Sure, we all like a good Vodka… what’s not to like? But I really think the envelope has been pushed to the ultra-max, with the almost daily offering of yet anther infused flavor. (Most recently a Green-tea Vodka!)

The NKOTB (new kid on the block) Gin is really an old one making a major comeback. Gin, a much more complex spirit than vodka, is distilled from grains and flavored with several with a variety of different botanicals, although the juniper berry is considered the main ingredient.

Since I missed its first go-round in popularity, I was eager to take part in a private Gin tasting event, conducted by Master Distiller, Sean Harrison of Plymouth’s English Gin. Sean provided a fascinating overview of gin’s history and distillation process, and guided us through our tasting: swirl, sniff, taste with no spitting involved. Gotta tell you… this is one fascinating spirit, and would make a great Jeopardy category.

For example, did you know that:

1. There are only 22 gin master distillers in the world.

2. The secret recipes are guarded like the Holy Grail. For example, there are only 2 people in the whole world who know the 214-year-old recipe for making Plymouth Gin. (And Sean’s wife is not the second one.) I did manage to find out that Sean searches the world over for his seven magic botanicals: Juniper Berries, Angelica Root, Sweet Orange Peel, Cardamom Pods, Orris Root, and Coriander Seeds

3. In 1743, Gin was so popular that London was producing nearly 20 gallons per adult!

4. In the old days, Plymouth Gin was the official gin of the British Royal Navy; the sailors would blend it with their lime juice they took daily to prevent scurvy to “help the medicine go down.”

5. Plymouth Gin was the favorite of such famous martini aficionados as, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and IAN FLEMING! (And just for the record, the perfect gin martini should always be “Stirred and not Shaken,” since otherwise the flavor becomes diluted.)

We blindly tasted four of the top-selling gins and our favorite for flavor, bouquet, balance, and complexity I’m happy to report, really was Plymouth’s English Gin. Gin is rapidly becoming bartenders’ spirit of choice for it’s distinctive and yet refined flavor allowing them to create remarkable cocktails utilizing surprising ingredients such as lavender, rose petals, cucumber and turmeric

Note: Our tasting was held at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, San Francisco, which had top mixologist and author, Bartender Jeff Hollinger, providing us with a variety of fantastic martinis. If you stop in, ask him to create you something special. He also co-authored this book.

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