brands to make some noise. Finding housemade tonics or at least a selection of mixers is one simple way to elevate your gin game, but it seems time to double down on the gin creativity, especially if you’re willing to expand into farm to bar mixology. Gin is a friend not only to most fruits but to many herbs and vegetables as well, and now’s the time to welcome back those wayward gin drinkers with something special.