Friday, November 22, 2013

The peculiarly interesting cocktail academy

On Tuesday night, I stopped by Dandelion Market on 5th Street for a cocktail seminar put on by Hendricks Gin.

While I'm a big fan of Plymouth Gin, Hendricks and its slight cucumber taste is also interesting. Kris Van Dopek, a Hendrick representative, led the making and tasting of three drinks, two summery cocktails and a more winter-appropriate punch.

A few things I learned from Van Dopek's (very fast) lecture:

By definition, gin has to be predominantly juniper. And juniper had legendary uses, including in ancient Egypt for embalming, by Roman gladiators for cleaning wounds, and by mystics for communicating with the spirit world. Different kind of spirits, but still.

In the 30 Years War, the Dutch gave gin to soldiers to make them brave in battle, hence "Dutch courage," and in London, there were private houses where you could get a dose of gin, hence "gin mills." Some of that gin was made with things like turpentine, which would blind you -- hence "blind drunk."

Hendricks is made in Scotland, in an old munitions bunker from World War II. It's still made in small batches using two old copper stills that have to run six days a week to keep up with demand.
The master distiller is a woman, Lesley Gracie. And the name Hendricks was actually the name of founder William Grant's gardener.

The distillation includes 11 botanicals besides the juniper and legendary essences of cucumber (English hothouse) and roses (Bulgarian): chamomile, lemon and orange peel, elderflower, citrus, cubeb berry (sort of like a peppercorn), orris and angelica roots, yarrow, caraway and coriander.  

The distillation base, by the way is "neutral grain spirits," AKA wheat-based vodka.

OK, on to the punch. Tenured Punch is so named, says Van Dopek, because "Tenured" means tested, and they've tested this recipe many times. If you need something refreshing for a Thanksgiving party, consider this one.

Tenured Punch
The recipe was given in parts instead of ounces. This is my translation to make it a little easier.

3 ounces Hendrick's gin
2 ounces fresh lemon juice
2 ounces simple syrup
1/4 cup (2 ounces) sparkling water
2/3 cup weak green tea
1 ounce Lillet rose
Angostura (or Peychaud) bitters to taste

Place a block of ice in a punch bowl or other medium-sized bowl. Add all the ingredients and stir gently. Serve in small cups.

YIELD: 4 servings.