The warmer months are not just for rosé and fruit-beers. Gin's light and floral flavors make it perfect for spring and summer, yet some people still think it's just vodka's weird cousin. Well, that's almost true … but in a good way.
If vodka is made to be as easy and neutral as a distilled product can be, gin is simply vodka plus juniper berries. As far as the name goes, juniper translates to Jenever in Dutch, who created the first Genièvre liqueur, which was shortened to Gin. Why juniper? For its medicinal properties of course!
Which leads us to the classic cocktail: Gin & Tonic. Don't forget that tonic was an elixir before it became a mixer. The combination of the juniper berries and the quinine in tonic was believed to aid in various gastrointestinal ailments – not to mention the wonderful healing properties the alcohol was already supplying. Gin shows up again to help out your tummy in another cocktail making a resurgence: the Negroni. Mix gin, vermouth and an Italian bitter aperitivo (e.g. Campari, Meletti Bitter) and you've got a drink that – according to tradition – will prepare your body for a meal and aid digestion.
While today's gin drinkers aren't consuming the spirit in lieu of a prescription, they certainly feel positive effects in the form of a straightforward refreshment. Most modern cocktails take advantage of the subtle floral aromas by adding elements of citrus, honey, cherry, and even the essence of flowers. Even many contemporary gin smiths have been getting creative by experimenting with additional botanicals, herbs, and spices to be infused right into the gin itself – or even barrel aging the gin as if it was a whiskey.
If you haven't had gin in years, you don't know what you're missing:
Farmer's Organic Gin
Journeyman Bilberry Black Hearts Gin
Caledonia Barr Hill Gin
Few Barrel Aged Gin