Category Archives: gin

Happy Birthday Charles Tanqueray!

charles tanqueray simple cocktails

There are few historical figures that I celebrate on an annual basis, but Charles Tanqueray (born March 27, 1810) is one of them. Gin was the first spirit I fell in love with, and Tanqueray has always been my gold standard for London Drys. The following is an excerpt of an interview I did with Tom Nicol, Tanqueray’s previous master distiller.

“Tanqueray was a genius” says Nicol, explaining that  Charles was passionate about making things and he invented many items – other than gin – over the course of his life. Some examples include a formula for horse saddle polish and medicines for injured animals.

It’s often reported that Charles rejected his father’s life in the church to distill gin, but there’s no evidence that Charles was on track to the clergy at any point. He was smart, to be sure, but Charles didn’t show any interest in attending university, and that was required for the pulpit. He sought to invent, to create, and to experiment.

Charles eyed other successful British gin distillers Felix Booth and Alexander Gordon, and decided to create “a better gin than theirs,” says Nichol. In his early 20’s, Charles Tanqueray developed several gin recipes, but it was his London Dry recipe that proved unforgettable. Nichol says “Charles won the lottery with that one.”

Charles Tanqueray reveled in his success. “He wasn’t the genius recluse like we sometimes see today, but Nicol recons that he was a genius who told everybody he was a genius. From his proud stature, to his knee-length frock coat, to his stately moustache and beard, Nichol says that “Charles liked to show off his success.”

Though he was a proud man, Tanqueray’s personal life is strangely undocumented. This leaves us to wonder: was Tanqueray obsessed with his business, but absent from his family? Or was he just a very private man who sought to protect his loved ones? By any account, we know few details of his personal life, in fact, we’re not exactly sure how many children Charles had.

The one child we do know of, though, is Charles Waugh Tanqueray, who took over his father’s distillery after his father died at 58. Tanqueray’s historians call Charles Waugh “an upright Christian gentleman of forceful character yet with social conscience,” and just like his father, Charles Waugh was a very young man when he began distilling. More of a businessman than an inventor, Charles’ son placed his attention on gin exclusively, resulting in Charles Waugh growing the Tanqueray brand much larger than his father, including his facilitating a merger with Gordon’s Gin—one of his father’s inspirations and competitors—in  the late 1800’s.

Charles Tanqueray really seems to have been a proud genius who both flaunted his talent and shrouded his family in mystery. Today, Tanqueray stands as one of the oldest and most successful gins in the history of the world.

*Photo courtesy Diageo Archives.

Gin Rickey

gin rickey

As a “cocktail guy,” I sometimes get asked about the simple cocktail I make most often, and when I really think about it, it’s not even close. While I make myself Old Fashioneds and Manhattans and Martinis pretty often, by far, the drink I make the most is a Gin Rickey.

A “rickey” cocktail is a mixture of spirit, lime juice and club soda, and you can make it any way you like: Whiskey Rickey, Rum Rickey (a very nice variation), etc. It apparently was a “worldwide sensation” in the late 1800’s when it was made with gin. There was probably some sort of connection to scurvy, too, the big reason gin and citrus started to mix so often in cocktail history books.

I started drinking Gin Rickeys because I found store-bought tonic water to be to sweet for my tastes, but still wanted a gin-and-fizzy-stuff experience. If you look at the ingredients, you’ll see there is no sweetener in this cocktail, only spirit, citrus, club soda. To me it’s crisp, refreshing, dry and the easiest to make. It remains the #1 cocktail I make for myself at home.

Gin Rickey

  • in a double old fashioned glass filled with ice, add:
  • 2 ounces gin (I used Seersucker)
  • juice from 1/2 a lime
  • top with Q Club Soda (about 4-5 oz)
  • stir briefly and garnish with a lime wedge

Special thanks to our sponsor Q Drinks.

Frey Ranch Gin and Vodka

Frey Ranch Distilling, near Reno, Nevada, is a near-200-year-old family farm that began distilling in 2010. One of the few “estate” producers in the U.S., the ranch’s current caretakers Colby and Ashley Frey oversee production of everything in each bottle of Frey Ranch products, including growing and farming all of the grains.

I has an opportunity to taste both their vodka and gin. Frey Ranch Vodka is unique in it’s ingredients, using 4 grains in the distillate: corn, rye, wheat and barley. Its typical of a vodka to use one of these grains, usually corn, sometimes wheat, and only occasionally rye or barley. The end result, then, is an earthy, balanced, fresh and clean-tasting. Frey Ranch Vodka retails for $23.

