Bully Boy ($35)
Drawing inspiration from its white rum, this spirit from Boston’s craft distillery starts with a unique cane base with a honeysuckle note that co-founder and head distiller Dave Willis thought would be beautiful in a gin. “It has a fuller, rounder flavor than a lot of gins,” he says. “The fruitier white rum notes are complemented by hints of grapefruit, chamomile, ginger, cardamom and, of course, juniper.” (Bully Boy uses Italian juniper, which is more subtly piney than other varieties.) He says the big, round mouthfeel coupled with the floral tones elevate traditional gin cocktails like a G&T and Negroni.
Willis points to the fact that since gin is already a derivative of genever, which is, in fact, a single-malt whiskey and gin hybrid, tweaking and playing with the base is hardly a new concept. Though a restrained hand is paramount. “What starts as a balanced, novel approach ends up being a hot mess as the boundaries get pushed too far. But the ones that work are here to stay.”
Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz ($47)
Co-founder Stuart Gregor deems this spirit a modern Aussie riff on a traditional sloe gin, sans actual sloe berries or added sugar. Locally grown shiraz grapes from the Yarra Valley, known for their earthiness, complexity and subtle white pepper spice, are de-stemmed but kept whole and steeped for eight weeks in the producer’s Rare dry gin. Afterward, the fruit is pressed and strained out, and the spirit is topped off with more gin and bottled at 37.8 percent ABV with nothing else added.
“Aromatically, the gin has fresh pine needles, incredible spice and a clear peppery, dense raspberry [note],” says Gregor. “It’s strong enough to be the base of a great cocktail, and despite its vibrant purple color and delicious shiraz-like sweetness, it still has plenty of gin character.” Sip it on the rocks garnished with a slice of orange, in a colorful G&T or in the Bloody Jasmine, where it’s mixed with Campari, dry curaçao, lemon juice and orange bitters.
Nordic Spirits Lab ($26)
The producers for this spirit from Denmark recognized that Scandinavian aquavit actually has a lot in common with gin, including the addition of coriander, angelica root and lemon peel. Only the key ingredient is different between the two categories: Caraway or dill is the can’t-miss component in aquavit, while it can’t be called gin without juniper.
This bracing hybrid spirit meets somewhere in the middle. It’s produced with 10 selected botanicals that are individually distilled and blended and boasts a strong intense palate of crisp juniper and coriander along with a surprising herbal note of caraway. Try it in a savory take on the Martini or Gibson garnished with a dill pickle, in a Bloody Mary with a caraway-seed-rimmed glass or in the Fläder with elderflower shrub and elderflower soda.
Pierde Almas +9 ($92)
This mezcal-gin mashup has its origins in the love story between founder Jonathan Barbieri and Yira Vallejo, who started a long-distance relationship eight years ago while Barbieri was in Oaxaca and Vallejo was an importer in New York. The pair found every excuse to visit each other while Barbieri tore into research about Dutch courage, the gin wars and 300 years of mezcal prohibition. The result was the world’s first mezcal-gin, in Barbieri’s words, “the confluence where these two great rivers of distilling history would finally meet.”
Double-distilled espadín mezcal is macerated with juniper berries, coriander, star anise, fennel seed, dried local orange peel, cassia bark, orris root, angelica root and nutmeg. “It’s no longer a case of the lonely juniper soprano singing in piney solitude,” says Barbieri. “Now we get the full chorus. Viscous and long-lasting, this hybrid spirit is also bright and clean, perfect for sipping or mixing in a Negroni, Gin Fizz, Cosmo or Martini.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
Combining an aromatic wine varietal with a heady clear spirit seems like a no-brainer. This ultra-premium gin is distilled from sauvignon blanc grapes and produced by François Lurton, whose family has been making wine in Bordeaux since 1897 and who’s most known for his cuvée Les Fumées Blanches. “The goal was to create a gin that can connect wine and spirit,” says brand ambassador Thomas Riant.
Botanicals including grapefruit and lime zests, lemons, violets and red currants play off the distinctive herbaceous and citrus notes you get while swirling a glass of white Bordeaux. The nose is tart, citrus-y and vegetal, while the palate is clean and intense yet accessible with a finish of evergreen and violet. A splash of tonic best offsets the bitterness, and they suggest eschewing the lime wedge for a twist of grapefruit or orange. “It’s a new area of creativity and flavor,” says Riant.
South Hollow Spirits Dry Line Rosé ($35)
The inspiration for this craft spirit from Massachusetts came when distiller and co-owner David Roberts Jr.’s father brought him a bottle of rosé vodka. Since the distillery doesn’t make vodka, the duo discussed trying a version with gin. Roberts experimented with grenache rosé wine from his own Truro Vineyards until he found just the right complementary balance. Distilled with 100 percent cane sugar, the gin features juniper and locally grown Cape Cod botanicals and a pretty rosy hue.
“We ended up experimenting with some bench trials, and the results were even better than we thought they would be, so we dialed in our recipe and went to production,” says Roberts. “The citrus notes from then gin and the astringency that comes with it really work well with the tropical fruit notes in the rosé.” At 70 proof, it’s light and refreshing in libations like a Rose Gold with elderflower liqueur, lemon juice and sparkling wine, or an Afternoon Delight with Lillet blanc, lemon juice and muddled raspberries.