GSN Alert: June 19th – National Martini Day


The Martini is well deserving of its own day, as it is the most widely recognized cocktail in the world.  At its most basic, it is a combination of gin and dry vermouth.  On the auspicious occasion, GSN is proud to share a few of our favorite Martini recipes from the last 150 years.

1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz dry vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain
Add olive

1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz Benedictine
1 dash orange bitters
Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain

Dry Martini
2 oz gin
1/4 oz dry vermouth
Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain
Add olive or lemon twist

2 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain
Add onion

Hoffman House
1 3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz dry vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain
Add olive

2 oz gin
1/4 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz sweet vermouth
Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain
Add olive (or lemon twist)

1 3/4 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz Red Dubonnet
Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain
Add orange peel

GSN Alert: Cocktail & Spirits Book Preview – Summer 2018 (July-September)

Welcome to our summer reading list! GSN presents a dozen and a half books on everything from world-class bars to visit, aperitifs, nightcaps, rum, gin, vermouth, whiskey, coffee, and the latest cocktails! There are even two expanded and revised versions of classic cocktail tomes that you NEED to read!  Cheers!

A Short History of Drunkenness by Mark Forsyth Viking (June 26, 2018) Almost every culture on earth has a drink, and where there’s drink there’s drunkenness. But in every age and in every place drunkenness is a little bit different. It can be religious, it can be sexual, it can be the duty of kings or the relief of peasants. It can be an offering to the ancestors, or a way of marking the end of a day’s work. It can send you to sleep, or send you into battle. A Short History of Drunkenness traces humankind’s love affair with booze from our primate ancestors through to Prohibition, answering every possible question along the way: What did people drink? How much? Who did the drinking? Of the many possible reasons, why? On the way, learn about the Neolithic Shamans, who drank to communicate with the spirit world (no pun intended), marvel at how Greeks got giddy and Romans got rat-arsed, and find out how bars in the Wild West were never quite like in the movies. This is a history of the world at its inebriated best.

Gin by Geraldine Coates Carlton Books Ltd (August 9, 2018) Gin: A Toast to the Most Aromatic of Spirits celebrates the clear spirit in all its guises; as a straight drink, the increasingly popular flavoured brands, as a base for cocktails and a cooking ingredient. It describes the history of the spirit; how it is made and how the method of distillation has changed across the centuries; the variations of gin; classic cocktail recipes; where to buy the premier brands; and tasting notes. Lavishly illustrated and written in an easy-to-read style, this book will go down as well as the most lovingly created Gin & Tonic. Few drinks can trace its history back more than half a millennium, but the Dutch genever (or jenever) is a clear predecessor of the modern gin distilled today. Gin’s history makes for fascinating reading, from how it grew and faded in popularity through the ages to the types of people who drank it and the story of the G&T (surely the world’s best known cocktail). According to Henry McNulty, Vogue’s legendary wine and spirits columnist, ‘Gin is the bad boy of the spirits world.’ He may be correct, but the fact remains that gin is one of the world’s most popular spirits.

Batched & Bottled: Cocktails to Make Ahead by Noel Venning & Max Venning Quadrille Publishing (August 7, 2018) Sick of standing in the corner making cocktails while everyone else is having fun? Fed up of having to buy loads of expensive spirits and bitters? Just want to pour a delicious cocktail any time, any place? Batched & Bottled features 50 of the best recipes for batched and bottled cocktails – cocktails you can pre-make and bottle, and either pour straight over ice or leave to mature for an hour, a month or even a year. You’ll have cocktails you can drink when you get in from work, or bottles you can crack open come Christmas/summer/birthday/Friday. From negronis and manhattans to more complex concoctions you can infuse with botanicals or fermented ingredients, the recipes follow the seasons and range from simple, stir-through mixes, to more elaborate drinks that require kitchen prep.

The Book of Vermouth: A Bartender and a Winemaker Celebrate the World’s Greatest Aperitif by Shaun Byrne & Gilles Lapalus Hardie Grant (August 7, 2018) The Book of Vermouth is a celebration of the greatest cocktail staple – a mixer that is riding a growing wave of popularity around the world. It includes up to 100 modern and classical cocktail recipes – but is more than a cocktail book too, offering history and insight to botanicals, and the perspective of key chefs who like to cook with vermouth as much as they like to drink it.The authors – one a winemaker, the other a bartender – bring personality to the book via their distinct takes on what makes vermouth so special. The book includes two main sections: Vermouth Basics and How to Drink. Vermouth Basics will give a comprehensive guide to the essentials of vermouth – grape varieties, production, varieties, botanicals, spirit and sugar, and go into great detail about the history of Australian vermouth in particular. It will include botanical profiles of both indigenous and traditional plants from Tim Entwistle, botanist at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. It will cover all aspects of wormwood: the key ingredient in making vermouth, including medicinal and historical uses, where it is found and its botanical significance. How to Drink will cover the many different ways to serve, drink and store vermouth. Chapters will cover Vermouth Neat, Vermouth in Spring, Vermouth in Summer, Vermouth in Autumn and Vermouth in Winter, as well as Bitter Edge of Vermouth, Stirred & Up, Vermouth Party and After Dinner. These chapters will be more recipe-focused, and include 10–15 recipes per chapter, drawing from each season’s specific botanicals and how these work with different vermouths. Each season will also include a related food recipe.

