If you’re like me, you like to get drunk. Not before work or anything like that, but most certainly after work. This year, I embarked upon a Tour of Liquors, to see what all the hype is about. What the hell is liquor? Is it good when drunk straight, or must it be mixed with Red Bull or juice? My tour has taken me through bourbon whiskey, scotch whisky, American whiskey, brandy, vodka, and tequila. I’ve learned a lot. But even before I started the tour, Mohsen Manesh introduced me to gin (yes, I had to be introduced to gin). When Mohsen suggested gin for our night’s libation back in January, I think I called him “a pussy”. I thought gin and tonic was for girls. I’m not sure why — I’d never had one. I was wrong: gin is for the fellas as much as the ladies. In fact, I’ve since offered gin & tonics to females (one being Lauren) and they have all disliked it because they are weak.
Gin is tasty
Gin is so tasty I can’t stand it.
What is gin, and why is it so tasty?
Even though I’d heard of whisky, brandy, gin, et al before, I had no idea how they were created. All start as some type of fermented liquid solution (water, a solid containing sugar — barley, wheat, malted barley, rice, corn, cacti, grapes, potatoes, anything — yeast, and heat). Of course 20% alcohol is approximately the highest proof you can achieve through fermentation alone, because at that level the alcohol kills off the yeast and arrests fermentation. To create these spirits, which typically bottle at 80 proof, you have to concentrate them. Whether you do so in my parents’ bathtub, or a giant column still, the principle is the same. The fermented solution is heated to a boil. Certain flavor oils bond to the alcohol and evaporate first. These travel up the still and are condensed in a separate container. Good brands distill a few times, returning the distillate to the pot to be reboiled, further purifying the final product.
Gin starts out as a fermented grain solution (the content of this initial solution varies and matters little). It is distilled a few times, but the goal here (at first) is to produce a neutral spirit — a base free of congeners, or flavor compounds. Then the magic happens. This neutral spirit is macerated with various delicious-sounding herbs and spices such as anise, angelica root, cinnamon, orris root, coriander, cilantro, cassia bark, citrus peels, and — the main ingredient — juniper berries. After macerating the spirit with these ingredients for 24-48 hours, the whole thing is redistilled, creating the most delicious beverage known to man (other than coffee, beer, and milkshakes).
What is this tonic?
Actually, by itself gin is not that tasty — the heavenly scent is deceiving. Neither is tonic water by itself that great. But, when married, you’ve got yourself a perfect cocktail. Before I started the Tour, I didn’t know the difference between sparkling water, club soda, seltzer water, and tonic water. I still don’t. But I now know that tonic water is a mix of carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, and — most importantly — quinine. Originally, it just contained carbonated water and quinine, which was produced as an anti-malarial agent to be consumed in Britain’s colonial holdings in Africa and India. Because quinine is quite bitter, gin was added to make the medicine more palatable. Now, tonic water contains medicinally insignificant amounts of quinine and is sweetened. Still, it’s ironic that gin was mixed with tonic to make the latter more palatable when most mixed drinks work the other way.
You should drink gin too
Gin is cheap. Even good gin. I bought a very good liter of gin for $20 (Broker’s). Nearly as tasty a gin can be bought for $12 a liter.
People who think vodka is good are wrong. It is bad. Gin is good.