“No” B said definitely on the phone when I asked if he wanted to attend a free gin class with me that night. I was taken aback by this sudden change of heart–usually he can be bribed anywhere with the thought of free booze. I had emailed him, but when he called I thought I’d bring it up. The phone rang again, seconds later after he had seen the email: “GIN class? I thought you said GYM class,” I sighed in relief that my boyfriend had not been kidnapped by alcohol hating aliens.
If you are a gin lover, you can stop reading right now. As I understand it, gin aficionados don’t like Hendrick’s, by whom the class was sponsored. Also, this post is the story of me learning to appreciate a new beverage, and encouraging others in the anti-gin coalition to give it a shot. If you already like gin, you don’t need encouraging. On the other hand, if you’re like me and think most gin and gin based cocktails leave you with that feeling that you just got lost on the way to the bar and ended up in Grandma’s perfume drawer, then this is for you.
The class was sponsored, as I said, by Hendrick’s Gin. Much like their branding, which I was exposed to a lot of that night, it was fun, light-hearted and educational. Side note? I heart their branding. Check out their website. At the end of class we got ‘Field Guides’ to Hendrick’s Gin. It’s hilarious, informative and full of cool facts, amusing anecdotes and cocktails that I want to drink. Right now. Since I ended up with an extra copy of Hendricks’ Field Guide, I’m giving it away to the best gin-related story, comment or cocktail that gets left in the comments by December 1st.
Back to class, where we learned to make a traditional gimlet as well two other twists on the drink. It wasn’t really the actual cocktail that was so informative–to be honest, I don’t remember the ratios that we learned. But I do remember learning the appropriate way to hold (perpendicular to and over your dominant shoulder), shake (front to back, like a piston) and open (a well placed thump to the side) a Boston shaker. I don’t remember how much St. Germain we put into the gimlet that was my favorite, but I do remember learning why the St. Germain worked so well in the cocktail:
This is a chart of the botanicals that are involved in the flavoring of Hendrick’s Gin. By pairing up the additional flavors of the gimlet–or whichever cocktail of choice is being made–with these botanicals, the cocktail becomes this little microcosm of flavors that all hold hands and sing ‘We are the World’. What? Have I been drinking too much of that gin? Let me explain. So the Hendrick’s is in this gimlet with the St. Germain. St. Germain is an elderflower liquor, so the elderflower matches up with the same botanical in the gin, and all of a sudden, it becomes this vaguely sweet, completely mild and smooth, but intensely elderflower-ish cocktail. Another variation played a similar trick using orange bitters to go with the orange peels in the botanicals. I like elderflower better, so I wasn’t as big of a fan of the citrus version, but given the eleven options for botanicals shown in the picture here, I could dream up ideas for a while. Indian themed cocktails with coriander? Tea based cocktails with Chamomile? The mind boggles…
Somewhere in the course of the class my mindset about gin began to change. No longer were the botanical flavors the enemy, blocking the path to good, clean fun–er–beverages. Instead, they are now my jumping off point for creating any number of unique cocktails. My personality tends to lead me to want to attack disagreeable flavors–to overpower them, like with a dirty martini-I’d rather taste briney olive juice than bad vodka. My biggest takeaway from the class was to do the opposite. Find the flavor I do like, embrace it, nurture it, cradle it and let it grow up to be a full cocktail flavor.