Rum: The Complete Guide by Isabel Boons & Tom Neijens Lannoo Publishers (June 30, 2018) The diversity of flavors and colors of rum are as rich as the history and culture that surrounds this alcoholic beverage. This guide provides an overview of more than 300 different types of rum and then categorizes them using an innovative taste model. For every rum, you receive a clear overview of its origins, taste and aroma. In addition, you can read all about the different types of rum, the production and maturing process, the perfect way to serve, and the best cocktails.

I’m Just Here for the Drinks: A Guide to Spirits, Drinking and More Than 100 Extraordinary Cocktails by Sother Teague & Robert Simonson Media Lab Books (August 28, 2018) Sother Teague, one of New York’s most knowledgeable bartenders and Wine Enthusiast’s Mixologist of the Year (2017), presents a brief history of both classic and lesser-known spirits with modern-day wit and old-school bar wisdom, accompanied by easy-to-mix drink recipes you’ll soon commit to memory. Better than bellying up to some of the world’s best bars with a veteran bartender, this series of essays and conversations on all things alcohol aims to reveal how the joy of drinking changed both history and culture?and will likely inspire you to make a little history of your own. After all, no retelling of a great caper or revolutionary event ever started with the phrase, “So a bunch of guys are all eating salad…”. This hardcover collection of timeless tips, insight from industry pros and 100+ recipes is more than just a cocktail book: It’s a manifesto for living a more spirited life.

The Joy of Mixology, Revised and Updated Edition: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender’s Craft by Gary Regan Clarkson Potter (August 28, 2018) A thoroughly updated edition of the 2003 classic that home and professional bartenders alike refer to as their cocktail bible. Gary Regan, the “most-read cocktail expert around” (Imbibe), has revised his original tome for the 15th anniversary with new material: many more cocktail recipes–including smart revisions to the originals–and fascinating information on the drink making revival that has popped up in the past decade, confirming once again that this is the only cocktail reference you need. A prolific writer on all things cocktails, Gary Regan and his books have been a huge influence on mixologists and bartenders in America. This brand-new edition fills in the gaps since the book first published, incorporating Regan’s special insight on the cocktail revolution from 2000 to the present and a complete overhaul of the recipe section. With Regan’s renowned system for categorizing drinks helps bartenders not only to remember drink recipes but also to invent their own, The Joy of Mixology, Revised and Updated Edition is the original drinks book for both professionals and amateurs alike.

150 Bars You Have to Visit Before You Die by Jurgen Lijcops Lannoo Publishers (July 31, 2018) Finding a major city’s ultimate cocktail bar is often quite the challenge. This book takes you on a trip around the world from Hong Kong to New York and Berlin. It shows locations that set themselves apart with their gorgeous design, stunning views, exclusivity or signature cocktail. In short, must-visit bars for any enthusiast. Can’t wait? Not to worry. The author has added some of the best cocktail recipes for classics, such as Gin Fizz, Negroni or a Manhattan, as well as the best sours and long drinks. Discover the history of each bar, learn how to select your own cocktail menu, let the unique, refined atmosphere of every location carry you away or stay home and drink your exquisite self-made drink.

Whiskey Cocktails by Brian Van Flandern Assouline Publishing (August 20, 2018) Whiskey is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyed spirits, sipped by Madison Avenue “ad men” and the blue-collar alike. In Whiskey Cocktails, America’s top mixologist Brian Van Flandern reprises his role as author in the fifth edition of Assouline’s best-selling cocktail series. These recipes from the mind of America’s top mixologist are all shot against the backdrop of such legendary New York City bars as the Brandy Library, Dead Rabbit Bar, and McSorleys. Like the many vintages explored within, Whiskey Cocktails belongs so high up on the shelf that even the most seasoned bartender may need a ladder to reach it.

The Curious Bartender Volume II: The New Testament of Cocktails by Tristan Stephenson Ryland Peters & Small (September 11, 2018) Tristan Stephenson is back to shake up the cocktail world once more, perfecting classic cocktails and offering his signature reinventions using his world-renowned mixology skills. The Curious Bartender Volume II: The New Testament of Cocktails is the sixth book by bestselling author and legendary bartender Tristan Stephenson. You’ll find 64 of the finest cocktails there have been, are, or will be: 32 perfected classics and 32 game-changing reinventions of classics. Tristan makes you discover taste buds and talents you never knew you had. He’ll show you the tools of the trade, the techniques he swears by, and how to experiment to create your own cocktail sensations. Tristan’s done all the hard work for you, selflessly trying every drink known to man to uncover what partners perfectly. All you have to do is leaf through the pages of this—the holy grail of cocktail books.

