In a world awash in a flood of International-style gins (most of them the hastily conceived offspring of a fresh-faced crop of craft distillers, starved for cash as their whiskies crawl towards minimum age), it’s refreshing to encounter a spirit that presses a jaunty roster of New World ingredients into service, not simply for flavor, but for color as well.
Meet New Zealand’s Scapegrace Black, an ethereal charcoal-colored gin that blossoms with little prompting into a particularly elegant shade of lavender. The mad scientists at Scapegrace, whose Gold Gin was appropriately fitted with a matching medal at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London in 2018, conjure color from sweet potato, aronia (sometimes called chokeberry), and butterfly pea flower. Flavors are forward-looking but familiar: A quiet note of juniper wrapped in warm citrus evolves into lemongrass with peppercorn highlights. Citrus begets fresh apple slice which in turn ripens into bright berry notes.
The cocktail potential of this gin ($40) would seem promising but complex (grim-faced traditionalists need not apply), so in the early going, stop shy of blending in favor of sipping: a couple of big rocks, a splash of soda or high-quality tonic, a broad ribbon of lemon skin. If it’s cocktails or nothing, then shoot for a light Aviation, hold the violette. Meanwhile, if it’s not too much trouble, get ready to be the person at the end of bar who gets asked, So what’s that you’re drinking? Pretty new gin makes for pretty new friends.