GINS & VODKAS
Gin was first produced in Holland about 400 years ago. As
near as we can tell, these were distilled from some sort of grain and flavored with
Juniper was said to have a positive effect on the kidneys and bladder (some cling
fervently to this notion). It was called "genivre" by the Dutch physician
who's credited with discovery "gin," Dr. Franciscus de la Boe (he was, for some
reason, known as Dr. Sylvius and worked at the University of Leyden in Holland in the
1600s). The name eventually became "Genever" and/or "Geneva."
soldiers who had traveled to Europe brought back "Geneva" and soon they began
their own distillation. It became so popular that the Gin Act of 1736 levied a
tax on the distillers. This increase in cost meant that only the upper-crust could
afford gin. After further legislation, first banning the distillation of corn, then
legalizing this, gin experienced some ups and downs.
It became the drink of the masses, so the upper-crust looked down their pointy little noses
at gin. The pendulum swung back and it became a popular beverage amongst royalty and
Dutch gin tended to be sweet, while the British product was made dry. Today you'll
see the words "London Dry Gin" on bottles from all over the world. You
see, "London Dry Gin" today refers to a style, not the geographic origin.
Most gins today are based on neutral grain spirits.
The flavors and aromas come from "botanicals." Juniper is
common, of course. Others include coriander, angelica, orange peel, lemon
peel, cinnamon, cardamom, grains of paradise, cubeb berries and nutmeg. Each
distiller has its own recipe and this is what makes the character of each gin unique.
There are a variety of production methods.
For cheap, low-cost production, a distiller will mix the alcohol with juniper and
botanical extracts. This is called a "compound gin."
Superior quality gins are made by soaking or macerating the juniper berries and other
botanicals in alcohol and then re-distilling the liquid.
London Dry Gin is the most popular style. It is, as noted above,
not necessarily distilled in London. It is a dry gin and makes for a fine mixer.
Plymouth Gin is thought by some to be not only a brand of gin, but a
category as well. It is made by the Plymouth Coates & Company and is a
fuller-bodied gin than most London Dry. The British navy used Plymouth Gin and a few
drops of Angostura Bitters to make "pink gin." This was said to be
effective in combating tropical diseases.
Old Tom Gin is a category of sweetened gin. This is used for
fizzes. It is relatively unpopular. The legend of the name "Old Tom"
comes from a wooden plaque in the shape of an old tom cat being situated outside a gin
palace in England. The thirsty passers-by would drop a coin into the cat's mouth and
wait for the bartender to pour a shot of gin through a tube to the customer. I'd
prefer a glass, thank you.
Genever or Hollands Gins are sweeter and lower in
alcohol than London Dry or Plymouth. These are distilled, typically, from malted
grains. "Oude" (old) is the original style. These are aged for about
12 to 36 months in wood and tend to have a light yellow color as a result.
"Jonge" (young) tend to resemble more the London Dry style, being a bit
crisper. The traditional "bottle" for these was a stone crock.
superb Martini maker comes to us from Birmingham, England. The Broker's
brand was started in 1998 by the Dawson brothers and they operate out of an old
brewery that's been turned into a modest distillery.
They use pot stills for their gin, saying continuous stills are more
economically feasible, but the small batch distillation allows them to make a
superior product. And they like to drink their own.
They even are willing to share the secrets of their Gin:
Juniper berries - Bulgaria or Macedonia
Coriander seed - Bulgaria
Orris root - Italy
Nutmeg - India
Cassia bark - China
Cinnamon - Madagascar
Liquorice - Sri Lanka
Orange peel - Spain
Lemon peel - Spain
Angelica root - Belgium or France
We like the front-and-center juniper character in this dry
gin and it makes a jolly good Martini, especially if you don't let too much
Vermouth get in the way. One friend says they find having the unopened
bottle of dry Vermouth in the same room as the bottle of Broker's is as close as
these two ingredients need to get.
We sell this for a very
modest price, too. It's available in 750ml bottles.
CADENHEAD'S "OLD RAJ"
The Cadenhead firm has been trading in Scotch Whisky since the 1800s.