The American Bar: The Artistry of Mixing Drinks Revised Edition by Charles Schumann Rizzoli (September 11, 2018) The classic bar guide that launched a generation of cocktail lovers is back—completely updated. With its cloth binding evoking a Jazz Age guide to speakeasies and its charming illustrations that could have come from a period magazine, this most influential cocktail book is reissued in a newly updated edition. Spanning the cocktail spectrum from classic to contemporary, it includes all the information the cocktail lover or mixologist needs to create the perfect drink in a stylishly retro package, making it an elegant, sophisticated gift as well as an indispensable companion for home or professional entertaining. With 500 recipes and an easy-to-use index arranged by drink categories, this bar book is replete with fascinating stories behind the genesis of each cocktail, its creators, and component liquors—as well as a guide to bartending equipment and a glossary of bar terms and measurements. Charles Schumann, whose appreciation of design and drinks is legendary, is the ideal guide to the perfect drink. Based on the menus at his iconic establishments—Harry’s New York Bar, then Schumann’s American Bar, which later became simply Schumann’s Bar—each recipe focuses on quality and balance.

The Curious Bartender’s Guide to Gin: How to appreciate gin from still to serve by Tristan Stephenson Ryland Peters & Small (September 11, 2018) Join the gin craze with this captivating introduction to the world of gin, plus recipes for perfect gin cocktails, brought to you by award-winning bartender and bestselling author Tristan Stephenson. Discover the extraordinary journey that gin has taken, from its origins in the Middle Ages as the herbal medicine “genever” to gin’s commercialization. From the dark days of the Gin Craze in mid 18th Century London to the golden age that it is now experiencing. In the last few years, hundreds of distilleries and micro-distilleries have cropped up all over the world, producing superb craft products infused with remarkable new blends of botanicals. In this book, you’ll be at the cutting-edge of the most exciting developments, uncovering the alchemy of the gin production process, and the science. Follow Tristan’s expertly honed recipes and to enjoy a Classic Martini, Negroni, Gimlet, Aviation, Martinez and Singapore Sling at home.

Glamorous Cocktails: Fashionable mixes from iconic London bars by William Yeoward CICO Books (September 11, 2018) Join William Yeoward on his journey through London’s most stunning bars as he shares his passion for exquisite drinks and glamorous living in this, his compendium of iconic and signature recipes by some of the world’s most acclaimed bartenders. In Glamorous Cocktails, William visits five of his favourite bars and chooses their trademark cocktails, including genius tips from their world-class bartenders. William also shares his own thoughts on making cocktails and, importantly, how to present them. As someone who is not only passionate about cocktails but also about crystal, he has the perfect knowledge and “eye” to advise and inspire. As William says, ‘Cocktails come in such a huge variety that there’s something for everyone and for every possible occasion – a birthday celebration, an anniversary, a first date, the closure of a deal or a surreptitious flirt.’ These cocktails cover a wide range – some are short, others are long, and a few contain no alcohol, but two things are common to all: they are delicious – and extremely glamorous.

The Art & Craft of Coffee Cocktails: Over 80 recipes for mixing coffee and liquor by Jason Clark Ryland Peters & Small (September 11, 2018) Enjoy two of life’s greatest pleasures – coffee and alcohol – with this comprehensive guide to mixing perfect coffee cocktails. World-class mixologist Jason Clark will inspire, excite, and educate you by taking you behind the bar for a masterclass in creating coffee-based cocktails. First take a journey into the history and craft of coffee, the world’s most popular beverage, from crop to cup. Next follow his expert mixing tips aimed at everyone from keen beginners to bartenders working in the world’s best bars. More than 80 recipes follow, covering all styles of cocktails from stirred and shaken through to blended and blazed. Learn how to perfect simple classics such as Espresso Martini and Irish coffee or try your hand at technical modern marvels Golden Velvet and Death By Caffeine. With The Art and Craft of Coffee Cocktails in hand your daily grind will never be the same!

Aperitif: A Spirited Guide to the Drinks, History and Culture of the Aperitif by Kate Hawkings Quadrille Publishing (September 4, 2018) Santé! The apéritif is back. Forget the crass cocktail – the chic apéritif is the choice of the discerning drinker. From the Latin aperire (‘to open’), an apéritif not only kick-starts the palate but is the most delightful way to begin an evening. More and more people are falling for the charms of this light, refreshing, and aromatic way of drinking, and bars dedicated to apéritifs are opening around the world. Characterized by their dryness, freshness, and bitter flavors, many apéritifs are also low in alcohol, making them a perfect choice for health-conscious barflies. In Apéritif, acclaimed drinks writer Kate Hawkings romps through the history of how these drinks came into being across the great drinking nations of Europe and beyond. And after a look at the science of why these drinks work so well as appetizers, she peruses anything and everything that can be considered as an apéritif: what it is, what to look for, and how best to drink it. From amaro to gin, through spritzes to Campari and Lillet, and with suggested recipes or serving suggestions for each kind of booze, Apéritif encourages you to sit back, sip, and anticipate the pleasures that the evening holds.

