The confusing world of gin – exploring, one Martini at a time

March 6, 2010

When you start to investigate the gins of the world it can get very confusing.

I’m planning a blind taste party and so I thought to get ready it would be a good idea to see what others think are the finest gin brands in the world.

Armed with that easy knowledge I should be able to track down half-a-dozen or so bottles of your non-standard gins and entertain my pals; or so I thought.

For a start, the bottles are as varied as the contents.

The range of  what we might call “quality” gins — real gin, not chemically flavoured alcohol — is huge and the variety of botanicals and distilling processes overwhelming for a neophyte.

So I’m on the case.

A good place to start is a website called Gintime, it’s commercially sponsored, but sets out a history of gin, an explanation of the ingredients and plenty of gin-based cocktail recipes.

Eight English gins - that's a start

I’m looking for suggestions. If you are an aficionado of the humble spirit and have a favourite, drop a note.

Sniffed me out like I was Tanqueray

April 25, 2009

10-ginOn a recent trip through DutyFreeland at Auckland airport I bought myself a long-promised litre bottle of Tanqueray 10 gin. Of course, it’s marketed as a premium gin and it’s not cheap, but I think it was worth it.

It’s a very herbaceous gin, with strong hints of citrus. The main botanicals are juniper, angelica and coriander. It’s a London gin, but made in Scotland. The Tanqueray family apparently took part in the crusades under Richard the Lion Heart. Oh well, not everyone’s perfect.

Mixed at 2-1 with Martini vermouth (a little sweeter than some) it made a very good Friday night domestic.

Some serious martini drinkers will probably think I’m a philistine for mixing at 2-1 and I don’t always, but this was my decision at the time.  I will try different versions now that I had the intitial “settler”.

The other question is whether Tanqueray 10 is better than Bombay Sapphire. After only one Tanqueray experience I probably should not rush to judgment, but on a first taste, the citrus hints of the 10 are hard to fault. At the same time the mystique of 10 is probably only marketing hype. The “secret” recipe known only to four people. Bullshit, let’s not forget that distilling gin – even “four times” as 10 claims – is still an industrial process.

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Local gin wins award for bottle…but how does it taste?

March 7, 2009

110_bronze_christies_gin_5So, continuing my quest for the best of local gins, I found one today that I hadn’t seen before. This one is the true-blue Aotearoa gin; it even has local ‘erbs in it.

Christie’s Crisp New Zealand gin claims to have Horopito and Kawakawa added to the botanicals that give it “flavour”. It also claims to be  “quadruple distilled”. Yeah, OK, I’ll buy that.

And I did, at $44.99, but the RRP online is $41.99 at PriceMe, though they’re charging a $5 delivery slug too.

[Bugger it’s warm in Auckland…I’m writing this as I sip my Dirty Gibson (olives and onions) and slowly savour a six-pack of Clevedon oysters]

Of course, this Martini is purely medicinal. I’ve been recovering from a nasty cold/flu bug this week and the humidity isn’t helping.

Hang on, I need a refill.

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Martini Music – a party-time playlist

February 1, 2009
Amy Winehouse drug-free? Hollywood Gossip

A drug free Amy Winehouse - Hollywood Gossip

Update 23 October (over the dateline)

A drug-free Amy Winehouse? I’d love to see that.

But here in Aotearoa we have a saying that is captured on billboards advertising Tui beer:

A drug-free Amy Winehouse: “Yeah right!”

So it’s not surprising she went crazy at the Q Music awards yesterday. [26 Oct update]

Still, her dad Mitch says she hasn’t taken drugs for a year. Do you believe him?

Hollywood Gossip thinks otherwise, though it seems her boob job went well.

I”ve been meaning for sometime to write a note about Martini Music. In particular I wanted to mention Amy Winehouse.

Yes, I know she’s a walking disaster zone, but her musical talent is all too obvious. I really hope she doesn’t kill herself with whatever grizzly cocktail of drugs and fucked-upedness floats her boat. There’s a lot more Martini music here too, just skip the updates if you’re not an Amy fan.

Update 10 October 2009:

I have no idea if Amy’s had a boob-job and frankly I don’t care. I think it’s great that she turned up on Strictly Come Dancing to support her 13-year-old God-daughter. Maybe, just maybe, Amy’s making a recovery. She was reportedly straight back into rehab after the performance, but her 3rd album is due to drop sometime next year.

Personally I don’t think these recent photos show anything except that Amy’s looking better than she has in a long time, but then again, I’m not sure I’d know the difference between a 32B and a 32D anyway. If you look at earlier photos, she’s not that different.

Photo: Gossip Center

Photo: Gossip Center

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A local gin that’s actually good

January 14, 2009
Blenheim Bay - good to the last drop

Blenheim Bay - good to the last drop

I’ve been sampling some local (Aotearoa) gins recently. To my surprise I wasn’t all that impressed by South, though it comes in a really nice bottle. Luckily my sample was courtesy of a little corporate gladhanding, so I didn’t have to pay for my disappointment.

However, last night I enjoyed a 100ml sampler bottle (paid for) of Blenheim Bay, which is made by a company called Prenzel. I’m not sure what it means, but this gin won some awards at a drinks festival/competition in Belgium. Perhaps the judges had been sampling some local brew before hand.

The BB has eleven botanicals, which compares well to my other favourite Bombay Sapphire, and a hint of citrus which is very refreshing and manages to stand up to the infusion of vermouth.

Anyway, it makes up a good Martini, or if you prefer a Gibson.

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LA Martini – Hollywood really does suck

September 8, 2008

So Sunday’s been and gone on your side of the dateline. Here it’s nearly 11pm.

I went out to Hollywood on the Metro this afternoon. What a disappointment. Not sure what I was looking for, but it was pretty ordinary. I got off the train at Hollywood and Vine (what a romantic spot), but it was dirty, rundown and full of cheap suits.

The famous Hollywood and Vine corner - cheap suit anyone?

The famous Hollywood and Vine corner - cheap suit anyone?

You know for $US 49.95 you can buy a suit and then get your photo taken next to one of those stars in the pavement – the “walk of fame” or some such.

I’m enjoying the Bonaventure hotel, but haven’t yet made my mind up about it’s postmodern credentials. (More on that later).

But the Martinis are supersized, and they come with sides.  This one was at least a double and it had some tapas on a plate and a glass of water.

LA Martini - with sides

LA Martini - with sides

The new, slim Domestic – Voltz would be pleased

July 20, 2008

As this is a blog that makes claims to be about martinis as well as journalism, ethics, politics and whatever catches my eye now and again, it is time to embrace an aspect of martini culture that is often overlooked.

I’m talking about the martini glass; sometimes they’re too heavy, or otherwise clumsy. I may have found a good alternative.

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Martini Meanderings

March 30, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I was in the Brooklyn bar with a few colleagues when Paul mentioned a cocktail called a “wanker” that was based on tequila. We got chatting and I mentioned that I’d been wondering about a tequila-based martini. Paul agreed to try one with me if we could come up with a recipe. So we “invented” ourselves the tequila martini “wanker”. After drinking it, much to the disgust of one or two of our companions, we altered the recipe slightly and got to the “tosser”. Read the rest of this entry »