Creating a delicious gin is a lesson in flavour profile. But how do you discover which gin, mixer and garnish is right for you?
Into the spirit
With so many gins available, Kiwis are experimenting more than ever with this spirit, but what's the best way to taste?
“I always get people just to have tiny sip of the gin neat,” explains Lighthouse Gin’s Rachel Hall. “Then, add an ice cube or a drop of cold water to help relax the alcohol and allow the flavours to come out. You’ll get past the alcohol and be able to taste more of the botanicals.”
Little Biddy global brand ambassador, Jason Clark, agrees. “To get true flavour you should taste gin in its most ethanol form. Adding a few drops of water helps impart all the oils and creates a different flavour component.”
Ice is probably the most important element other than gin,” says Jason. “Ice is so under-appreciated.
People think more ice means less drink, but more ice means a more balanced drink and it will retain its temperature. Rachel warns that ice can be tainted if it sits in your freezer too long.
“Make sure you have fresh ice, and the bigger the cube the better because you get less dilution. Some people add the garnish to the ice, so it is infused in the ice too.”
Mix and match
Is tonic better than soda? What about lemonade? “Try not to get carried away with all the different flavour tonics, because all the flavours are already in the gin,” says Chris Charteries, co-owner of the Kāpiti Coast’s Imagination Gin.
“Make sure the mixer complements the gin – if you want lemonade, it's going to be a lot sweeter, and if you want a dryer gin, stick with tonic.”
Rachel says there's no right or wrong and it’s about personal choice. “I didn't initially like tonic, but it was something that I grew to like. Mix it with something that you like drinking because you're the one drinking it.”
Gone are the days of a sad bit of lemon languishing at the bottom of your tumbler. “The first step is to drink with your eyes, but as well as being there for look, garnish is there for aroma,” says Jason, who often completes his gin with a slice of apple and something herbal.
“If the garnish is lost in the bottom of the glass it's not doing much. If it is sitting on the top you get it directly under your nose.
Lime, for example, if you just drop it in, has little interaction whereas if you take a nice juicy wedge and you squeeze it, you're tasting the juice, you're releasing all the oils from the skin, you're adding to the flavour as well as the aroma.”