Nightcap: More than 40 Cocktails to Close Out Any Evening by Kara Newman Chronicle Books (September 18, 2018) A nightcap is the perfect way to end the night, and author Kara Newman knows just how to make them. This gifty, foil-accented book contains more than 40 cocktail recipes—some to keep the night going, some that will help ease you to sleep, some that can double as dessert, and some that can soothe the stomach after a hearty meal. There are classics like the sweet and creamy Brandy Alexander, new takes on old favorites like the Black Manhattan, which swaps an aperitif for the classic vermouth, and simple new ideas like the Open & Shut, which combines equal parts amaro and cognac for a slow sipper. Whatever kind of night it’s been, Nightcap is the perfect way to top it off.

101 Rums to Try Before You Die by Ian Buxton Birlinn Ltd (July 7, 2018) Rum, once the poor relation of the spirit world, has undergone a revival and is no longer seen just as the preferred tipple for tipsy pirates. The craft drinks movement has certainly stimulated the rum world, with high numbers of new artisan rum brands launching around the world in the last few years. The rise of the rum cocktails is another successful trend, with the popularity of mojitos and mai tai contributing greatly in the growth and development of the rum market. Ian Buxton, the UK’s No.1 bestselling author on spirits, takes us on a tour of the different colours, flavours, creation methods and characteristics, and makes his pick of the best rums in the world. Whether you like your rum in cocktails, or prefer to sip it neat, this is the only book on rum you will ever need.

The New Rum: A Modern Guide to the Spirit of the Americas by Bryce T. Bauer Countryman Press (June 5, 2018) Nine countries, forty producers, and ten classic cocktails. Rum, traditionally relegated to cloying cocktails or tropical themed novelty drinks, is undergoing a global renaissance. In bars and distilleries across the world, rum is being defined as a dynamic, complex, and versatile drink. New to the scene of connoisseurship, rum is a spirit of possibilities, inviting imaginative bartenders and mixologists to leave their marks on this burgeoning movement. In The New Rum, award-winning drinks author Bryce T. Bauer charts the historical and cultural journey of the spirit of the Americas from its origins in the Caribbean, to its long held status as a cheap vacation drink, to today’s inspiring craft revival. This rum-spiked travelogue also includes a producer focused drinks guide, covering dozens of the world’s most innovative and iconic producers, making everything from Martiniqure rhum agricole to long-aged sippers from Barbados and the Dominican Republic.

GSN Review: Spirits Works Gin, Barrel Gin & Sloe Gin


Spirit Works was founded only two years ago and already have garnered a reputation for high quality products including vodka and three styles of gin.  Started by British husband Timo Marshall and his American wife Ashby, they first started brainstorming about the idea while sailing around the world.  No, not on a private yacht, but as deck hands on an icebreaker ship.  It’s no small wonder they wanted to settle down, but still live near the coast.  Settled in the art district of Sebastopol, California known as The Barlow, their distillery is housed in the same neighborhood as a few breweries, wineries and a coffee roaster.

Ashby heads up the distilling, while Timo works to keep everything running smoothly from a business perspective.  Interestingly, even though their first product was a red winter wheat based vodka, their ultimate goal was to recreate a classic sloe gin.  Timo started with his family’s recipe, which he had been using since he was 14(!).  Since the Blackthorn bush which produces sloe berries is considered an invasive species in the US, he opted to import them from Bulgaria.

All of their spirits utilize single-distillation red winter wheat, with the gin having a blend of infused and suspended gin basket botanicals.  The Barrel Gin is aged approximately four months in new American Oak casks.  The Sloe Gin is made the traditional way with their gin infused with macerated sloe berries and sugar.


Timo and Ashby also have an official Spirit Works mascot named Bandit, who apparently considers the whole thing rather tiresome.

Gin (86 proof)
Visual: Crystal clear.
Nose: Slightly redolent of moonshine with a hearty juniper overlay. Very little citrus, but many other spices come through loud and clear.
Taste: Quite smooth with a rich, creamy body.  Instant lemon citrus on the palate, followed by the wintry bite of juniper.  The other botanicals fill in the cracks, but none raise their head above the crowd.
Finish: Long, dry and bracing.
Overall: An excellent gin that is self-assured, flavorful and well-balanced.  I honestly can’t think of any gin based cocktail which would not rejoice by its inclusion.
GSN Rating: A-

Barrel Gin (90.2 proof)
Visual: Warm yellow.
Nose: Candied lemon peel, soft juniper, vanilla taffy.
Taste: Smooth, creamy, loaded with vanilla and a touch of green banana.  The flavors have transformed into an Old Tom style with a sweeter character that still retains the essence of the juniper.
Finish: Lemon pie laced with Gin & Tonic.  I kid you not, there is a hint of quinine on the canvas.
Overall: Lovely and a fantastic gin for innovating new cocktails.  So, much to love here.
GSN Rating: A+

Sloe Gin (54 proof)
Visual: Reddish purple.
Nose: Spiced berries with a ghostly juniper presence.
Taste: Medium sweet with a punch-like character.  Fruit bomb with high spice notes of cinnamon, clove and ginger. Luscious and sublime.
Finish: Jam like with a lot of berry.
Overall: Not as tart as some traditional sloe gins, which makes this a nice alternative to drink straight.  Very balanced and I particularly like the spiciness.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Spirit Works Distillery

GSN Review: Michael Godard Vodka & Gin

15245-540x335In case you don’t know who Michael Godard is, all you need to do is look at the artwork on the bottles of vodka and gin.  Yes, he’s the artist whose fanciful artwork of olives, limes and assorted cocktail paraphernalia have graced the covers of books, compact discs and low-brow pop art items around the globe.  What makes his art more interesting is his personal back story.