They started to produce an unusual and complex Gin in the 1970s. The base is
neutral Scottish grain spirit. To that they add juniper and coriander, angelica root
and other botanicals. This is then distilled to create their "Old Raj."
But they're not finished yet! To the nearly-finished Gin the add a bit of
saffron. This explains the slightly yellow color you'll notice in this amazing,
fasten-your-seat-belt adult beverage.
Bottled at 110-proof, the label suggests serving this after you've observed, at close
range, a tiger in the wild. You drink this once you've returned, safely, back to
your manor house.
BOOMSMA GENEVER GIN
Boomsma is an
old, long-establish Dutch distiller whose Gins are terrific.
We carry both the "young" (Jonge) and "old" (Oude) versions.
People are usually shocked to find these gins in the store, as virtually nobody
carries these on the west coast.
BERRY BROS. #3 GIN
venerable British wine & spirits retailer, Berry Bros. has its own brand of
Gin. London Dry Gin.
Lots of juniper notes to this fine distillation and the recipe also incorporates
orange peel, Angelica root and Cardamom pods.
CITADELLE GIN 750ml
excellent gin comes from France. Now the French like to take credit for
inventing just about everything, from romance to cuisine to art to wine, so why
The Cognac firm of Gabriel & Andreu is responsible for this (the gin, that
is...I don't know if they want credit for romance, cuisine, art and wine, too).
It seems the French used to have a major distilling center in Dunkirk within the
citadelle. It seems the two partners in this distilling project were smart
enough to select a site which had a lot of boat traffic, so vessels returning
from the Orient always had lots of exotic spices and botanicals.
It's claimed the English used to buy loads of French gin, until they got smart
and closed the market to foreign goods.
Gabriel & Andreu use 19 botanicals for this dry gin. It is wonderfully
aromatic and makes a wonderful adult martini (none of this sticky, sweet, green
food-coloring apple liqueur in this, please, or we'll have to report you to the
JUNIPERO GIN Sale Priced, too
Made by Anchor Distilling in San Francisco (yes, the Anchor Steam Beer
people are behind this), "Junipero" is a wonderfully dry gin with a
pungent juniper berry fragrance. I sense a touch of coriander, too, in
this wonderfully exotic spirit. It is not for those who prefer a sweeter
gin. This stuff makes a really dry Martini.
is made in small batches...they distill using Florida oranges and California
Pomelos. Then, each of their "botanicals," the secret spices,
are distilled "by the batch." They then assemble the blend in
rather small lots, producing each bottling in rather tiny quantities.
The resulting gin is quite good, dry and nicely aromatic.
NORTH SHORE DISTILLING
The North Shore distillery is a "Mom &
Pop" producer in Illinois, located in Lake Bluff, about 40 miles north of
Chicago and close to 60 miles south of Milwaukee.
The couple come from different backgrounds---Dad was a chemical engineer and Mom
was some sort of business consultant. He'd dabbled in making beer and wine
at home and somehow they hit on the idea of buying a still and making some
In producing various batches of Gin, their favorite was "batch number
6". And so the flagship Gin is called "Number 6." It
features some nice botanicals, but lemon zest and lavender blossoms are the keys
or secrets to this bottling.
Number 11 is different and, no, it was not the eleventh batch. It's a
musical reference to "the amp goes to 11," meaning even though
"ten" is maximum, they've amped up the volume on the juniper component
in this wonderful gin. There's a spice undertone and almost a resiney
element to this gin. Kudos to Mom & Pop!
BOMBAY & BOMBAY SAPPHIRE
is marvelous, but the Bombay Sapphire is even more incredible! You can
have a look at their bottle and see the botanicals used for flavoring this
amazingly intense, crisp, dry Gin. The spirit is distilled from grain
grown in Scotland. Bombay points out that many lesser gins are distilled
from the cheaper molasses, creating a spirit of less finesse.
This is concocted in Scotland where they make this curious (or as they
claim, "peculiar") Gin featuring rose petals and cucumber.
