5 Things I’ve Learned About…London Dry Gin

The April 2011 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine is out, and it includes (among other things) my review column on London Dry Gin.  You can pick up a copy at the newsstand, or view it in digital format on Zinio.  Here’s what I learned:

1.  For me, the first educational hurdle arrived months ago, when we worked out which spirits to include on the editorial calendar. A broad call for “gin” would have yielded way too many samples. (See tequila overload. Lesson learned!)  For gin, the options boiled down to “London Dry” style gin, which differentiates it from the sweeter Old Tom style, the stronger-flavored Plymouth style, flavored/infused gins, aged “golden gins,” and Dutch genevers/jenevers.  Most dry style gins are light-bodied and aromatic.

2. I should probably emphasize, that’s London Dry style gin. Although the style originated in London, natch, excellent dry gins are produced elsewhere, including America and France.  (Even so, most of the best London Dry gins are made in England.)

3. Botanicals. This word gets thrown around a LOT when in comes to gin, and a number of other spirits too. In general, this is a fancy word for herbs, spices, flowers, and anything else that is used in the distillation process to add flavor and aroma. In London dry gin, the dominant botanical usually is juniper. If you’re wondering which one that is, uncork a bottle of gin and pick out the scent that reminds you of pine — that’s usually the juniper berry. Other botanicals commonly found in gin include spices (coriander, cardamom, anise, ginger); floral notes (iris, elderflower); tea, and citrus peel.

4. Repeat after me:  A real martini is made with gin. Not vodka.  But there are a number of amazing drinks made with gin beyond the classic martini — such as the Aviation, and the Corpse Reviver #2.

5. ….and a dry martini means that it’s made with relatively little vermouth. If you want to make a bartender snicker, ask for “a very, very, very dry martini.”  Some wise-acres will simply wave a bottle of vermouth over the glass!

If you have a favorite gin, or gin-based drink, I’d love to hear about it – please leave a comment below!  Oh man, I could go for a Corpse Reviver #2 right about now….