In 2006, his 16 yr. old daughter Paige passed away after a battle with brain cancer. As Godard says, “All the money in the world can not bring her back, but the funds I help raise for a cure will help save another child.”  As a result Godard now works very closely with St Jude’s, Make a Wish, Nevada Cancer Institute and The Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Foundation.

The vodka is made from Dutch wheat that undergoes five distillations.  I assume that the gin uses the same base, but other than juniper I’m not sure what the other botanicals are.  Oh, each bottle is numbered in a limited edition, which makes for a potential collectible.

Michael Godard Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Sweet and with an unusual berry character.
Taste: A bit chalky with a moderate amount of minerality.  Somewhat sweet, but there is more body and heat here than I was expecting.  A bit of bitterness creeps in towards the end.  But, that’s not a bad thing.
Finish:  Dry, with a lot of mouthfeel.
Overall: Perfectly serviceable vodka with more character than many others on the market.
GSN Rating: B

Michael Godard Gin (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: A lot of high, bright herbal notes with a prevalent juniper character.
Taste: Quite light and sweet, but with a good sense of juniper.  It seems a bit unbalanced and harshly botanical.  There is more than a bit of fire and again, a lot of minerality.  Here, it seems at odds with the overall effect of the infusions.  Rather than a tight unity of flavors, they seem to be disparate and at odds with one another.
Finish: A lot of lingering sweetness, along with a chalky edge.
Overall: I’m not sure what to make of this gin.  It seems like a decent first attempt, but never really rises to the occasion.
GSN Rating: B-

For more information go to: Michael Godard Spirits

GSN Review: Flaviar Spirits Club

flaviar_image-620x350Over the years I’ve discovered that one of the best ways to learn about spirits is at home.  You can take your time savoring and discovering the differences between different styles and brands of each of the six main spirits: brandies, whiskies, rums, gins, vodkas and tequilas.  The only real issue is financial.  Go out to the local liquor store and try to buy five different bottles of spirit that aren’t hangover inducing crap for under $50.  It’s impossible.

What if I were to tell you that you and two friends could try five different top shelf spirits for less than $50?  What if every month there was a new package delivered to your door containing five new spirits to try ranging from hard to find Japanese whiskies to Highland scotches and more?  Each delivered with a guide on tasting notes, info on the distilleries and how to host a tasting party.  Sound too good to be true?  It isn’t.  Check it out below and begin your “spiritual” journey of discovery.

For more information go to: Flaviar

GSN Review: Sipsmith London Dry Gin

SipsmithSipsmith is celebrating their 5th Anniversary on March 14th of this year.  Imagined by ex-brewer Sam Galsworthy and former Diageo strategy manager Fairfax Hall, they were joined by cocktail and spirits historian Jared Brown who became the master distiller.  The company is only one of four distilleries located within the city of London, England (interestingly, in the former offices of Michael “The Beerhunter” Jackson).  Using a copper-pot still nicknamed Prudence, they produce a startlingly small amount of spirit per run.  Less than 80 gallons is crafted at a time.  The distillate is then brought down to proof with water from the Lydwell Spring.

Made with a blend of ten herbs, citrus and spices including Angelica Root, Cassia Bark, Cinnamon, Coriander Seed, Ground Almond, Juniper berries, Lemon Peel, Liquorice Root, Orange Peel and Orris Root, Sipsmith is a traditional London Dry style gin.

Sipsmith Gin (83.2 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Fresh, crisp juniper with a heady aroma.
Taste: Lots of citrus up front with “hello! look at me!” juniper coming in a close second.  Quite dry and bracing with a fair amount of body and character.  Wintery and warming at the same time.
Finish: Medium long with peppery notes leaving a lasting impression.
Overall: A true artisanal gin that stays true to its English roots.  Easily mixable with anything, yet will give a boost of engaging terroir and intensity.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Sipsmith

GSN Review: St. George Spirits Gins

indexSt. George spirits located in Alameda, California has been at the forefront of the craft distilling movement from the very beginning.  Founded in 1982, they produced American style eau-de-vie at a time when no one else was doing so.  In the 32 years since, they have moved into virtually every other area of spirits production.  They were also the first company based in the USA to create legal absinthe after a ban of 95 years.

Still experimenting with new ideas, they recently came out with a trio of gins that are entirely different from one another.  Many of the botanicals are sourced locally, creating a symbiotic relationship with the local community.

