“Do you drink gin?” my colleague asked on a Tuesday afternoon just as things were winding down for the day.
“Sure I do,” I replied. Truth be told: gin is something like a personal introduction to alcohol for me. I remember stealing sips of my dad’s or my paternal grandfather’s gin and tonic when I was very young. But there’s a family joke that, to quieten my kicking in my mother’s womb, my mom had to down a G&T to shut me up…so I guess you could say gin and I go a way back – a long way back, actually.
When I was in college, I’d volunteer to sample gin cocktails whipped up by the HRM upperclassmen who were like big brothers to me. Whenever they were prepping for an exam in bartending (yes, there is a university class for bartending!), the way they muttered the names of each cocktail was like listening to a litany of sublime – and somewhat forbidden – delights: gimlets, martinis, Singapore slings, lime rickeys, Negronis… Unfortunately, by the time all my on-campus big brothers graduated, their successors – my batchmates and those a year or so behind me – were mad about mixing gin with instant grapefruit drink powder to make the infamous pseudo-cocktail gin pomelo. Needless to say that I washed my hands of the lot.
But back to the present: aforementioned colleague invited me to come along for a mixology event for Hendrick’s Gin at the Makati Shangri-La featuring mixologist Tasha Lu, the product’s brand ambassador for the Asian region. This fun, fabulous femme regaled us and everyone at the bar with three amazing cocktails.
Hendrick’s, before I go on, is a gin with a twist. Aside from the traditional mix of juniper and other botanicals, this particular distillate features Bulgarian roses and English cucumber to add a deliciously floral nuance with a fresh bite. As a result, this is a gin that lends itself to getting mixed with both strong and subtle flavours to add an innovative punch to traditional cocktails.
First up: the fresh-tasting gin garden. This cocktail features Hendrick’s gin shaken with fresh pineapple juice, torn cilantro [green coriander], lime juice, egg white, and a dash of cracked black pepper. It is a bright, refreshing drink: sweet but not cloyingly so, sharp without ripping a hole down your throat. The addition of black pepper at the end brings out the floral character of the base alcohol and adds a spicy, exotic aroma.
The fairy tale is a very girly concoction that will probably go well with ladies who sip Cosmopolitans. It’s a bright pink drink that combines the gin with a roasted juniper infusion and a poached rhubarb shrub; a dash of simple syrup adds a tad more sweetness and a rose petal is used as a garnish.
It’s a touch too sweet for me; personally, the simple syrup is overkill on my tastebuds. But I can see this cocktail’s appeal for those who don’t care much for the taste of gin. Nevertheless, it’s quite tasty and dangerously easy to drink…if you have a killer sweet tooth.
But Lu’s ultimate Negroni #2 was, hands-down, my favourite drink of the night. This bittersweet sipper features Hendrick’s gin and a host of bitter and sweet mix-ins. Along with the bitter Campari and sweet red vermouth that make up the traditional Negroni with the gin, Lu tossed in splashes of Aperol, an Italian aperitif made with bitter orange and rhubarb, as well as that infamous amaro Fernet-Branca. Served over ice, this spin on the Negroni gives drinkers an additional dash of drama by appearing with a torched and glowing stick of cinnamon lightly resting on the rim of the glass as a stirrer.
Perfectly balanced, I consider this a great drink with which to unwind with friends at the end of the day.
I guess, for all intents and purposes, I’ll always be a gin girl.