Frey Ranch Gin is distilled from Frey grain, too, then blended with estate-grown juniper berries and sagebrush with other botanicals sourced from around the world. The Fray’s Gin has a nice bite (it’s 90 proof) and an expected juniper note, with sweet sap and floral notes in the midpalate and a long finish with clove and anise spices. It’s bold enough to hold up in a Gin and Tonic, though delicate enough to make a solid Martini as well. Frey Ranch Gin retails for $35.

Like their vodka, some varieties of the soon-to-be-released Frey Ranch Whiskies will contain all four of these grains in the mashbill, plus their take on ryes, bourbons, and more. Their whiskey products are currently being aged, to be released in the coming years.

There is a real value in controlling all aspects of the production of a spirit, including the moment the seeds are planted for the grains, and the Frey family is working hard to make a solid product that’s both unique and versatile enough to make great classic cocktails, plus the price is hard to beat when you consider the work that’s gone in to it’s production.

For more details on the Frey farm and history of the family, check out my friend Geoff Kleinman’s visit to Frey Ranch at Drink Spirits.

Dry Line Gin

dry line gin

Dry Line’s Cape Cod Gin is made by the same distillers of Twenty Boat Spiced Rum, a “Cape Cod rum” that we scoffed at on the podcast….until we tasted it. I’m happy to say that Dry Line lives up to that same, good reputation.

We got to try “batch 1” of Dry Line and it has many of the tasting notes I love in a gin (I prefer bitey London Drys): a solid clove/spice tasting note, together with what I can best describe as hot mustard-like: a unique sweet/spice note. Dry Line is distilled from cane sugar, not neutral grain, which is unusual and may contribute to that sweet touch in the flavor profile.

The bottle itself is sexy, to be sure: perfectly square, moreso than Jack Daniel’s, even. South Hollow Spirits has delivered a solid, northeastern gin with a great deal of character, that’s somewhere between New Western and London Dry gins in it’s overall flavor.

I’ve been drinking Dry Line mostly in Gin Rickeys (gin/soda lime), and it’s a solid product for that drink. The drink I was really curious about, though, was a Etrog-tini (or is it a Dry-Lini?): Dry Line with a dash of Etrog liqueur (which we tasted recently on the podcast). Here’s the recipe:

dry line etrog cocktail

Etrog-tini

  • in a mixing glass, add:
  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 of Etrog liqueur
  • stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • garnish with a lemon peel

Just as they did with Twenty Boat Spiced Rum, South Hollow Spirits has released another solid entry into an established space, yet has impressed with the unique and tasty flavor profiles they’ve been able to achieve there.

Prince Memorial Cocktails

purple rain prince cocktail

You know, I’ve always found cocktails that memorialize an occasion, or person, to be a bit cheesy and so I rarely partake in “theme” drinking. I found myself in a situation last week when Prince died, that folks who were coming to our already-planned cocktail party that night began asking if I was going to be making any Prince-themed drinks to remember him by.

Drinking and partying in memory of someone who’s passed away is a thing, and people have done it for thousands of years (at least), so I softened to the idea of some themed cocktails, both for the sake of our party guests and because of fun in creating new cocktails! After 3 recipe revisions for each, we got them just right. The first drink we made is the Purple Rain (pictured above).

Purple Rain (by Greg Mays)

  • in a shaker, add:
  • 2 oz coconut water
  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz açaí juice
  • shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Next up, we made a riff on a Gin Sour by including some muddled raspberries:

raspberry beret prince cocktail

Raspberry Beret (by Greg Mays)

  • in a shaker, add:
  • 5 raspberries
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • muddle the raspberries well, then add:
  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 egg white
  • dry shake (no ice), then add ice and shake again to chill
  • double strain into an old fashioned glass filled with ice and add 3 raspberries for garnish
  • add 2 drops of Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters on the foam

So there you are: 2 simple cocktails you can drink in memory of The Purple One. Cheers!

Merican Negroni

merican negroni, negroni with ipa

At Tales of the Cocktail this year, we were treated to a great cocktail menu from Martin Miller’s Gin, featuring both classics and modern. As soon as I saw the menu, one really caught my eye: a Merican Negroni.

Yeah, I realize “Merican” has taken on a life of its own, particularly on the internet…images of gun-slingin’ pickup truck drivin’ rednecks. But once you get past the name, this is an incredible cocktail and all the ingredients pair perfectly well together, plus it’s one of the few beer cocktails I’ve ever done here.

So here’s the concept: take a bitter Italian cocktail, the Negroni, ice it and top it with another bitter drink: an American IPA. Here are the details:

Merican Negroni

  • in a collins glass filled with ice, add:
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • top the cocktail with an American India Pale Ale – I used a local brew: Marble Brewery’s award-winning IPA.
Thanks to JCPenny for the glassware used in this photo.

New Holland Spirits

new holland spirits

New Holland Spirits was relatively unknown to me until I ran into them at Tales of the Cocktail this year and tasted their fantastic orange liqueur (more on that in a minute).

