Gin Class: Learning to love a new spirit, and a contest

“No” B said definitely on the phone when I asked if he wanted to attend a free gin class with me that night. I was taken aback by this sudden change of heart–usually he can be bribed anywhere with the thought of free booze. I had emailed him, but when he called I thought I’d bring it up. The phone rang again, seconds later after he had seen the email: “GIN class? I thought you said GYM class,” I sighed in relief that my boyfriend had not been kidnapped by alcohol hating aliens.

Hendrick's Gin Gimlet

If you are a gin lover, you can stop reading right now. As I understand it, gin aficionados don’t like Hendrick’s, by whom the class was sponsored. Also, this post is the story of me learning to appreciate a new beverage, and encouraging others in the anti-gin coalition to give it a shot. If you already like gin, you don’t need encouraging. On the other hand, if you’re like me and think most gin and gin based cocktails leave you with that feeling that you just got lost on the way to the bar and ended up in Grandma’s perfume drawer, then this is for you.

The class was sponsored, as I said, by Hendrick’s Gin. Much like their branding, which I was exposed to a lot of that night, it was fun, light-hearted and educational. Side note? I heart their branding. Check out their website. At the end of class we got ‘Field Guides’ to Hendrick’s Gin. It’s hilarious, informative and full of cool facts, amusing anecdotes and cocktails that I want to drink. Right now.  Since I ended up with an extra copy of Hendricks’ Field Guide, I’m giving it away to the best gin-related story, comment or cocktail that gets left in the comments by December 1st.

Back to class, where we learned to make a traditional gimlet as well two other twists on the drink. It wasn’t really the actual cocktail that was so informative–to be honest, I don’t remember the ratios that we learned. But I do remember learning the appropriate way to hold (perpendicular to and over your dominant shoulder), shake (front to back, like a piston) and open (a well placed thump to the side) a Boston shaker. I don’t remember how much St. Germain we put into the gimlet that was my favorite, but I do remember learning why the St. Germain worked so well in the cocktail:

Hendrick's Gin Aromatics

This is a chart of the botanicals that are involved in the flavoring of Hendrick’s Gin. By pairing up the additional flavors of the gimlet–or whichever cocktail of choice is being made–with these botanicals, the cocktail becomes this little microcosm of flavors that all hold hands and sing ‘We are the World’. What? Have I been drinking too much of that gin? Let me explain. So the Hendrick’s is in this gimlet with the St. Germain. St. Germain is an elderflower liquor, so the elderflower matches up with the same botanical in the gin, and all of a sudden, it becomes this vaguely sweet, completely mild and smooth, but intensely elderflower-ish cocktail. Another variation played a similar trick using orange bitters to go with the orange peels in the botanicals. I like elderflower better, so I wasn’t as big of a fan of the citrus version, but given the eleven options for botanicals shown in the picture here, I could dream up ideas for a while. Indian themed cocktails with coriander? Tea based cocktails with Chamomile? The mind boggles…

Somewhere in the course of the class my mindset about gin began to change. No longer were the botanical flavors the enemy, blocking the path to good, clean fun–er–beverages. Instead, they are now my jumping off point for creating any number of unique cocktails. My personality tends to lead me to want to attack disagreeable flavors–to overpower them, like with a dirty martini-I’d rather taste briney olive juice than bad vodka. My biggest takeaway from the class was to do the opposite. Find the flavor I do like, embrace it, nurture it, cradle it and let it grow up to be a full cocktail flavor.


4 Responses

  1. Great article, I love gin & I love hendricks. Where did you hear that gin lovers don’t? Hendricks, dry vermouth, a slice of cuc & a twist is my fav martini in the summer, mmmmmm! Oh & that’s my friend Jon who taught your class. I’ve got that book so not entering the contest but let’s go drink some hendricks together soon! 🙂

  2. I would consider us gin afficianados, and we both like Hendricks. Maybe it’s not as true to the original spirit of gin, but it’s damn tasty.

    If you ever get a chance, try Blue Gin. It’s one of the few gins that I will drink straight, because it has such complex flavorings. We tried a sample in San Francisco one night and it was truly delicious.

  3. I just learned I like gin early this past summer, and St Germain (which was a recent acquisition in terms of obsessions) as well. Elderflower syrup is now a staple in my fridge for making my own soda… and adding a splash of gin now and again is awesome (though I’ve mostly found I don’t like Plymouth and I do like Bombay Sapphire quite a lot). Interesting stuff! I wonder if they hold classes in NYC?

    PS My own creation – since I’m so new as to not even really be doing it, honestly – in terms of a cocktail: ball up some honeydew, soak in elderflower syrup or elderflower liqueur. Take seltzer or tonic or Sprite (depending on your level of sweetness and whether or not you like quinine), add gin (I prefer Sapphire), and add a bunch of the melon balls and some of the juices that have exited the balls. For extra zazz or fun, freeze the individual melon balls before adding. Or skewer them on a small stick/cocktail sword/whatever. Fun fun and delicious. Oh, and add some St. Germain in there too. Yum.

  4. I like the theory about complimenting the botanicals. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy gin with ginger ale (or ginger beer, even better) as the ginger would complement the other botanicals in the spirit. At any rate, gin is my drink, in fact it’s what I’m drinking right now.

    I have no idea if I am fond of Hendricks or not, as I’ve never been inclined to spend twice as much as any other gin! I generally go for Tanqueray if I have a choice.

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