Simpler, Lighter Gin Classics Shining Bright this Summer

BarMagic Gin Cocktail
Photo Credit: BarMagic

Refer to the Breslin Restaurant at Manhattan’s posh and popular Ace Hotel, who now has an entire Gin & Tonic menu, created by Aisha Sharpe with all kinds of pot-stilled gins of various styles and house-made and premium bottled tonic waters. “The Breslin is pumping out massive amounts of the classic yet elevated G&T,” says Tobin Ellis, owner of BarMagic Las Vegas. “We're seeing fresh gin cocktails finally popping up with success on national chain menus. And high end hotels and rated restaurants are having fun with simple, fresh ideas,” Ellis adds. “It has nothing to do with what's going on in the speakeasies and wonderfully geeky experimental cocktails bars in the country; it's what's happening in mainstream America. This is the summer of the sneaky gin drink: Harvey WallBangers with gin instead of Vodka, Salty Dogs using fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, tons of salt and gin instead of vodka again. The Ricky is back with the gin Ricky leading the charge.”

And of course Ellis reminds us that we cannot ignore the “kegged” cocktails that are taking the summer by storm, such as negronis and manhattans. “Cocktails on tap are also the rage right now and the exciting micro-trend is that finally bartenders are figuring out how to successfully keg cocktails that contain citrus. Erick Castro of Polite Provisions in San Diego is one of the frontrunners of this emerging trend.” Ellis then insists that “it will become a huge mainstream trend and evolve into a very long-term beverage component with amazing results on the high-end and don't be surprised to see the huge liquor companies jump on the bandwagon with lower quality, mass-produced kegged cocktails.”

Maia Gosselin of Sip Wine Education, LLC agrees with the popularity of batched cocktails, in particularly with gin, which she attributes to the ever-growing trend of local distillers. These “mom and pop” shops are certainly not feeling the effects of “Big Brother.” Gosselin observes that “there are lots of new releases coming out of US craft distilleries and mixologists love them. Right here in Massachusetts, there is Berkshire Mountain Distillers, Ryan & Wood Distilleries and Triple Eight Distillery, to name a few. If a mixologist can get local produce for their cocktails they love that.”

Gosselin sees Genever-style gin becoming popular (Genevieve Gin from Anchor Distilling Co. & Bols Genever) as well Hendrick’s Gin, which has cucumber and rose infused in it. In chorus with Ellis, Gosselin too believes that the bigger brands have even caught on to this and have been releasing line extensions to compete with the craft segment such as Bombay Sapphire East with lemongrass and pepper infused in it and Beefeater Summer.

As head mixologist of the U.S. Grant Hotel, Jeff Josenhans definitely concurs with the love of local. “Gin, much like other spirit categories, is growing in the boutique producer arena like it has never before. Smaller, more local, distillers are gaining traction in the consumer market as well as in the world of top-notch mixologists. As a matter of fact, the mixologists out there are embracing these artisan spirits.”

So besides Americans latest affinity toward supporting their community and feeling freshest is best, why are mixologists craving local flavor? Josenhans believes it’s because the “gins being produced by these craft distillers are being more adventurous when it comes to the botanicals being used. St. George uses all California botanicals in one my favorite gins right now and other brands like Tru are macerating the botanicals after distillation, thereby unconventionally creating a gin via a different production method.”

Another “smashing” gin trend? Gosselin notes that although it’s been around for over a century, the “smash” style is gaining popularity as a hip version of muddled fruit in gin cocktails.  She says “fresh fruits marry well with gin and I’m seeing strawberry, watermelon and raspberry being used in cocktails. Fresh anything is big right now.” Bridget Albert adds “Bartenders are enhancing the botanicals of gin with the fruits of the season.”

So…what are these educated experts sipping?

Maia Gosselin shares some of her local favorites:  

  • French Lemonade made with St. Germain, Chambord, Berkshire LSF Ethereal Gin and lemonade (Berkshire came out with a special gin this summer just for Legal Sea Foods)
  • Raspberry Fix: Berkshire LSF Ethereal Gin, Stoli Razberi, Combier Framboise, sugar, lemon and crushed ice
  • Hot n’ Dirty Pickle made with Ryan & Wood “Knockabout” gin (from Gloucester), sriracha, spicy pickle juice and Maitland Mountain Farm pickle (local farm) served at The Blue Ox, Lynn, MA
  • Melville’s Aperitif made with Berkshire Mountain gin, Lillet blanc and rose, Aperol also served at The Blue Ox

Tobin Ellis is a fan of Jeffrey Morganthaler's barrel aged Negroni at Clyde Common in Portland and says that BarMagic’s Oxley Gin & Outlaw Brown Tonics is “dangerously tasty – we served about 200 of them in an hour at our Social Mixology party during the Nightclub & Bar Show.”

Jeff Josenhans says that “at the US Grant we are working on gin cocktails that have been fermented through the champagne method as part of our Cocktails Sur Lie line.”

And yet, there’s something to be said for a classic T&T, admits Gosselin. “It’s clean and crisp and oh-so yummy! It’s the perfect summer cocktail!”

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