New American Gin

The Beautiful Juniper Tree - sans berries.

The Juniper Tree - sans berries.

Picture this:  A server will go over to a new table, hand the guest a menu, and damned if fairly often we hear, ‘No, I don’t like gin, do you have some vodka cocktails?‘  Ouch.  Really?  Really?  In retrospect, one should not be terrifically surprised.  When I started drinking at the fine old age of 15, my experience led me to the first drink that I had that I recognized as a ‘cocktail’: a Bombay Sapphire and tonic…and after a few years of that, many generally  tire of gin served in that manner, so when someone makes a customer a something-tini made from vodka and pretty syrup, the heavy juniper taste of a Sapphire and tonic often is like a box of old pizza left in in a cheap hotel – it ain’t missed.

Something special has happened though in the last few years…gin has been reborn.  Out of the ashes of the gin phoenix, a new breed of gin has taken off, and the colloquial name for this revolution is the New American Gin.

First of all – what IS gin?  If one goes to Vessel in Seattle, they’ll see an interesting item on the menu the Crushed Strawberry Fizz, which is a cocktail described as having as a component, ‘Juniper-flavored vodka…’  Ha.  ‘How wonderful!!!‘ people say, as they drink their ‘vodka’ cocktail while unknowingly drinking gin.  ‘I hate gin, but this is delicious!!!‘ they have been heard to say.  So, what is it that inspires this confusion?

Gin is really one of the oldest modern spirits still available and commonly consumed.  Before people were drinking gallons of the “tasteless, orderless spirit” otherwise known as Vodka, they had been drinking since the 17th century, Gin – or, as they called it then, “genévrier, both “jonge and oude” (young and old).  It’s really a really longplymouth story (which you can check out here), but the short story is that before prohibition, American drank both ‘dry’ gin (which was distilled to a higher proof before dilution to the common ~80proof), or the ‘Old Tom’ gin, which was slightly sweeter and had a touch more flavor than what we today refer to commonly as ‘London Dry’, as typified by the just-right Plymouth English Gin.

prohibition_raidBut, something terrible happened in 1920…Prohibition.  For a long, unhappy, dry and smug 13 years, it was illegal in these United States of America to distill, traffic, provide or drink any intoxicating liquor.  shudder Before this time, Old Tom gin was happily poured all over our country, and in fact (or, I should say ‘perhaps fact’), the first “martini” was a descendant of a gin drink created in California that some suggest was made with Old Tom gin called a ‘Martinez‘:

  • Gin
  • Sweet Vermouth
  • Maraschino Liqueur
  • Bitters

Did a bartender named Martinez make it?  Did Jerry Thomas invent it and name it after a destination of one of his patrons?  Well, no one will ever know, but what we DO know is that on Repeal Day, December 5th, 1933 – when people started legally drinking again, Old Tom gin was a distant memory, wholly replaced by London Dry, and the Martinez faded from memory.

So, most of the world drank London Dry Gin out of bottles with recognizable names like Bombay, Tanqueray and Beefeater.  For a long time, this was the gin that we drank – the gin of our forebearers…

Don’t look now…something new has happened…

A few years ago, I remember someone brought this new Gin to me – from Scotland of all things.  And, moreso – it hendricks1came in this really attractive, squat, black bottle.  This was a gin where the taste was unquestionably reminiscent of cucumber…of fine and gentle botanicals…….there was no juniper edge….no crisp attack on the tongue…  This gin, called Hendrick’s was a whole new realm of spirt.  Time to re-imagine gin!  And, as Americans are want to do – we will take a ball and run with it.

Next thing that we know, there are many of what have become to be called ‘New American Gins’.  These are labels such as Seattle’s Voyager, Junipero from Anchor Distillery in SF, Bluecoat from Philadelphia, Aviation from Portland (which they call a ‘New Western Dry Gin’) and Cascade Mountain from Bend Distillery in Idaho.


Each of these gins is different from your Grandmother’s tipple.  The Voyager is bright with fresh botanicals, the Junipero is big with as much juniper as you like, the Bluecoat also is rich in juniper while the Aviation is a tad more refined and sweet.  Last but not least, the Cascade Mountain is fresh and sharp, with no small amount of locally-sourced Juniper.

Gin is coming back, my friend.  Wait – gin IS back, and when people say to me, ‘I don’t like gin‘, I’ll usually make them a Jasmine or perhaps a Contenental with Plymouth or Voyager.

Here: Try it yourself:


  • 2oz       Voyager Gin
  • .25oz    Campari
  • .25oz    Cointreau
  • .25oz    Fresh Lemon Juice

Garnish with Lemon Twist and serve in a cocktail shell.


  • 2oz     Plymouth Gin
  • .5oz    St. Germain
  • .25oz   Amaro Nonino

Garnish with Lemon Twist and serve in a cocktail shell.


4 Responses to “New American Gin”

  1. Can You please contact me ASAP? I have a request for you. Thanks, Katee

  2. This is great, I’m hoping you’ll add an RSS etc so that I can follow you as you write more! Cocktails at 80

  3. Thanks For the great post

  4. alcohology Says:

    No, but that’s a good idea.

    Thanks for the suggestion.

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