Their advertising slogan is "Preferred by One out of a Thousand Gin
Drinkers ...Which is fine by us since it's not easy making this stuff."
reference's to the Boodle's Club going back a couple of hundred years.
I suppose that's how this London Dry Gin got its name, the special club brand of
a private gentleman's club.
In any case, we carry it.
This got a rave review in the San Francisco Chronicle in May 2003.
We've had numerous calls for it as a result and it's finally here (the sales rep
from the local distributor didn't know they carried the product!).
comes from a small distillery in Santa Cruz, California. It's got a nice
citrusy note up front with some juniper berries and a touch of a cilantro...
It's quite good, but decidedly different from more strongly-flavored juniper
* THE NEW "SARTICIOUS": BLADE
The fellow who was the distiller for Sarticious now has his own distillery and
it's located in between San Francisco and San Jose.
You'll notice he's kept to a similar bottle format and the Gin is quite good
with the same sort of juniper, citrus and cilantro notes in the recipe.
They made one barrel of gin which was aged in a barrel...this limited production
item is called "Rusty Blade" as it has a 'rusty', brown color.
HAYMAN'S OLD TOM GIN
you've heard of a somewhat popular gin called Beefeater?
That was made, for the first time, by James Burrough back in the 1800s. JB
was the great grandfather of Christopher Hayman, whose family sold Beefeater to
the Whitbread drinks company in 1987.
Well, the Haymans are back in the gin business and their "Old Tom" gin
is a dandy.
Old Tom is a reference to the black cat icon posted in or outside British bars
back in the day...customers were supposed to insert a coin in the cat's mouth
and a bartender would then serve a shot of gin through the cat's paws.
It's a gin based on Juniper, as you might expect. But they'd sweeten the
gin back in those primitive distilling days to improve the flavor and
If you're looking for Boord's brand of Old Tom Gin, well, that's no longer in
production, apparently. This, however, is a stellar replacement.
It's the gin for mixing a Ramos Fizz or a Tom Collins.
comes in a clear glass bottle and the gin is actually a blue color.
It's named after explorer Ferdinand Magellan. The gin gets its color,
we're told, from the inclusion of Iris flowers in the still
This has a spicy quality coming from cloves.
Doornkaat is a nice German product that is a bit
reminiscent of Danish Akavit but it's in the direction of gin...
HANS REISETBAUER "BLUE GIN"
Reisetbauer is a marvelous schnapps-meister in Austria and he's recently been
And a good one, too. The spirit is distilled from a particular kind
of Austrian wheat...Pot still distillation.
It's got lots of Juniper character, but he uses more than 2 dozen other
botanicals to produce this expensive spirit.
Coriander, turmeric, lemon zest are amongst the ingredients. It shows nice
juniper with other spice notes in the background.
JUNIPER GREEN GIN
a lovely Gin that's actually made in London!
London Dry Gin, from London.
The company actually has a 300 year history of making gin and they use
organically farmed grain and organically farmed botanicals, for what that's
It's got a nice perfume of juniper with a note of coriander and other spices.
And it's dry.
Valley entrepreneur Leslie Rudd put this enterprise back on the map, after
buying a property in Napa which was once the home of Distillery #209. He
set up a distillery not in Napa Valley, but south in San Francisco at Pier 50.
The gin is quite good and has a nice intensity of juniper, but there's also a
note of citrusy/orange from the bergamot.
BENDISTILLER'S DESERT JUNIPER GIN
From Oregon we have this nicely mild gin from the Bendistillery...It's a nice,
dry gin with plenty of juniper character. The alcohol level is a bit less
than most gins.
sell this Baffert's brand on the basis of its use of fewer botanicals and that
it's a Gin for a Vodka drinker...
If someone prefers a Gin without the flavor and aroma of Gin, why don't they
buy, uh, Vodka?
So if you like Vodka but prefer the bottle to say "Gin" on the label,
Baffert's is your brand.
like the aromatics and flavor of this delightful gin...
It displays a nice juniper character at the start, but you'll soon notice a nice
citrusy tone as well, with just a touch of a spicy quality...
