January 2009

The Gin Agenda

By: The Tasting Panel Editorial Team

From London to Los Angeles, gin is in, and these brands prove it

Martin Miller’s Strengthens a Resurgent Category
by Jenny Adams

Last fall, a motley crew of mixologists, journalists and brand ambassadors set out for an adventure from London, England to Reykjavik, Iceland. On the agenda was gin—namely, Martin Miller’s. But in the course of the week—as cocktails were shaken and conversation flowed—the category’s overall resurgence was an oft-visited topic.

Martin Miller himself is still known around England as a purveyor of antiques and stateside as the author of Miller’s Antiques Price Guide, but he now adds to his name a reputation for an exquisite gin that, according to Miller, “was really born of love, obsession and some degree of madness.”

We followed the spirit’s trek from botanical to bottle, beginning in London, where we visited Martin Miller’s Spirits Academy, his boutique hotel residence in Notting Hill and the distillery in Birmingham.  An entire evening was devoted to visiting London’s best bar scenes, enjoying concoctions like the St. George Sour, devised by resident mixologist Paul Mant at the Quo Vadis Club. Mant shakes Miller’s Westbourne Strength (90 proof) with lemon, simple syrup, Aperol and passion fruit syrup.

At China Tang at the Dorchester Hotel, it was a classic French 75, and following that we bellied up to the bar at the East Room in Soho. Liam Davy and Jon Santer stepped in as guest bartenders, and Martin Miller’s gin went into off-the-cuff creations like Davy’s Claret Gin Cup, a twisted version of raspberry sangria with claret, gin and orange juice.

Paul Mant, mixologist at London’s Quo Vadis Club.
Every good brand has its personal cachet, and for this one, it’s the fact that Miller’s “goes the distance”—literally. After distillation in an ancient copper pot still called “Angela,” Martin Miller’s gin is transported some 3,000 miles to Iceland, where it is blended and bottled with the purest water on the planet.
“The real downfall of gin occurred in America in the 1940s with the rise of vodka,” Liam Davy explained during a Master Series class in Reykjavik. “In Europe, it then sadly became your grandfather’s drink. But we really have Bombay Sapphire to thank for bringing gin back for the younger generations.”
Willing to commend Sapphire for beginning the revolution, Miller’s is an avid participant in the current reinvention of a category that provides room for everyone.
“There is a huge interest today in the newer brands as well as a resurgence among the old brands like Beefeater and Tanqueray,” Liam admits. “Good news for these brands is good news for the category overall.”


L.A. Mixologists Get Creative with Whitley Neill
story and photos by Rachel Burkons
John Grondorf was inspired to create five different cocktails to highlight Whitley Neill’s complex flavor profile.
As I watch John Grondorf, mixologist at the Hyatt Century Plaza’s hip X-Bar, expertly slicing grapefruit, pears and fresh cherries, it becomes obvious that this is a man inspired.

“Whitley Neill has unique flavors and ingredients,” he explains with a smile, pouring freshly-brewed green tea into a mixer and shaking vigorously. “The gooseberry adds a complexity to the flavor of the gin, which makes for unique, but surprisingly flavorful and harmonious mixtures. It seemed exotic. That’s why I looked outside of the box.” By the time Grondorf presents me with five colorful, aromatic cocktails, I’m not sure he ever knew there was a box.
Mix-master Pablo Moix explains his Whitley Neill-inspired concoction.

Two hours later, Pablo Moix, head mixologist for the ONE Group’s impressive portfolio of high-end restaurants and lounges (including hotspots STK and One Sunset), is equally inspired. He rummages behind the bar for fresh herbs, slices a Serrano pepper and adds sprinkles of powdered sugar to create four cocktails that run the flavor gamut. Whitley Neill, it seems, is the gin that can do anything.

“The warming, peppery notes of the coriander, combined with the softer citrus flavor, make Whitley Neill very interesting for mixologists to experiment with,” admits Johnny Neill, the brand’s Managing Director, when I mention that I was overwhelmed by the variety of cocktails made by Moix and Grondorf. “It is so versatile because of the excellent balance of the recipe, which means that the different facets and flavors of the gin are all ready to be used and amplified in different drinks.”
While Moix created a selection of savory, spicy cocktails, Grondorf used fresh fruit in his bright, sweet sippers, including the African Greyhound.

By the end of the day, these two mixologists had taken advantage of the gin’s complex flavor profile and proved that when it comes to getting the creative cocktail juices flowing, Whitley Neill’s got the flavor and the flexibility required to inspire.






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