Cocktails & Spirits

Gin testing?

OckhamsFolly | May 28, 2008 02:25 PM

Hello everyone, I recently turned 21 (well, beginning of the year) and decided it's time to sit down, build up a liquor cabinet, and learn my cocktails. Of course, being a college student, I'm not terribly overburdened with money, so right now I'm mostly researching and experimenting occasionally with recipes, although frankly I think that doing my homework first is a good way to get started. I've spent a fair chunk of time the last couple of days lurking around on here, and there seems to be a lot of people who really know their stuff. It always helps to talk to people who know more than you do, right?

Mostly, right now, I'm working on gin, and I was wondering if anyone could recommend a good variety of gin-based cocktails that I can try each gin in; I want to have a diverse selection so that I can discover how each gin affects the flavor profile of many different drinks, and therefore which gin I like best for each kind of drink. The list doesn't have to be all inclusive or anything, just one that touches on a lot of bases.

Right now, I mostly stick to Gordon's, because it's a fairly good gin with an unbeatable price. Otherwise, I'm afraid my gin experience is mostly confined to Beefeater's and Bombay Sapphire. Beefeater's is another gin that I feel is very flexible, like Gordon's, and a bit better- I'm more likely to use this for a martini than Gordon's if I have both, but also more expensive. I am not a terribly huge fan of sapphire- I've had it on the rocks, in gin and tonics, and martinis, and I find that, unlike Gordon's and Beefeater's, I prefer it on the rocks over mixing it with anything.

This is what I currently have in my lineup of drink tests:

Rocks glass, chilled, with about a 1/2 oz of straight gin, no ice or water mixed, for a straight taste.

Rocks glass, chilled, 1.5 oz with ice, for gin/water taste

Gin and Tonic, schweppes tonic water, don't have an actual highball glass, but I have 8 oz. glasses I use (For the taste, I'm thinking of sticking to a 2 oz standard for the gin- usually I free pour my G&T's, though) for the tonic taste- a must for me, since I make G&T's pretty much whenever.

Martini- Don't have martini glasses, so I drink these in a rocks glass- usually on the rocks too, but probably not for the tasting. Right now, I make my martinis 3:1 gin-vermouth (Noilly Pratt) 1.5:.5, with a dash of orange bitters and a lemon twist. Stirred. I'm considering trying 4:1 ratios for tasting, just to get more of the gin in there. Thoughts?

Dirty Martini- I love olives, so it broke my heart when I discovered that a good martini with bitters tastes slightly off when you actually garnish with an olive. So when I feel like an olive with my martini, I make a dirty martini, substituting a tsp.of olive brine for the bitters and two olives for the twist. Otherwise, same recipe as above.

Pink gin- Rocks glass, stirred. 1.5 oz gin, 3 dashes angostura bitters.orange bitters, depending on the mood, but I'll probably stick with angostura for the testing, since that's what the recipe actually calls for and what I'm likely to get if I order out. Also, in my opinion, bitters are more important with gin than any other liquor, and since I have orange bitters in my martini, I'm thinking using the angostura here will get me a better all-around understanding.

That's what I have so far on my list to try, and it uses up about half a 750 ml. bottle. I will not be testing more than two of these a night, and probably only one a night from each test bottle. I'd love more suggestions on what other cocktails would be keystones for giving me a complete understanding of the flavor profile. I think I need something with a major citrus element to it, but I don't want to go with a gimlet because I feel that the Rose's isn't indicative of citrus gin cocktails as a whole. I'm intrigued by the Pegu Club- I haven't had one before, though, and I'd need to pick up some orange curacao before I started experimenting. Do you guys think it's the way to go for an indicative citrus drink?

Any other recommendations, of any kind, are more than welcome, though don't feel offended if I opt not to pick yours- while I don't mind going through an entire bottle just testing it (the knowledge gained means better use of my bottles in the future, right? I like to think of it as a longterm investment), I'd like to save a couple drinks worth so that I can have some of my friends try a few cocktails with me and get their input as well.

Additionally, is it a good idea to have a standard to go by before each individual test? I'm thinking each night I test a new gin in a cocktail, I'd also have the same cocktail made with Gordon's (Gordon's because, well, a 1.75 L bottle costs less than most other gins' 750 ml bottle). I think this is a good idea since it will give me a consistent frame of reference fresh in my mind, but I can't decide if it would be better to have the "control" Gordon's drink first to establish the standard in my mind and mouth, or to have the "test" first to avoid preconceptions. I'm leaning towards test first, but what do you all think?

Finally, I just have a general question: seriously, am I like the only person my age who liked gin the first time they had it? From personal experience, I am, and looking around on the net, it seems like that's par for the course. What's up with that? Is this part of the vodka fascination of my generation? I smoke decent cigars ("premium," I suppose, but that really just means "it's not made by a machine or spray painted with artificial flavors")- could that maybe have jump-started my palette? I just want to know why gin is so unloved... it's my spirit of choice, and while I'm making converts one person at a time, I think it deserves more attention.

Sorry for the massive first post.

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