The United States is far from a homogeneous nation. From region to region, we have as much divergence in culture, climate, and attitude as some entire continents. But yet, often I am asked, “Which gins are the most quintessentially American?,” or “What is the most American gin?”
While I will go on the record saying, “I’m not quite sure that such a thing as the Most American Gin exists,” I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to try and compile a list.
That being said, this list is my opinion/thoughts on which gins are the most quintessentially unique American gins. You’ll notice two things: this list doesn’t correspond with my ratings [if you want that, just sort by the highest rated, find the American ones and boom!]. Second, you’ll notice my rationale isn’t always [only sometimes] about the flavor.
I’ve also set myself a couple of ground rules: 1 gin per distillery. Even if a gin makes a couple of worthy entries to this chart, I’m holding myself to just one. Two, it has to be what could somewhat be considered craft. I know this is a loaded term, but I’m excluding names like Seagram’s and Fleischmann’s [among which those two might be the biggest American distilled gins] to focus on the smaller guys.
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The Ultimate Cocktail Challenge in NYC this past April sought to figure out a) what the best makes of each liquor was and b) which liquors worked best in various drinks.
Of course this is a commendable idea in that this is exactly what I am working on doing in this blog, gin by gin. However, I feel that their gin results are somewhat off base. First, there are notable omissions. Not only is my favorite gin Miller’s not on the list- but the list of Gins reviewed hardly matches the breadth of the gins on the market currently. Some of my least favorite gins: the dull Plymouth, the oddly spiced Citadelle and of course Tanqueray dominated the top 10 whereas strong new varieties of gin such as Hendrick’s, G’vine and Bluecoat seem relegated to the bottom of the list almost without fail.
Tanqueray won nearly every drink category as the best gin of choice for any beverage. How did they overlook Bluecoat’s subtle citrus notes in a proper tom Collins; the way saffron and violet eerily go together in an Aviation; or the way that a straight gin and tonic brings out the unique flavors of G’vine?
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When I was young (oh so young, and foolish may I add) I thought a Tom Collins = Gin + Sour Mix. Now, for the sake of not calling any one bartender out or any one specific bar tending school whose manual spelled out a Tom Collins as such I will let them go nameless in the hope that its not too late to right their wrongs and make an honest Tom Collins.
Firstly, the drink hails from the late 19th century, first appearing in an 1876 publication by the name of The Bartender’s Guide which spelled out the recipe as followed:
Juice of One Lemon
5 to 6 dashes of Gum Syrup
1 “wine glass” of gin
Soda “until lively.”
Despite nearly a century’s worth of time passing, the drink has managed to the modern day roughly unchanged, though variations do exist. For the average kitchen, superfine sugar makes an acceptable substitute. Though most recipes specify sugar/simple syrup. Though as you’ll notice, many of these recipes call for some additional fruit. Maraschino cherries are the most commonly cited for garnish, and followed in a near second by orange slice.
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