Gin’s Time to Shine

The Harmony Gin & Tonic at Valerie in NY.
The Harmony Gin & Tonic at Valerie in NY.

Once the star of the cocktail scene, gin has never regained momentum since vodka took off in recent decades. But based on the number of new craft gins and unique expressions hitting the market, and a few key gin acquisitions from major spirits players, the U.S. is warming to gin once again – for real this time.

In fact, the Bacardi Global Consumer Survey finds that the Gin & Tonic is the top bar call for 2024, beating out the Mojito at #2 and the Margarita at #3. Some trend watchers expect to see more consumers opting for Gin & Tonics, as the new craft gins and gourmet tonics available present unique flavor possibilities.

Queen Restaurant & Lounge in Miami has noticed a gradual increase in the popularity of gin among patrons, says bar manager Karol Ansaldi. “The international guests especially have a tendency to order gin-based cocktails compared to our local Miami crowd.”

Most guests at Queen prefer to enjoy gin through classic cocktails such as Gin & Tonics, Martinis and Negronis, Ansaldi says. The bar carries six different brands of gin: N3, Bombay, T10, Sipsmith, Hendrick’s and Monkey 47. “Each gin on our menu has been carefully chosen for its unique characteristics, allowing us to provide an enjoyable gin experience for our guests,” he says.

Sweet Liberty in Miami Beach stocks more than 20 brands from all over the world, including Apostoles, Four Pillars, Bombay Sapphire, Plymouth, The Botanist, Malfy, Aviation, Citadelle, Gray Whale, Fords, Hendrick’s and Bols, says bar manager Stephen Wicker. Bombay Sapphire and Hendrick’s Gin tend to be the most popular calls. “Some trends I’ve noticed are that consumers have been favoring brands with citrus peel or olive leaves, as most guests favor these notes in their cocktails.”

Gin is the heart and soul of the beverage program at Valerie in New York, says beverage director Marshall Minaya. “When we opened in December 2018, we had 15 gins available – now we carry over 80 varieties and growing!” Fords London Dry, Hendricks, Spring 44, Gin Mare, Four Pillars Olive Leaf gin and Suntory Roku are popular pulls for the bar team and guests at Valerie.

Minaya has seen an uptick in citrus-forward gins during the past few years, “not just an orange peel, lemon peel or occasional grapefruit involved in a botanical build, but a full-blown citrus nose, palate and finish gin.” In fact, he believes that too many of these citrusy gins hit the market simultaneously.

Savory gins are starting to creep in now, too, Minaya adds: “These make for a lovely Martini riff.”

Minneapolis-based All Saints typically stocks eight to 12 gins, says beverage program director Scott Weller, “making sure we always have a wide variety of styles and options ranging from classic London Dry to more contemporary expressions.” He’s also a fan of genever, “the super-malty, Holland-based precursor to gin. We carry Old Duff Genever, and it’s a fun bottle to grab if you want to turn some classic gin cocktails on their heads.”

Working with Gin

Harmony Gin.

Queen’s approach with gin cocktails is distinct from working with other spirits, says Ansaldi. “The nature of gin, being a complex blend of herbs, spices and fruits, makes it one of the most playful and versatile spirits in our bartenders’ toolkit. The diversity of flavors within the gin category allows us to explore a wide spectrum of tastes and aromas.”

At Valerie, “We are trained to understand that not all gins are the same – each gin carries its own story, terroir and botanical build,” Minaya says. “Some gins are best served as a modifier to a cocktail, and others are best used as a base spirit. We know what recommendation to make based on the classic cocktail that a guest would like.”

For example, “When it comes to a Dirty Martini, we offer two gins that are distilled with olives, and we love to showcase something new for a guest rather than just have them order their usual,” Minaya notes. “ABV in a gin is always a conversation, as well as how the gin will shine in different styles of cocktails. Sometimes you need to add a touch of navy strength [gin] in a citrus cocktail or a fizz.”

Gins play well with fresh herbs, fruits and produce so they’re a natural choice as a base for more refreshing, citrus-forward cocktails like highballs, smashes and sours, says All Saints’ Weller. “This usually means our cocktail menu naturally leans more gin-heavy in the warmer months.”

Tanqueray, Hendrick’s and Bombay Sapphire are the most popular gins at All Saints, “but we also carry some more-esoteric bottles and gins from around the world, like Applewood Gin from Australia – my personal favorite; Harahorn from Norway; Song Cai from Vietnam; and Condesa from Mexico,” Weller says. “Contemporary-style gins are popping up all over the world, and they often showcase botanicals only found in that country – or at least botanicals that are sourced locally – which is super cool.”

Innovative Gin Cocktails

“Outside of our normal cocktail menu offerings, we’re always cranking out lots of Martinis and Negronis on a nightly basis,” Weller says. All Saints’ current menu includes a cocktail called the Nightsmoke Negroni. Priced at $14, it’s made with Harahorn botanical gin, wine-based Pasubio Amaro and a touch of elderberry liqueur, and served “down” in a smoked-pine scented rocks glass.

