It’s for medicinal purposes, Sweetie.

Week 24 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously! It’s gin!

Oh, joy of joys, we’re back to a booze I adore – gin.  With hazy origins in the Middle Ages, gin evolved from the Dutch beverage, genever, whose name is derived from the Dutch word for juniper, gin’s primary component.

Co-opted by the English, gin’s original uses were medicinal, with the juniper berries being combined with other botanicals so that the flavor of the juniper could be either prominent or subtle depending on the mixture. During British Colonialism, the good old Gin and Tonic was responsible for saving countless lives, thanks to the “tonic” component.  Quinine, an effective antimalarial agent, could be added to water to create tonic and mixed with gin to improve the flavor. Among other things…


As with many alcohols we’ve considered so far, there are rules governing the production and labeling of gin. There is basic gin, distilled gin and London gin which is regarded as the premium style. But then… enter the craft distilling movement and a whole new crop of styles has emerged.

Bluecoat American Dry Gin – Philadelphia Distilling Company

From Jeff’s book: “Bluecoat American Dry Gin, the flagship brand of Philadelphia Distilling Company, has, since 2005, become a rather prominent example of this new style. The name Bluecoat, naturally, is the colonial answer to the Redcoats’ centuries-long gin dominance. The brand’s key botanicals include natural coriander seed, American citrus peel, natural angelica root, and, of course, juniper berry (organic berries, to boot). A major distinction for the product produced in the City of Brotherly Love is that it’s not quite as juniper-forward as its British brethren. Bluecoat’s blend creates more of a citrus experience on the palate.”

I toured the distillery a couple years ago and had a tasting of all their products, including (if you remember) Vieux Carre Absinthe and the Blue Coat Gin. I compared it with my Bombay London Gin and indeed the juniper flavor is far more subtle in the Blue Coat.

How do I drink gin? Classic martini, obviously, gin and tonic on a hot summer afternoon, but one of my favorite gin cocktails is the gimlet. I drank my first gimlet in audacious surroundings – The Blue Bar in the famous Algonquin Hotel in New York City.

The Algonquin opened in 1902 and its Oak Room was long one of New York City’s premiere cabaret nightclubs.  After the end of World War I, the hotel became the site of the daily meetings of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of journalists, authors, publicists and actors who gathered to exchange ‘bon mots’ (well-chosen words) over lunch in the main dining room. This daily gathering lasted for the better part of ten years.

With its oak panels and other decor recalling an earlier time, the heyday of cabaret, the Oak Room was small, intimate, and expensive (at least $100 per person, more if one had dinner, except for matinees). When finally it was closed in 2012, part of the space occupied by the former Oak Room was used to enlarge the Blue Bar…img_3818

So the gimlet:    In a shaker with ice:
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ½ ounces gin
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Shake and serve with ice and a wedge of lime in a rocks glass. Enjoy!

Now, run, sweeties and see how Lula drank her gin!

(She’s Eddie to my Patsy! And we are absolutely fabulous!)


Bitters? Sweet!

Week 20 in the Year of Drinking Adventurously! Artisanal Bitters.

Just so you know, I’m on vacation this week, muddling along with my LTE data plan for Internet. I’m not complaining, mind you, unplugging from civilization is a delight once in awhile. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to jump on with my Toast Tuesday post this week because last week was such a fail. This week’s potent potable is one I can endorse with complete confidence. Bitters — a classic cocktail ingredient.

Friday evening, I was scrambling around packing all the gear… Clothes, shoes, food, booze, not necessarily in order of importance. Getting the place clean for the house-sitter, taking the dog to the kennel. Did I mention it rained torrentially while I was doing all this? So hell no, I wasn’t making dinner on top of all that, somebody say takeout Chinese? I was stressed enough the way it is. I needed a good laugh and a good cocktail.

What better way to unwind and start vacation than with The Graham Norton Show I recorded from Tuesday (thank you BBC America) and a nice martini. And no, not one of those sweet abominations they are calling martinis these days. I’m talking gin, dry vermouth and bitters, with two big beautiful Spanish Queen olives to garnish. (And provide enough nutrition for me to feel smug).

And just like James Bond, (hopefully the next iteration of whom [of which?] will be either Tom Hiddleston or Aidan Turner, or maybe Idris Elba…) What was I saying…? Martini, yes… Hmm, wait a minute… The world’s worst spy doesn’t actually drink a classic martini does he? All right forget Bond, here’s what you do:

Add ice to your glass to chill it (then discard)
Add ice to your shaker
Splash in a few drops of bitters (I use Angostura, can’t go wrong)
Shake to coat your ice thoroughly
Add 2 shots of gin (pick a good one — I drank Bombay this time)
1 shot dry vermouth
Shake it again and pour into your chilled martini glass
Add 2 or more olives (a little of the brine too, if you like it dirty)

Drink and ahhhh, enjoy!

Ok, I’m getting in the hot tub. Got to soak my sore muscles and get ready for another day of hiking tomorrow.
Don’t forget to visit Harp, Lula Harp... To see how she used bitters this week!

Ok,  it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon not a martini…