BUMMER & LAZARUS GIN
This is produced by a tiny, artisan distiller out in the San Francisco
Bay on Treasure Island.
The Gin is named after a couple of dogs which were prominent in The City just
after the Earthquake of 1906. The two canines were the only dogs allowed
in the downtown area of San Francisco as both were highly regarded for their
abilities to find and kill rats.
So, as a matter of public health and safety, the city government prohibited dogs
in a heavily-damaged area of the earthquake-stricken city, except for Bummer and
Production is quite limited as the fellow makes but a few dozen bottles of each
We like the nice juniper focus of this dry Gin and the other botanicals
contribute a touch of citrus and mystery notes.
ST. GEORGE GINS
The crew across the Bay at St. George Spirits has a delightful trio of
Botanivore offers a classic juniper, citrus sort of Gin character. There's
a faintly herbaceous note here, too, possibly from a hint of basil and/or dill.
The Terroir is a Gin which some say smells like a walk in the woods. We
liken it to the aromas coming from your Italian Grandma's kitchen, as there's a
prominent note of sage and bay leaves.
Dry Rye is in between the Botanivore and Terroir with the idea that the volume
here is cranked up to a high level. Very nice!
These are made across the San Francisco Bay and are outstanding.
The basic vodka is a grape spirit and $35.99 per 750ml bottle.
We carry their Buddha's Hand Citrus, Kaffir Lime, Mandarin Blossom and, from
time to time, their Fraser River Raspberry. These are $35.99 per 750ml
Charbay is a
small distiller on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley.
The family is of European heritage and the place was started more than 20 years
ago by Miles Karakasevic, whose family made distilled spirits in the former
Today his family runs the Charbay firm and they turn out some wonderful spirits.
We're especially pleased with their Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka and the Blood
Orange Vodka. We also have a Key Lime Vodka and Meyer Lemon Vodka.
Very nice! About $26 a bottle.
TREASURE ISLAND VODKAS
make three types of vodka...each named after a famous Bay Area beach.
Baker Beach is distilled from corn...it has an interesting spice note.
China Beach is distilled from grapes...
Ocean Beach is distilled from sugar cane.
is a distillate of rye but it's flavored with some sort of 'grass' that's called
This is said to be popular with buffalo or bison, hence the term
The character is not grassy, though, despite the fact they include a blade of
this stuff in each bottle. The fragrances and flavors have sweet notes
reminiscent of coconut and vanilla.
At one point the U.S. government banned its importation, so they've neutralized
the offending compound from the 'buffalo grass' and it is, once again, available
for sale here in, we understand, safer format than is sold in Poland.
GLACIER POTATO VODKA
is an American vodka which gives the Polish and Russian vodkas a run for the
It's made of Russet potatoes and they use a continuous still which they claim
allows them to remove whatever impurities there might be...
It has a slightly more 'lush' texture on the palate than most of the grain
It's distilled from wheat in a continuous still, which they claim is equivalent
of something like a hundred individual pot still distillations.
It's a big Effen Deal, as they say.
This is a
nicely made Irish vodka, named after the first "high" King of
Ireland. I imagine he must have been after polishing off a bottle of this!
Available in 750ml bottles.
LUKSUSOWA POLISH POTATO VODKA
This is a
good potato vodka from Poland.
About $19 a bottle.
Pearl comes to us from Alberta, Canada.
It's distilled from Canadian-grown wheat.
JEAN MARC'S XO VODKA
This is the work of a French fellow who makes this in the Cognac region.
He sources several varieties of wheat and he claims the local water is of a
purity that's perfect for distilled spirits.
It takes about 5 weeks to do all the distillations for this vodka...it's
distilled, in fact, nine times.
They charcoal filter this, too, using French oak (Limousin) for the filtering
material. And they take a page from the winemaker's handbook, doing a
micro-oxygenation process which is said to make the spirit more
Whatever he does, it's nice.
A bit costly, though....they're around $60 for a 750ml bottle.
GREY GOOSE VODKA
This is a well-regarded Polish vodka made from rye.
New vodka from Sweden.