We like gin. We hope you do too, because there’s nothing so refreshing as a gin and tonic on a sunny afternoon or summer evening — and we just might have something approaching a summer evening really soon in S.F. Also, gin makes for an excellent base spirit in cocktails, as most higher end bartenders across town will tell you — vodka being their least favorite thing to pour these days. And now, local distillery St. George Spirits, which made its name selling Hangar One vodkas (the infused ones are quite delicious), and have gotten loads of stellar press for their St. George absinthe, are getting into the gin game too. Next week, September 9, they’ll be releasing not one but three new gins, all delightfully unique and as different from each other as they are from most gins on the market today. After having the opportunity to taste all three this week, Grub Street declares they will quickly become the darlings of cocktail geeks and startenders across the land for many months to come.
Local bar stars Scott Beattie (Spoonbar) and Thad Vogler (Bar Agricole) have both weighed in already, with Beattie mixing up Negronis and Last Words using the Dry Rye gin to “some pretty amazing results.” Vogler calls all three gins “stunning—each entirely individual and compelling.”
Below, we give you our capsule opinions of each of the three gins, and rate how they fare in the humble gin and tonic.
Dry Rye — it’s the most malty and genever-like of the three, largely because they used rye grain to make the base spirit. It’s delicious and smooth on its own, with round citrus notes and a hint of juniper, and we can see why Beattie would love it in a Negroni. But it doesn’t really taste like gin — St. George is marketing it as a gin for whiskey lovers, but we’d just rather say it’s an odd gin and a totally new flavor for the category. In a gin and tonic, a little more of the juniper comes out, and it works quite well.
Botanivore — our favorite of the three, and the most likely to succeed in the broader market, we think, outside of bartenders. It’s the most straightforward and Hendrick’s-like, with citrus, herb, floral, and light juniper notes, and the most juniper-ish aroma of the three. It has a particularly peppery and floral finish, and it goes beautifully with tonic and lime.
Terroir — the boldest and strangest of the three, with heavy balsam and pine flavors, almost like that Douglas fir liqueur. Distiller Lance Winters actually wanted to recreate the aromas of Mount Tam with this one, and foraged for some of the botanicals himself, which include California coastal sage, California bay laurel, and Douglas fir. We’re totally intrigued to see what bartenders do with this one in cocktails, and can imagine it making for really interesting citrus-y drinks — it would probably make for a unique Last Word, for instance, with the pine playing off the herbs in the Chartreuse. But it’s pretty over-powering on its own, we wouldn’t want a martini made with it, and it didn’t work that well with tonic either, with the pine flavor fighting and winning over the quinine.
All in all, these are the most unique gins we’ve probably ever tasted, and we look forward to seeing them popping up on a lot of cocktail menus this fall and winter.
Earlier on Actually Pretty Awesome:
Duck Pastrami at Murray Circle
The Date Night at Sneaky’s BBQ
Crab and Dumplings at Pican
The Fried-Chicken Sliders at The Lookout
Uncle’s Chicken Curry Tacos at Juhu Beach Club
Buttermilk Panna Cotta at SPQR
The Egg Sandwich at Blue Fig
Lolo’s Mexican- and Turkish-Influenced Small Plates
The Tripe and the Pickles at Bar Tartine
A Dinner of Small Plates at Frances
The Fondue Service at Fondue Cowboy
Brunch at Barndiva
Fried Chicken and Cornmeal Doughnuts at Beast & the Hare
Aaron London’s Take on Vichyssoise at Ubuntu