Our man on the bar stool mixes it up at Terra Mae
“I'll stick with gin.
Champagne is just ginger ale that knows somebody.”
— M*A*S*H, Hawkeye, "Ceasefire," 1973
Don't despair, Gin, you're in good company.
• Famously known for the martini, which James Bond prefers shaken, not stirred.
• Auntie Mame said, "Stir. Never shake. It bruises the gin."
Both, of course, were wrong. You can put it in a centrifuge as far as I'm concerned—as long as it gets the job done.
I'm by no means a connoisseur but I know what I like—and this week I'm into gin. It's been sliding down the throats of everyone from royalty to reprobates (and sometimes both at the same time) for 400 years.
Back in the Middle Ages,, a Dutch physician was sitting around doing a lot of nothing because the last episode of "Breaking Bad" hadn't been aired yet. So, he and some old college buddies went out to do some reindeer tipping and got the clever idea of spicing up his favorite bland imbibement. Seeing as the Bi-Lo was closed, he began picking berries off the nearest bush and, "Kijken!" (that's Dutch for voila)...Gin.
During the following years, various companies refined this recipe and created a plethora of distinct brands—and with these, brought the humble gin into its own.
I recently had the pleasure of running a very civilized gauntlet through some of the more distinguished brands of this ilk at Terra Mae with gentlemanly bar master Justin Stamper. When he greeted me, he was boiling up a caldron of spices and I swear I heard him reciting lines from “Macbeth.” I strapped myself in a comfy stool and handed him the keys. I thought I must already be in my cups, because he became blurry with liquid motion as he pulled bottles and glasses and ice and various shiny instruments of undefined origin from thin air and began his alchemy.
The first treat on the menu this evening was the classic Martinez. For this, Justin went with the Tangueray No. 10 because of its stout bouquet and sweet citrus infusion. This, paired with orange bitters, Lejon sweet vermouth and Luxardo maraschino liqueur, is the perfect early October afternoon cocktail. It's a flavor that makes you ask, "Is it late summer or early fall?"
Right now, it's both. Less talk, more monkey.
Now we were getting somewhere.
Before my fingertips assumed room temperature again, there was "Justin on the Spot" sliding over a spooky-looking number called Aviation. My first thought was, “This would look really boss under a black light!”
Aviation Gin is one of the new breed of American gins that's more subdued than your classic London dry and was chosen for this little number because of its clean floral and citrus undertones that, when mixed with lemon juice, make up the top two-thirds of this layered cocktail. In itself, that’s a treat. But slow down, Speedy, there's more.
On the bottom, you'll eventually discover a dark purple pit of Luxardo maraschino and Marie Blizzard Parfait D'amour...a sweet rose and vanilla liqueur.
Bang! How yoo dooin'?
As I sat grinning at the bottom of the glass like a dog that's just been shown a card trick, my faithful new best pal hit me with his best shot.
Here's a reminder that the leaves on the trees have decided, "Screw it! We're outta here."
I highly recommend hooking up with a selection of gins this season and had a righteous time tripping the gin fantastic up on Tenth Street.
Slipping out the door into the continuing 80-degree heat though, I'm reminded there's not a reindeer to be tipped in a thousand miles. Yet.