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  • Writer's pictureSharon Michalove

Shaken, Not Stirred. Gin and Me

I rub my nose against his neck, breathing in the scents of juniper, cedar, wood sage, and sea salt. A mix of the forest and the ocean, I think to myself, with an undertone of gin. One of my favorite drinks. My guy smells like my favorite fragrance.

Cress Taylor, At First Sight

Cress Taylor likes gin. So does James Bond. Winston Churchill was fond of a martini, with the vermouth bottle displayed but not employed. From “Mother’s Ruin” in the eighteenth century to culture icon today, gin has had a varied and interesting history. Movies are filled with gin references from the Gin Ricky in the most recent version of “The Great Gatsby” to the French 75 in Casablanca. Authors as diverse as Truman Capote, Dorothy Parker, and Raymond Chandler refer to gin or gin cocktails.

The makings of a Vesper martini

Cress is not a heavy drinker, but if she feels like having a drink, gin is her number one choice, followed by single-malt whisky, red wine, and Prosecco. Gin is also my number one choice, probably because it was one of the earliest liquors I ever tasted and the tasting vehicle, olives, made it palatable. My other early exposure to alcohol was to very sweet red wine.These days I like dry red wines with lots of body like Brunello di Montalcino and Bordeaux. But I digress.

While researching for this post, a headline from a magazine article stopped me in my tracks.

Gin is a flavoured vodka

Excuse me? I’m not a vodka drinker. I scorn vodka.The idea of a vodka martini is alien to my concept of a martini. And flavored vodka martinis might be okay, but they aren’t martinis. Putting a drink into a particular glass does not a martini make.

Except, maybe I am a vodka drinker if you accept these premises.

  • Gin is actually just a flavoured vodka

  • Vodka is just alcohol that’s distilled to 97/98%

So is a gin martini just another flavored martini? Not really, since the whole idea of the martini was that it was made with gin. But really, it’s the gin that I go for.

I am an eclectic gin aficionado. I have twelve gins in my house at this moment, and I’m always up for more. Friends and family have recommended interesting brands and I get them if I can find them. One of my brothers is a great enabler. We usually have suggestions for each other, including Nolet's, his current favorite. A Canadian friend raved about Smeaton's, a Bristol-style gin. I had to buy it on a trip to London because it wasn't available outside England.

When I was in Scotland in 2015, one of my goals was to try lots of different single-malt whisky to see if I liked it better than the Chivas Regal my dad had me taste when I was twenty. I didn’t like that at all. I did taste close to twenty single malts and discovered some that I really like. But then I discovered there was a world of Scottish gins and they aren’t all named Hendricks. The one I liked best was Rock Rose, made in Caithness. Turns out it was a new gin, first sold in 2014. Unfortunately its availability in the U.S. is limited.

My love affair with gin is a family thing. My parents had martinis often and snagging the olives and onions out of the drink was a great treat. Technically, if there are cocktail onions, the drink is a Gibson, but we were careless with nomenclature. Only my youngest brother hates gin and prefers vodka.

My dad always drank Beefeater so that was the only gin I knew. As a young adult, I drank Gordon's because it fit my budget. Ads in “The New Yorker” led me to Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray. Tanqueray Rangpur Lime is a particular favorite. From there, the world was my gin palace.

Most of the time I drink my gin with just a cube or two of ice, but I do love cocktails too. Besides martinis with just a touch of vermouth, I started drinking Gin and Tonic and Tom Collins early on, and moved on to French 75, Negroni, and White Lady.

Pimm’s is a refreshing summer treat. An Aviation is a very nice cocktail that introduced me to crème de violette. When I was in Boston, I had the pleasure of Hendrick’s (twice distilled, once with cucumber, again with rose), combined with a cucumber liqueur and muddled basil. It was wow. My first Dutch Mule was at the United Center, during a hockey game of course. I have a mixer for Bee’s Knees in my fridge. And I’m looking forward trying many other gin combinations when I get the chance.

If the idea of juniper and other botanicals makes your mouth water, share some gin with Cress and me.

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