Born out of New Holland Brewery in Michigan, the spirits line is pretty diverse and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve tried so far, including their Beer Barrel Bourbon. They were generous enough to let us try many of their other spirits. Here’s what we think:

Walleye Rye, $40-50. A rye with more fruitiness than I expected. Spicy, yes, but there’s a lot more dried fruit and sweetness than I’m used to in a rye. I feel like this rye’s fruity flavor is possibly due more to its younger age than what it’s distilled from. It;s fun to use this to make more fruit-forward rye cocktails, like Manhattans.

Knickerbocker Barrel Gin, $35. I love barrel aged gins. They helped me transition from being mostly a gin drinker to whiskey. When you take a sip, this is in the very end of the taste you get a caramel-barrel sweetness that’s really great. We tasted this on an episode of the podcast as well.

Clockwork Orange Liqueur, $30. This is the drink that drew me to New Holland initially. A high-proof (40%) triple sec that can easily be a stand-alone sipper. I know folks who like to drink straight triple secs or curacous while smoking cigars, and this is leaps and bounds better than the $10 bottom-shelf triple secs you see at the grocery store. It’s not too sweet, it’s slightly bitter and spicy. I’ll be saving this bottle for high-end cocktails and for sipping.

As their distillery line is relatively new, there isn’t national distribution of New Holland’s spirits. Mostly available near and in the areas surrounding Holland, Michigan, USA, if you get a chance to try their line, you won’t be disappointed.

 

St. Augustine Distillery New World Gin

st augustine gin

Hailing from the U.S.’s “oldest city,” St. Augustine Distillery distills New World Gin from sugar cane.

St. Augustine Distillery is based out of St. Augustine, Florida, a city founded in 1565 by the Spanish. The distillery was established in an old ice plant and distills all their products from Florida Cane Sugar. To my knowledge, Florida cane has never made its way into gin. I’ve always associated cane sugar with rum of course, or maybe sodas like Mountain Dew and Pepsi in their “Throwback” line, but gin?

New World Gin has a solid juniper base and a fragrant nose. I was surprised by the powerful but welcome bite that came with the first sip. If bite is your game, then this is the gin for you. The juniper is followed by a blend of orange, lemon, and cassia bark, angelica, and a number of other botanicals. then there’s the Florida cane sugar that adds a sweet and unique quality to New World. There’s a pleasantly sweet, spicy finish and lingering bite in the finish.

New World Gin can be purchased directly at St. Augustine Distillery Co. or on their website for about $30. They also distill Florida Cane Vodka and their Discovery Rum there, and are working to get their product distributed nationally as well.

Uptown Cooler

uptown cooler cocktail

I designed this custom cocktail for 7 Delicious Creative Albuquerque Cocktails. There’s nothing about it that says you can’t be sippin’ on one outside of the Land of Enchantment, plus it’s refreshing as heck, so let’s get drinking!

Uptown Cooler

  • in a tall glass, add:
  • 1 1/2 oz of gin
  • 1/2 oz of fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 cucumber slices
  • muddle them together in the bottom of the glass
  • fill the glass with ice and top with club soda
  • serve with a straw and garnish with a thin cucumber slice

 

Uncle Val’s Peppered Gin

uncle vals peppered gin

As a refresher for those who’re new to this blog, gin was really the liquor that eased me in to quality, classic cocktails. My first year of blogging took me from a time when I’d tasted 1-2 gins to tasting dozens.

I’ve also realized that like any liquor, there is a massive variety of flavor possibilities and I prefer some gins over others. At this point, though, I’m realizing that flavored gin is not so common. Seagram’s has a variety of gin flavors, sure, but up until now, the only flavored gin I’ve tried is Tanqueray Rangpur.

Lisa and I tasted Uncle Val’s Peppered Gin for the first time on this week’s podcast episode. One thing’s for sure: this is a unique gin. The specific ingredients in Uncle Val’s Peppered are red pepper, black pepper, and pimento. The pepper is not present at all in the nose at all, but your throat gets fills with a peppery hotness when you swallow. So much, in fact, that it’s a little alarming.

We wondered if maybe a Red Snapper (a gin Bloody Mary) or a Gin and Tonic would be good fit for this gin, and it turns out that it is. I made a G&T (shown above) and it was quite good: sweet, peppery, and herbal in it’s flavor – a good fit. I imagine a Red Snapper will be equally great.

I REALLY like black pepper, as you may have seen in some of my breakfast instagrams, and I really like gin too, but this is a new flavor profile for me. It smells like a soft citrusy gin and tastes like a lot of pepper. Because of that, your Snappers and G&Ts will welcome the change of pace, but your Martinis may be a little too rough-tasting with this specific gin.