When I would go though my various books of cocktails, my eyes would gloss over the sight of any drink that would incorporate gin. Recipes that would be fine otherwise were cast aside shamefully because of their use of gin. Needless to say, this left a great hole in my liquor knowledge and experience. I call it the gin gap... I don't call it that, but I'm going to start. It has a nice ring to it.
Heather recently bought me a book called The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto published in 1948 written by a man named Bernard DeVoto. The word manifesto is appropriate for this book because it comes off as the rantings of a crazy person. He has all sorts of crazy rules and restrictions for drinking that must be adhered to. According to him, there are only two cocktails--a martini and a slug of whiskey. As for the others, "[t]hey are not cocktails, they are slops. They are fit to be drunk only in the barbarian marches and mostly are drunk there, by the barbarians." As a man for whom only two spirits exist--gin and whisky--I wonder what DeVoto would make of a man like me, a cocktail enthusiast who enjoys a vodka martini. Blasphemy.
Lately around New York (and I'm sure other places) I've seen ads for Hendrick's gin. The advertising pitches it as a small batch, craft gin with a bottle that looks like it came off an apothecary's shelf. The graphics make it look like something straight from the turn of the century--the last one, not this one--and the label claims that among gin drinkers it is not a preferred brand. Apparently it takes a special kind of discerning palate to appreciate the genius behind this gin. I figured I would give it a try.
I purchased the bottle and then set to work. I first administered a non-scientific taste test for Heather and I between the Hendrick's and a small amount of Bombay Sapphire that we've had kicking around our liquor cabinet for a while. The Hendrick's has a slightly lower alcohol content, which made for a smoother taste I think. The Bombay Sapphire has a sharper bite to it.
I started out with a couple of gin standbys: cocktails I was familiar with by name but never bothered to try. First up for myself was a French 75.
adapted from Death and Company
-.5 Simple syrup
It was nice and sweet. I'm sure it was repulsive to a man like Mr. DeVoto, but I found it nice. The gin flavor was tempered nicely by the sugar and lemon and made for an aromatic citrus experience. Next up was a Corpse Reviver for Heather.
adapted from Death and Company
This was a fun one to make because it uses a little bit of everything, and I just so happened to have it all lying around. I'm not so sure what Versinthe is and what makes it different form Absinthe so I just used Absinthe. I think it works out nicely. I may have gone a little lemon heavy on this cocktail. I would recommend going easy on the lemon because there are so many flavors fighting for dominance that you don't want to mask it all with the citrus.
Last night I decided to take on the challenge of crafting a martini a la the man himself, Bernard DeVoto. "There is a point at which the marriage of gin and vermouth is consummated. It varies a little with the constituents, but for a gin of 94.4 proof and a harmonious vermouth it may be generalized at about 3.7 to one. And that is not only the proper proportion but the critical one; if you use less gin it is a marriage in name only and the name is not martini. You get a drinkable and even pleasurable result, but not art's sunburst of imagined delight becoming real. Happily the upper limit is not so fixed; you may make it four to one or a little more than that, which is a comfort if you cannot do fractions in your head and an assurance when you must use an unfamiliar gin." I would quote the entire book if I could, but as those of you who read my Dark 'N' Stormy post may recall, I fear getting sued.
Hendrick's gin is 88 proof, so off the bat, we're not to specifications. But I feel I assembled the martini in the spirit with which it was given. The ratio was 3.7 to one exactly and the ice used to shake it was plentiful. DeVoto claims that their should be no olive or onion to sully the drink, but he claims that "the final brush stroke is a few drops of oil squeezed from lemon rind on the surface of each cocktail. Some drop the squeezed bit into the glass; I do not favor the practice and caution you to make it rind, not peel, if you do." So generous, these allowances he makes.
The final result--a surprisingly relaxing cocktail. I did choose to drop the lemon into it and felt I was richer for the experience. I think the amount of vermouth that was described was a bit much--especially by today's standards--but for a novice gin drinker like me, it was a nice way to ease myself into a strange new world. You have to crawl before you can walk. And who knows, before long I'll be angering Heather by distilling bootleg gin in my bathtub.