Shetland Reel in <100 Words
From the only distillery in the romantic, subarctic Shetland Islands (closer to Bergen than to London), Shetland Reel Gin is a small-batch gin distilled on a copper still on the Island of Unst. Featuring a traditional bouquet including juniper, coriander, orris root, cassia, and citrus peel, they add some local Unst-grown Apple Mint. Apple Mint at its core is still mint, but it has a somewhat fruity flavor. Apple Mint is also favored by many bartenders for Mojitos. But I digress, did you know Shetland Reel is among the only gins I know who have a song writ about them*?
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For Mixology Monday LXXXVII,* Stacy Markow, has issued us a challenge to summon forth our inner hulks and smash. But before you start smashing anything in sight, let’s get a hold of the reins. As this is a cocktail themed challenge, the only things Stacy is challenging us to smash are fruits and vegetables. So perhaps its more Gallagher than it is Hulk.
Here are the requirements for this game [summarized by your truly]:
1. Grab something fresh. At least one herb. At least one fruit. Bonus if its local and in season**.
2. Smash it.
3. Drown it in spirit and ice.
4. Sweetening is allowed.
So without further ado, here’s my entry for MxMo #87: The Midnight Sun cocktail:
Midnight Sun Cocktail
2 parts Gin [we were looking for a little bit of a lift, and since we were pairing with Aquavit, we went with a more contemporary toned gin. Counter Gin seemed a good choice because it highlights Verbena, Tarragon and Lavender, giving it a nice herb-forward tenor, which mixes really well in this cocktail. Other good alternatives include Gin Mare (), or Leopold’s ().]
1 part Aged Aquavit [many Aquavits are aged, but we think that Linie’s Auqavit, with over a year spent in Oak, gives it a nice, mellow, and more rounded out flavor.
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About a month ago, Mixology Monday returned with an equal parts cocktail challenge. Of course, given my predilection for easy-to-remember cocktails, cocktails which you can walk into a kitchen and not worry about whether or not you have the right ratio (e.g. the Negroni), I was ready to get in on that. And then the deadline passed without a stroke of inspiration and I never quite for my entry in.
So when Mixology Monday posted its most recent competition, hosted by Wordsmithing Pantagruel, with the theme (it’s not easy) “Bein’ Green” I had to get in on it.
So gin and green, they almost seem to go together naturally. Gin and Tonic with a garnish of lime. The quintessential portrait of gin. I wanted to get lime into this cocktail somehow. Mint is another ingredient which works well with gin. While in the summer, fresh mint is widely available. Perhaps even growing in your backyard. But let’s look out the window. It’s October, fall is here to stay so fresh mint might be harder to come by. But interestingly enough I have this bottle of Baffert’s Mint Flavored Gin lying around*.
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Baffert’s mint flavored gin has a wonderfully distinctive bottle at first glance. Subtle, not over-designed, it elegantly spirals, emulating the swirl of the Baffert’s logo. Given how relatively uncommon mint gin is, its not as if Baffert’s needed to do anything to stand in a not-so-crowded marketplace.
At least that’s what you think. Until you look up Baffert’s Mint Flavored Gin and see what kind of user they are targeting: “Bafferts offers a refined light taste that is perfect in Martini’s or a wide variety of cocktails that you would normally use vodka in.”
Baffert’s is targeting vodka drinkers and bills its mint flavored gin as an alternative to vodka in cocktails rather than a mint flavored alternative to what you might normally use gin in.
Interesting, let’s get into the tasting.
Smells exceptionally hot. Lots of ethanol burn in the nostrils. Slight hint of juniper, surprisingly little mint at first.
But the mint is not subtle once you get to the taste. Unlike other gins which include mint among the botanicals [Cardinal Gin from North Carolina for example] Baffert’s takes their namesake gin and infuses mint after distillation. Many gins add elements post-distillation, but it is worth pointing out, any gin which does so forfeits the legal right to call itself a London Dry Gin.
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Cardinal gin hails from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and from a small city which could once boast as being on the cutting edge of prohibition. Kings Mountain was one of the first places to officially declare itself a “dry city,” and yet they now find themselves on the cutting edge of craft distillation.
Southern Artisan Spirits proudly talks about their inclusion of “fresh” and “organic” botanicals. Though Southern Artisan Spirits does not make their list of botanicals available, we can make some good guesses as to what is in here as a couple stand out boldly.
On the nose is a warm whiff of juniper and a few complimentary floral notes. Hints of warm spice in the background which betray more of themselves on the tasting. The taste begins with a potent, but smooth burst of alcoholic with a hint of burn. Warm notes of complimentary juniper start to shine. The floral and spice which are present but not individually discernible on the nose reveal themselves, slowly unfolding. There’s a warm perhaps christmas-like combination of spice. Perhaps some cinnamon and nutmeg, but predominantly clove like. There’s a hint of citrus in there, before the juniper then begins to fade into the background giving way to an intense note of mint.
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