Just as god-tier beers (think: VB; red label Peroni) should make you feel like a peasant in a field, the best spirits should make you feel like a Russian spy on a London rooftop.
Unfortunately, Australia’s cocktail culture is being held back from these lofty heights by gin and tonic drinkers.
Don’t get me wrong. I get it. I’m as guilty as anyone. I never had gin any other way until last year. Even then – I spent my first few (straight) gin tastings wincing and pretending to enjoy the ‘complex flavours’ while actually feeling like I was drinking lighter fluid.
Even now, I’m not a huge fan. Straight gin is not an easy drinker. But out of civic responsibility, I persevere. Someone has to drive culture forward. If the rest of you lot are going to stick to ‘hard seltzers’ and “just a G&T, thanks” then someone has to step up the game.
Where is the glamour, damn it?
Before you call me a snob – I’m not saying you shouldn’t drink gin and tonics. But you should expand your horizons – just like someone who doesn’t eat cheese or certain vegetables. Grow up. Try it straight. Make an awesome Negroni. The options are endless.
Otherwise, you’re not a fully actualised drinker.
As Anthony Bourdain once said: “They say that Rasputin used to eat a little arsenic with breakfast every day, building up resistance for the day that an enemy might poison him, and that sounds like good sense to me.”
“Judging from accounts of his death, the Mad Monk wasn’t fazed at all by the stuff; it took repeated beatings, a couple of bullets and a long fall off a bridge into a frozen river to finish the job.”
“Perhaps we, as serious diners, should emulate his example. We are, after all, citizens of the world – a world filled with bacteria, some friendly, some not so friendly.”
“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock cafes and McDonalds?”
“Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”
Inspired to order your next gin straight (we assume you already know how to make a Negroni)?
Here’s how to drink gin straight and actually enjoy it.
The most important thing to remember when drinking gin straight is to keep it cool. The next most important thing to do is to garnish it with unique ingredients that are related to the gin itself.
Trish Brew, Fever-Tree Brand Ambassador (who was the Bar Manager at Gin Palace in Melbourne for eight years and the 2018 Time Out Melbourne Bartender of the Year) says: “If you are looking to try your gin on its own, I recommend keeping your gin in the freezer.”
“If you keep your gin in the freezer, the texture of ‘frozen’ gin is silky smooth, the alcohol is dialled back, and the botanicals subdued.”
Joseph Judd, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at Peddlers Gin co. says: “Gin straight is essentially a classic James Bond martini, so you can’t go too wrong.”
“It also cuts out the sugar from the tonic. The colder the better – on the rocks, or ice cold, a splash of dry vermouth and an olive.”
Ross Lusted, Owner and Head Chef of Crown Sydney’s Woodcut and Hickory Bar likewise relates: “Drinking gin straight is the best way to taste the full array of botanicals.”
His best advice? “It’s best served on ice, with a garnish inspired by the botanicals itself – citrus is always a winner, but look for unique ingredients that might be included in the gin itself like herbs or spices.”
He adds: “Ice is equally important in making a great drink – using filtered water is critical to the process, to eliminate adding any unwanted flavours that can change an exceptional drink.”
“The size of the cube is also important – the smaller the cube, the quicker it melts, diluting the drink and changing the flavour,” Ross tells us.
“At Woodcut we use ice cut into 40mm2 cubes and made with pristine Tasmanian water – the perfect ice for spirits.”
There you have it: that’s how to drink straight gin like you were dropped straight out of Downtown Abbey.
Put that in your glass and sip it.