There may well be other gin experts, but you’d be hard-pressed to meet a bigger gin enthusiast than Simon Ford. He’s a mainstay and leader in the spirits industry, serving as brand ambassador for Plymouth gin, among others, before co-foundingThe 86 Co. So there’s no better person to break down some of the truths of the clear spirit, which seems to be having amoment, even for those who don’t typically drink the stuff. From disclosing the circumstance in which to shoot gin to the (surprising) country where gin is in hot demand, Ford just might change the minds of those who think they don’t like the ubiquitous spirit, one Martini at a time.
1. The Botanical Base of Gin
“Most of the botanicals used to make gin contain essential oils, and those essential oils give gin its flavor: lemon, orange, grapefruit, juniper, angelica, anise, etc. Finding the balance between those flavors is the art of making a good gin recipe. The thing I discovered when we were creating the recipe for Fords gin is that by increasing the amount of botanicals used to make gin, you increase the oil content, which provides viscosity and texture. Toward the end of developing our recipe, we experimented with different oil content levels to find a good-balanced amount for making silky and smooth Martinis and other stirred drinks where the texture is important.”
Simon Ford (image:Rebecca Peplinski)
2. The Price Tag of Gin and Why It Matters
“The ingredients and production in gin can affect price. Some of the botanicals used to make gin are among the most expensive spices in the world, much like saffron and cardamom, for example. Also, there are methods of distillation that require the use of more botanicals than others, as with anything that’s ingredient-based, meaning the better the ingredients, the more expensive the final product.
“There are some companies that make cheap gin and market it as an expensive gin, which makes me so mad because it makes it tougher for consumers to navigate the category. Making a high-quality gin and delivering it at a fair price for the quality was always our aim with Fords gin. We spent five years developing the recipe, we make it in small batches, and at least a fifth of the still is filled with botanicals that have been carefully selected from exotic locations from around the world.
“When you put a lot of thought into something, I believe the results will be good. Perfection takes time, right? You could rush things and get lucky, but that is usually the exception to the rule.”
3. The Worldwide Gin-Drinking Movement
“Gin is massively popular in Spain at the moment. TheGin & Tonic is one of the drinks of choice there, and they have taken its service to new levels. They tend to serve it in giant goblets, and there’s a lot of innovation happening with garnishes [in Spain] to make it a more inviting and interesting drink.
“Gin is still hugely popular in the U.K., where so many gins have launched in recent years, that it is now often dubbed the new vodka. [However] the No. 1 gin-consuming country in the world is the Philippines. They are responsible for almost half of the world’s global consumption. The United States, the birthplace of so many amazing gin cocktails, is actually the No. 2 market for gin in the world.”
(image: Alex Pro 9500)
4. Well-known Drinkers
“There are so many famous gin drinkers: Looking at a list of them, you could conclude that gin is a sophisticated drink for some very stylish and intellectual people. Dorothy Parker, Noël Coward, Winston Churchill, W.C. Fields, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ian Fleming (the author of James Bond who actually drinks more gin than vodka in the books), Franklin D. Roosevelt, Raymond Chandler and Charles Dickens were all well-documented lovers of gin.”
5. Life Without Gin & Tonics
“A world without Gin & Tonic isn’t a world worth living in.Charles Rolls is one of my heroes for starting Fever-Tree tonic water. The world was focused on the gin—and there are many—but before Fever-Tree, finding good tonic wasn’t easy. They kick-started a movement of high-quality tonic water, and now you can also find other great brands likeQ andEast Imperial as well.”
(image: Adam Petto)
6. More Clever Ways He’s Seen Gin Served
“Eben Freeman’s Negroni Caviar and the Ford’s Model-T cocktail, created by Charles Joly atThe Aviary in Chicago, are the most unique gin serves I have ever seen. The gin was served in a smoking teapot with ingredients such as single-malt scotch, blood orange tea syrup and armadillo cake vermouth. But the best way to enjoy gin is chilled with some vermouth and bitters in a well-known drink called the Martini. Not only is it probably the most famous drink in the world—it’s the drink that gin was built for.”
7. Doing Shots of Gin—or Not
“Most spirits are designed for how they will taste from the bottle; good gins are created to work well in cocktails. When you stir or shake gin, all the botanicals come to life and give complexities you weren’t expecting in the mixed drink.
“Cognac is sipped from snifters, vodka is served chilled with food, and you might add a splash of water to your whiskey, but gin is notoriously always served in cocktails. It’s the quintessential cocktail spirit and has more classic cocktails to its name then any other spirit. I think gin is comfortable not being a shot or sipping spirit. With that said, I was introduced to pink gin shots by Audrey Saunders atPegu Club once, and I have never looked back. They are delicious.”
(image: Luna Marina)
8. The Misconception of Gin
“Gin makes sin, gin makes you sad, gin makes you angry, gin makes you run naked through Times Square—I think I’ve heard them all. Some people are still afraid of gin, and they shouldn’t be. It probably stems back to the time they stole an old and dusty bottle of gin from their parent’s cupboard when they were young and the thought of drinking it now causes flashbacks. If that story rings true, you should probably evaluate the scenario. It was most likely a poor-quality gin, and it was probably drank warm and neat. If that was the case, I get it.
“If you don’t like gin for those reasons, I urge you to go back to it. Saying you don’t like gin is like saying you don’t like sauce. There are hundreds of gins using hundreds of different ingredients. If you experiment, you will find a gin you love—I promise.”
I think, even this article cements a lot of misconceptions about gin.
First: gin is to drink in a cocktail. Yes - in the US gin became popular as mixing spirit - which was especially during the prohibition even fortified (gin was able to be easily produced "clandestine" - but not good enough to drink straight) - however long before in England, it was probably consumed without being mixed - and it can be delicious just on the rocks with a twist of a squeeze of lime or lemon...
The price tag is also very controversial: while really cheap gin (which you don't wanna drink) is really inferior (so called cold infused gins, which use essential oils instead of distilling "real" botanicals), yet the price isn't really an indicator for quality. Yes - there are expensive botanicals, but they are not used in such a quantity that their price really impacts the selling price. There is the alcohol content which has a little impact in the selling price (less alcohol=less cost and less taxes) - but most of the time gins are very profitable and the selling price is based on their market research / marketing. There are exceptions, were the production method (e.g. vacuum distillation) really increases massively the cost - but let's face it - these production methods and ingredients make a different type of gin, but not necessary a much better gin.
After making the rounds through Scotch and Bourbon I always find myself circling back to gin. Just discovered a cocktail called the Monarchy from Bols while in Amsterdam that uses their Geniever and Elderflower Liqueur together with fresh lemon juice and mint leaves. Quite delicious and refreshing going into spring and summer. Gin wins!