Classic G&T with a twist

Classic G&T with a twist (Photo by the brand)

I’ve been drinking gin since Lisa Birnbach told me a G&T (gin and tonic, for those NOT in the know) should be my drink of choice in The Official Preppy Handbook. As Stephen Colbert says, it made me into who I am today. I cut my early gin teeth on Tanqueray and tonics (“T&T’s”) and tried to be cool enough to love a real martini. These days, when it comes to gin, I’m a bit of a purist, so imagine my surprise when I tried some flavored gins and was impressed. They’re easy, smooth, and, frankly, just taste good.

If you think you’re seeing flavored gins everywhere lately, you’re not crazy. In fact, according to Gin Magazine and the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), 40 percent of the total gin market last year was flavored and fruit gins. Clearly, I’m not the only one embracing a more relaxed drinking experience when it comes to Mother Geneva**.

When most people think of gin, they think of the English classic, the London Dry style. However, it might be surprising to know how historically influential Scotland has been- and remains- when it comes to this clear spirit. Since the early 18th century, the Dutch imported juniper berries from the Scottish Highlands for their popular Genever. Simultaneously, the English actively tried to encourage folks to find a substitute for French fortified brandies, so gin was a win-win.

Decades later, during the Gin Craze, the English would rethink their position amid one of the worst social crises in English history. Gin was cheap and plentiful, sold in gin shops until social reforms, tax reforms, and a few Acts of Parliament curtailed the public’s thirst. Luckily, the British- and the rest of their Empire- never lost the taste.

Today, Scotland is responsible for 70-80% of all UK gin production, according to the Scottish Distillers Association. In 2018, nearly one-third of the 160 Scottish distilleries produced gin, accounting for 140 different brands. The London Dry Style is still the most commonly produced, followed by the booming popularity of flavored gins.

Scottish distiller Edinburgh Gin, founded in 2010, wholeheartedly embraces flavored gin’s popularity making a wide range of fruit and botanical gins, plus two gin liqueurs. (Gin liqueurs are similar to French cordials – sweet, syrupy treats perfect as summer aperitifs.) And while it might appear as if they’re chasing a trend, they’re just continuing a 170-year-old gin-soaked tradition. Fruit-flavored gins (think sloe gin) have been favorites for drinkers since the 1850s.

Based in the heart of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh Gin makes a London Dry style gin, a Navy-strength, a mineral-driving offering, and a range of modern flavored gins in some inventive flavors. Local produce like raspberries, gooseberries, honey, and bramble are stars of the show. Some people are put off by how sweet these flavored gins can taste, but paired with the right accompaniments; the slight sweetness enhances the spirit.

Recently, a group of gin-loving friends and I sampled the company’s Classic and the Rhubarb Ginger gins. Both were a hit, especially the light pink flavored option. It’s taken me a while to overcome my hidden preppy puritanism when it comes to these flavored gins, but I’m embracing them. Psst- don’t tell the Muffy and Trip down at the country club, but I’m pouring myself this rhubarb-ginger flavored gin over ice with a splash of soda right now.

Tasting notes:

Edinburgh Gin Classic: This is a smooth, classic “good everything gin.” It’s mellow and “not as harsh as some when you sip it straight.” It’s a good tonic gin but has some elevated citrus notes. As one friend noted, it would make a great Gimlet or a Bee’s Knees.

Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb and Ginger: “Oh my, that is good,” said one taster. This flavored gin is not so sweet that it loses the tang of the rhubarb. The ginger gives it a nice grace note. This one “makes you want to brainstorm cocktails” while sipping! My choice was on the rocks with a splash of soda and a squeeze of lemon. However, a friend had the best answer that it “would make a great French 75.”

** EDITOR’S NOTE: Mother Geneva, Jenever, Genever, and Madame Geneva, are historical names for gin.