Botanivore (90 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Obvious juniper with a more subtle herbaceous nose of woodruff.
Taste: Crisp and dry with a soft and curious autumn-like flavor.  Round and semi-creamy in mouthfeel, this is a warm and more darkened gin than London Dry’s.
Finish: Long with a lot of terroir and character.  There is a lot of minerality and chalkiness here which adds body to a cocktail.
Overall: Quite good and a solid gin to put within hand’s reach.
GSN Rating: A-

Dark Rye (90 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Reminiscent of white dog moonshine with a drier nose.  Unusual and unlike any other gin I’ve tried.
Taste: An almost minty quality comes through with elements of caraway and peppercorn.  The caraway makes this far and away more like an unaged Aquavit.  Definitely one for a Red Snapper cocktail.
Finish: Very much like rye bread.  Chewy, intense and with a Scandinavian sensibility.
Overall: Unique, but one that works in herbal cocktails more readily than citrus based drinks.
GSN Rating: B+

Terroir (90 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Fresh cut fir-tree with a juniper heart.
Taste: Loads of pine and sage.  Over the top with herbality that makes the juniper the canvas upon which everything else is laid.  But, there is a sweetness to the whole endeavor that offsets what could have been a bitter flavor.
Finish: Medium long with lingering sweetness.  I’m reminded of the flavor of authentic spruce chewing gum.
Overall: This makes for a cocktail in itself.  Serve ice-cold with a lemon twist and you’ve got a very wintry martini.  Skip the vermouth.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: St. George Spirits

GSN Review: Old English Gin

1361-old-english-gin_720x600Gin has always been something of an elusive spirit.  Over the centuries it has transformed from the quite sweet Genever into Old Tom and Young Tom gin, and from there it further branched into London Dry and Plymouth styles.  Old English Gin looks to recapture what Old Tom gin was like for the drinker over 225 years ago.

Crafted at Langley Distillery in the West Midlands, where they also make several other popular brands of gin, Old English is made in a 3,000 copper pot still manufactured in 1903 by John Dore & Company (the oldest working copper pot gin still in England).  The recipe goes back even further to 1783 and includes angelica, cardamom, cassia, cinnamon, coriander, juniper, lemon, liquorice, nutmeg, orange and orris root as well as a small amount of sugar to sweeten the blend before bottling.

Another interesting aspect of the product is that it is contained in reclaimed champagne bottles and sealed with a cork and black wax.  Even opening the bottle gives one the sense that they are traveling back to an earlier time before screw-caps.

Old English Gin (88 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Bright and crisp juniper with slight lemon citrus notes.  Very clean and straightforward.
Taste: Quite smooth and very much in the tradition of drier English styles (as opposed to the malty Dutch versions).  Flavorful with an abundance of juniper berries, but offset with other mellower botanicals and a smattering of citrus.  A surprisingly fresh juiciness comes out after a few sips.
Finish: Medium long with a slightly bitter-sweet dry and effusive crispness.
Overall: Really well done and a testament to the historical recipes of the 1700’s.  It’s no wonder that Britains went mad for this style of gin.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Old English Gin

GSN Review: Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin


I am continuously surprised at the sheer variety of gins available today.  However, few of them have a heritage as old as Nolet’s.  Founded in 1691 and still run by the 10th generation son of Joannes Nolet, they not only produce world-class genevers, but also Ketel One vodka and most recently Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin.  Using unusual botanicals such as rose petals,  white peach and raspberries, they’ve created a spirit which is unlike anything else on the market.  But not to worry gin lovers, the heart of this spirit is intensely juniper.

Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin (95.2 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: A hefty dose of evergreen.  Extremely juniper forward with almost no citrus notes.
Taste: Intensely dry and with plenty of juniper flavor.  Lots of spicy black pepper with just the slightest hint of citrus. Extraordinarily floral and elegant.  The kind of gin that you will never forget once you’ve tasted it.  A powerhouse of flavor.
Finish:  Medium long with a crisp, almost tannic quality.  I’m reminded of the flavor of fresh-cut grass, oddly enough.
Overall: Quite dry and robust.  Well done and quite mixable.  A gin that will stand up to anything you throw against it.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Nolet Gin

GSN Review: Bombay Sapphire Gin


What is the Bombay Sapphire? Interestingly enough, it is a gemstone given by Douglas Fairbanks to his wife Mary Pickford during the silent film era.  It is huge (I’ve seen it) at 182 carats, and is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

However, the Bombay Sapphire we’re concerned with today is a brand of gin which debuted in 1987.  Triple distilled and using almond, lemon peel, liquorice, juniper berries, orris root, angelica, coriander, cassia, cubeb, and grains of paradise; it has a lighter body and a more floral character than many London Dry styles.

There are also two other gins in the Bombay portfolio which I was not sent for review: Bombay Original Dry and Bombay Sapphire East.

Bombay Sapphire (94 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Huge hit of juniper, with bright evergreen, spicy pepper, minerals, some grapefruit citrus.
Taste: Fresh, bitingly crisp, hints of lemon curd. The juniper character is balanced equally with a textured slightly granular mouthfeel.
Finish: Long and dry with a fade that leaves a slight citrus sweetness.
Overall: Very well done and perfect for classic gin cocktails.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Bombay Sapphire

GSN Review: Tanqueray Malacca Gin


Tanqueray introduced Malacca Gin to the world fifteen years ago, but at the time it failed to generate enough interest in the average drinker to justify continued production.  Of course, it was an excellent expression that was simply ahead of its time; and now that gin is making inroads against its main rival vodka, this is an opportune time to bring it back.  So, it is with great pleasure that Malacca is again being introduced to the market (albeit on a limited basis).  50,000 bottles have been allocated to various bars in the US market.  Hopefully, the demand will be such that it will be more readily available to the general public soon.