“One of our mainstay menu cocktails that features gin is The Gibby ($14), which is our house Gibson Martini,” he adds. It uses a split-base of gin and vodka, dry vermouth that’s been macerated with charred scallions, and a few dashes of white balsamic and a house-made salt-and-pepper tincture.

Fleur De Lis cocktail. Photo credit: Kevin Martin Photo.

Queen offers a riff on the Negroni called Idol’s Eye ($22), featuring the bold flavors of N3 gin, complemented by the sweetness of Campari infused with strawberries. “The addition of plum wine adds depth and richness, while cherry bitters provide a delightful finishing touch,” Ansaldi says.

The bar’s Fleur de Lis cocktail ($22) “is a light and refreshing aperitif that combines the crispness of Bombay Sapphire gin with the delicate sweetness of elderflower,” he adds. “The infusion of plum adds a subtle fruity note, and the cocktail is finished with a touch of effervescence from sparkling sake.”

At Sweet Liberty, “Our approach with gin is we always start with the base spirit and an idea that goes back and forth until something delicious comes about,” Wicker says. The bar’s gin-based cocktails include the She Said Yes ($16), made with Hendrick’s gin, Tio Pepe fino sherry, fresh lemon, smashed cucumber and raspberry; The Spaniard ($17) with Gin Mare, white vermouth, Del Maguey Iberico mezcal, Nardini Mandorla, vanilla and a blue cheese olive; and Gin & Juice ($16), with The Botanist gin, Aperol, guava, pineapple, mango, lime juice, absinthe and cinnamon.

The Speed Slowly ($19) is a favorite gin cocktail at Valerie, Minaya says. It’s a clarified milk punch made with Beefeater London Dry gin, two slightly bitter and earthy fortified wines, lemon and strawberries and topped with London Essence Orange & Elderflower tonic.

The Spicy G&T ($19) combines pine-forward St. George Terroir gin, a house-made poblano liqueur, cucumber bitters, topped with Fever Tree Light tonic.

Valerie also offers a Signature Martini section ($27 for a 6-oz. serving) that includes a Savory Martini with Four Pillars Olive Leaf gin, which is distilled with three different types of olive oil and olive leaves, a dry vermouth infused with capers and Castelvetrano olives, with a large caper berry garnish.

Minaya’s favorite Martini is the Gibson – a classic Martini garnished with a cocktail onion. “We take an inventive twist and start with Christian Drouin Le Gin, which is distilled in Calvados utilizing over 30 different apples, and pair it with a house-made dry vermouth” (made with a pinot grigio base, fortified with fino sherry) and top with house-pickled fresh pearl onion.

Gin & Juice.

Premium and Craft Expressions

There’s been a buzz about craft and imported gins for the past few years, and the big spirits brands have taken note. Aviation American gin, founded in 2006, got a boost when actor, writer and producer Ryan Reynolds acquired an ownership interest in the brand in 2018; Aviation was acquired by Diageo in 2020.

Pernod Ricard, which owns the Black Forest Monkey 47 gin, acquired the Canadian gin brand Ungava in 2018 and the Italian gin line Malfy in 2019.

Brown-Forman Corp., known for whiskey – namely Jack Daniel’s – acquired the premium Fords Gin in 2019 and the Mediterranean Gin Mare in 2022.

New gin brands and expressions abound. For example, Empress 1908 Indigo Gin released an elderflower rose gin this past September, while The Botanist in February 2024 introduced a cask rested gin and a cask aged gin.

Durham Distillery in North Carolina came out with Conniption Navy Strength Gin upon opening in 2015; it also makes Conniption Kinship Gin, Conniption American Dry Gin and Conniption Barrel-Aged Gin, among other spirits. London-based Whitley Neill, which includes a traditional Dry Gin as well as a range of flavors, launched in a few U.S. markets in 2018, and has expanded since.

Highclere Castle Gin, a premium London dry gin introduced in 2019, was developed by spirits entrepreneur Adam von Gootkin and the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon – the owners and stewards of Highclere Castle in England, best known for the Downton Abbey series and movies. The Holistic Spirits Co., cofounded by wellness entrepreneur Amy Holmwood and actor Woody Harrelson, unveiled Harmony Gin this past September.

Renais Gin, a superpremium spirit launched in the U.K. in May 2023, has secured a significant national distribution agreement within the U.S. for spring 2024, while Waymar Gin House, developed in Memphis, TN, and now part of Morningside Brands, will be launching in various markets throughout 2024.

There’s also a trend of mixologists developing their own gins. Husband-wife duo Johnny Livanos – a third generation Greek-American restaurateur – and bartender/brand developer Adriana Soley Livanos, recently launched Stray Dog Wild Gin, the world’s first Greek gin. Gin connoisseur Brendan Bartley, the head bartender and beverage director at Bathtub Gin in New York and Los Angeles, just created Revivalist Garden Gin for Botanery Barn Distilling.

The gin-centric Valerie has been in talks with a few local distilleries about bottling a private-label gin, Minaya says. “I am hoping to have time to focus on that botanical build and work something out that would be exclusive to the bar.”


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