It’s taken me some time to truly appreciate gin. Gin has come a long way since the first words on my lips were something like Tanqueray and Tonic. There is nothing more oblique to my memory than the flavor of the classic Tanqueray mixed with sugary syrupy tonic water. A good friend of mine from college’s father worked for a large soda company. His dad told me that tonic water has something like three times the corn syrup based sugar of regular soda. I suppose it didn’t sink in, because that experience, over at the former American Stanhope Hotel across from the Met in NYC, well, let’s just say that I’ll never forget. I can remember the first time I drank a gin and tonic AND the last time during that era of my life. It took me thirty years to appreciate gin again.
Fast forward to today. I have sitting in front of me a marvelous London Dry Style of gin. Made by SW4, this gin is truly good enough to drink without mixers. Produced in small batches in the London Dry style, as apposed to the Botanical style, SW4 is sumptuous in mouth-feel. There is citrus, the ever-present juniper berries that gives gin that signature taste, some cinnamon and maybe a bit of nutmeg for spices. If it acts like a Botanical gin and tastes like a Botanical gin, then maybe it is a Botanical gin? I’m not sure why the lable says London Dry. It certainly does not taste like Beefeater, nor does it taste like Gordon’s or even some of the new-wave London Dry gins that are coming out of the United States. Gin is getting confusing and I am supposedly a professional.
Imagine my pleasure when I received the bottle of SW4. Sure they call it London Dry. And I suppose it is for good reason that they do. Why confuse the consumer? The lable reads Hand-Made in Small Batches in Clapham, North London SW4 (is the name their zip code?) Using only the Finest Botanicals. Hmmmm. Now I am confused. Is it a Botanical gin, or is it London Dry Gin? What?
Well, that is possibly another story for another day, my friends. This one here is about as exciting as waiting for the sun to shine. Someday it will again.
Tasting Notes for the SW4 London Dry Gin:
Lemon curd on the tongue gives way to salt water tinged wet stones. There is some freshly cut sage in there along with a lingering finish of freshly crushed pine needles. If you were thirsty for a tonic and gin, I’d say try the SW4 with a tonic that you make yourself. Jack Rudy down in Charleston, South Carolina makes darned good tonic syrup, as does Tom Richter in my home state of New Jersey. These tonic syrups take the corn syrup tonic water that clogs your supermarket shelves and gives them the veritable heave ho!
Why should you take excellent gin, either London Dry or Botanical and DESTORY it with corn syrup based tonic water? Beats me! That’s not how I like to drink it.
Digressing a bit, the first time I had a tonic and gin was in the Ivory Coast of Africa. It was around 1976 and it was still somewhat safe to be in Abidjan. I remember visiting the French Expat’s tennis club. You only go out at night; it’s horribly hot and humid during the day so no one really leaves their air-conditioning for too long. At night it is pleasurable to take in the soft breezes and drink perfectly prepared tonic and gin cocktails by the affable barman. Just outside, beyond the broad porches overlooking the hand manicured grass and hand rolled clay tennis courts, guards stood their sentinels, each carrying not a gun, but a bow and arrow. The arrow dipped in poison to make sure the intruder only jumped over the fence once.
Gin and poisoned arrows? What would my young mind conjure up next, fever dreams? I mean, that’s why I was drinking tonic with gin in the first place. Malaria isn’t something we worry about in the USA, but in Africa, you drink tonic for its CURRATIVE qualities!
The gin makes the tonic taste better!
A tonic and gin – reinvented from the memory of my 1976 trip to the Ivory Coast in Africa.
3 oz. SW4 London Dry Gin
1 oz. Tonic Syrup of your choice
3 oz. Seltzer (I used Polar Seltzer)
Hand Cut ice from double boiled distilled water or Glace Luxury Ice (your choice)
.10 Absinthe to help you dream
Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
(The night prior, double boil distilled water and pour into a silicone ice tray, freeze over night)
Add several cubes of your ice to a Collins Glass
Pour the SW4 Gin over
Add the Tonic Syrup
Pour over the seltzer
Add the Absinthe over the top
Apply the Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
Garnish with the lime pinwheel
Cheers from DrinkUpNY!
Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.