You can read my previous reviews of the rest of the Tanqueray line here.

Tanqueray Malacca (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Immediate juniper with an undercarriage of sweet spice.  The citrus works well to add a lot of high lemon-lime notes.  Mouth-watering and engaging.
Taste: Incredibly smooth and light with a palette that ranges from lemon curd to wintry pine.
Finish: Lingering sweetness with a light touch of slowly fading botanicals.
Overall: A gin that fits well within the Tanqueray line while still exploring new territory.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Tanqueray

GSN Review: Myer Farm Distillers

Myer DistilleriesMyer Farms is a new distillery located not far from me in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.  The farm itself has been in production for over 200 years, and the current owners are 5th generation farmers.  They use certified organic winter wheat grown on their own estate for all of their spirited products.  In spite of a large portfolio, they have only been in production since June of 2012.  They utilize a 650 liter copper pot still hand-crafted in Germany, as well as a sixteen foot column still for producing vodka.  Notably, they do not chill filter their spirits, which lends them more flavor and body.  Later this year they expect to have corn, wheat, rye and barrel aged bourbon whiskies available.

Myer Farm Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: A creamy, almost nougat-like scent, with vanilla.
Taste: More vanilla, with the addition of a peppery cashew flavor.  Surprisingly sweet.
Finish: Fairly long, with lingering sweet sugary notes.
Overall: It could do with some refining, to bring out a crispness and more minerality.  As it stands, it seems a lot like a vanilla-tinged vodka.
GSN Rating: B-

Myer Farm White Dog (88.4 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Wet leaves and black pepper.
Taste: Quite light and smooth considering it’s almost 90 proof.  There’s a hefty amount of spice working here as well, to its advantage.  A creaminess hits midway through the tasting and leaves your mouth with a full, rich flavor just bordering on sweetness.
Finish: Medium long, with the memory of sweetness and lingering spice.
Overall: Even though this is made with winter wheat, I am reminded of biting into fresh, young sweet corn.  Quite interesting, and will work well as an adjunct to silver tequilas and mezcals.
GSN Rating: B

Myer Farm Gin (85.4 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Sweet spices, with coriander and cinnamon playing older sibling to the juniper.  A soft nose more in keeping with Genever than London Dry style.
Taste: A sweet gin, but not malty like a Genever.  This is more in line with the Old Tom style, with the addition of a sly orange citrus tang.  The botanical bill is intriguing, but nothing stands out as prevalent or obtrusive.
Finish: A slight bitterness keeps things from staying too sweet, and some interesting mineral notes with a dry bite end things well.
Overall: I like this gin.  It has enough body to support whatever you might throw at it in a cocktail blend.  The sweetness and simplicity also makes it a throwback to the days before gins were adding esoteric ingredients to their infusions.
GSN Rating: A-

Myer Farm Ginger Flavored Vodka (40 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Not a lot of ginger on the nose, but it has a dry and crisp scent more in keeping with traditional, non-flavored vodkas.
Taste: Smooth, fresh and with the slightest hint of heat.  You’d be hard pressed to say that it is ginger, but this has a subtle and prickly warmth that elevates it beyond their regular vodka.
Finish: The sweetness I picked up in the regular vodka is still here, albeit tempered by the ginger.  The heat actually builds over time, leaving your mouth with an almost fresh ginger burn minutes later.  Nicely done.
Overall: This works nicely in conjunction with sodas (highballs), and as a shot.  Quite tasty.
GSN Rating: A-

(They also make a White Dog Corn Whiskey and a Blueberry Orange Vodka which I was not sent for review. – ed.)

For more information go to: Myer Farm Distillers

GSN Review: Tanqueray

4dc4e431e8171dd9f58456c4623aefb1With gin making a huge comeback in the cocktail world, we’re seeing more and more prohibition era drinks making their way into trendsetting bars.  TV shows like “Boardwalk Empire” and the upcoming Hollywood film “The Great Gatsby” are giving the 1920’s an air of glamor.  But why is gin (along with whiskey) so identified with the 1920’s era?

Gin has been around for at least four and a half centuries.  Of course, there are many different styles from the malt heavy Dutch Genever to the independent distiller boutique styles coming out in 21st century America.  What we call bathtub gin was pretty much all you could get during prohibition in the 48 states.  Basically it was roughly distilled vodka, cut heavily with water and mixed with gin flavoring.  You could even purchase juniper extract from the Sears catalogue.

However, one of the mainstays has been and continues to be the English Dry style.  Crisp, elegant, refreshing and dry, it epitomizes the type of gin that most cocktail drinkers expect.  One of the best of these gins is Tanqueray which has been around since 1830, but is no longer distilled in England.  Instead, they’ve moved their headquarters to Scotland.  Regardless, their products are the mark of excellence.  Oh, and the unique bottle shape?  It’s design is taken from the ubiquitous cocktail shaker.

Here are a few prohibition era cocktails for you to try.

