Trend-spotting: Colorado Craft Gin
For years, gin was one of those spirits enjoyed at country clubs and football tailgate parties, or by odd relatives at family reunions. Yet, gin is one of the most unique and uniquely misunderstood of all spirits and it is making a great comeback, especially with the skill and craft of small batch distillers.
Gin is descendant of a 16th Century Dutch concoction called genever, originally used to mask a juniper elixir prescribed for the sick and ended up as a popular drink. It was introduced to England during the reign of William of Orange in the 17th Century when – the legends claim – the English could not replicate the distillation of genever, ultimately distilling what we know as gin. Apparently they even shortened its name.
Like other spirits, gin begins as a cereal grain mash but it is then infused with botanicals either before or during distillation. The main botanical must be juniper berries, beyond that requirement anything goes. Yet, many of the other ingredients used such as licorice root, coriander seeds, citrus peels (orange, lemon), anise, cassia, and almond, are very common among gin varietals.
The botanicals are infused into gin through two different methods: by maceration or by vapor infusion. Maceration is the process of steeping the botanicals in the alcohol a few days prior to distillation. During vapor infusing the alcohol-water distilling passes through suspended botanicals. Both processes seek to volatilize oils into the botanicals and chemically infuse their flavors into the alcohol.
There are several types of gin; the most common is London Dry Gin. This vapor infused gin must be at least 140 proof and cannot have flavors or colors added after distillation, and only a minute amount of sugar is allowed. This style, such as Boodles Gin, that is made for enthusiasts to enjoy the botanical flavors. Old Tom-style gin is sweet and considered the bridge between the London Dry and Dutch genever. Its sweetness often comes from ingredients added after distillation and it was the original gin used in Tom Collins cocktails. Plymouth Gin refers to gin made in the port of Plymouth along the English Channel. Like Champagne, to be a Plymouth gin it must be made by a distillery in this region of England. A new style of gin has emerged over the past decade, such as Hendricks Gin, emphasizing botanicals such as cucumber or grape rather than juniper and resulting in a far less piney flavor typical of gin.
While we all know Colorado is a craft beer mecca, many are also discovering the state also boasts great craft distilleries. Colorado gin distilleries populate the entire state and are creating wonderful spirits, including some great gins – of all styles and flavors. Any lover of gin should know and try these delicious offerings; head to Molly’s and start enjoying gin made in Colorado then share some at a family reunion, a tailgate party or mix yourself a cocktail at home (such as an Aviation or Tom Collins).