The Franklin
1.5oz London Dry Gin
1tbsp dry vermouth
2tbsp olive juice ( I use Dirty Sue brand)
2 olives

Fill a mixer with all ingredients including the olives. Cover and shake hard 3 – 4 times. Strain contents of the mixer into the cocktail glass. Garnish with an olive. The Franklin, a dirty martini, is the drink that brought it all back and the cocktail with which FDR celebrated the repeal of Prohibition.

White Lady
1.5oz London Dry Gin
.75oz orange liqueur
.75oz lemon juice

Pour all of the ingredients into a shaker, fill with ice, shake and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Introduced in the late 20’s, The White Lady was born from a drink named “Delilah,” which included crème de menthe. The Savoy’s Harry Craddock replaced it with orange liqueur and it became an instant classic.  In 2013, it is one of the 10 most popular cocktails served around the globe.

Tanqueray (94.6 proof)
Visual: Clear
Nose: Bright high notes of juniper and pine along with citrus, bits of black pepper.
Taste: Intense juniper with a perfect balance of other botanicals and a slightly sweet but dry midrange.  Elegant and very English.
Finish: Lingering notes of talc, ending in an ultra dry finish.
Overall: Perfect in a martini, and subdued enough to mix well with juices, and liqueurs.
GSN Rating: A

Tanqueray No. 10 (94.6 proof)
Visual: Clear
Nose: Darker and more verdant than regular Tanqueray, with a fresh quality that is unique amongst gins.
Taste: Softer than Tanqueray, yet more citrus forward and spicy.  Tasty on its own, but exceptional as the base spirit in any cocktail.
Finish: Lingering sweet notes with more fresh spruce.
Overall: A world-class spirit that defines the gin category.  Every cocktail is lifted to a higher level with Tanqueray 10.
GSN Rating: A+

Tanqueray Rangpur (82.6 proof)
Visual: Clear
Nose:  Lots of lime on the nose, with only the slightest tinge of juniper.
Taste: Very light and smooth, akin to a lime vodka.  The lime is natural and not bitter.  Refreshing and reminiscent of summer.
Finish: The lime flavor goes on and on.
Overall: A great gin for a G&T or sipping on the rocks.  The lime will overwhelm most gin based cocktails, so keep this for special occasions.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Tanqueray

GSN Review: Smooth Ambler Vodka, Gin, White Whiskey & Bourbon

Not many people know this about me, but I was born in West Virginia.  I only lived there for the first three years of my life, but I did get to visit the great state for a week when I was 16.  I have to say that it is one of the most picturesque states I’ve ever visited.  Fresh mountain air, pure clean water and an independent spirit in its people.  What does this have to do with Smooth Ambler Spirits?  Well, we were both born in the only state formed east of the Mississippi during the American Civil War.  There’s a lot of history there, and certainly a lot of distillation going on over the past few hundred years.

Smooth Ambler is a very new face on the spirits scene, but one that bears watching, as their products really shine.  Read on to find out more….

Smooth Ambler WhiteWater Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Diamond clear.
Nose: Light sweetness with a freshly peeled banana scent.
Taste: Very pleasant with a tropical banana overtone.  There is some green pepper going on, as well as rock candy.  This has more body than most vodkas, and will add a lot of character to any cocktail.  I like the fact that it hasn’t been over-distilled to the point of blandness.
Finish: Sugary with more of those banana notes that I found in the nose.  As the finish goes on, a lot of mineral comes out with a light saltiness.
GSN Rating: A-

Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin (80 proof)
Visual:  Crystal clear.
Nose: Juniper and oddly enough, dill intermingle with a sweet and light spice.
Taste: Much sweeter and less dry than a traditional London style.  More akin to a flavored vodka.  The distillation is fine, but I feel the herbal infusion lacks depth.  This would work well in a fruit juice heavy cocktail, but wouldn’t make for a martini or clear gin based drink.  There’s almost a creamy dry vermouth quality to it which is unusual.
Finish: Fairly short, but clean and less botanical than most gins.
GSN Rating: B

Smooth Ambler Exceptional White Whiskey (100 proof)
Visual: Absolutely clear.
Nose: Yeasty funk, notes of fennel, oak wood, oatmeal and band-aid.
Taste: A bit of heat, but very smooth with a woody bitterness that pushes a lot of high notes.  Loads of body.  A fine sipping white dog with a down to earth elegance.
Finish:  Relatively short, but with an almost brulee-like finish that is satisfying and classy.  Great job of distillation here.
GSN Rating: A

Smooth Amber Old Scout Straight Bourbon Whiskey (99 proof)
Visual: Burnished bronze.
Nose: Spicy with a dry and balanced nose with elements of caramel, vanilla, and butterscotch.
Taste: A great bourbon with a lot of spicy character similar to a rye.  Very well balanced and amazingly smooth for a high proof 5 year old.  Lots of sugar maple, small notes of caramel, light roasted coffee, cinnamon bun, and toast.  Hey, this would make a great breakfast in a glass!
Finish: Long and sweet with none of the bitterness that comes with a young or over-aged bourbon.  One of the best new bourbons I’ve had in recent years.   I predict great things will come from Smooth Rambler.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Smooth Ambler