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Gin Review: Aviation Gin

Aviation ginAviation Gin

American Gin
Grade:four stars(Superb)
Price: $28 (750ml)

First launched in 2006 as one of the pioneers of the new trend in American gins, Aviation has been repackaged with a striking new look that classes up the bottle to match the contents.

Aviation tastes like gin, but not the gin we're used to. It has the requisite juniper flavor, but it's much more subtle than in London dry gin. (That makes this a nice alternative for those who find gin too piney.) It has pronounced notes of citrus and spice, and an almost briny character that would probably go great in a Martini.

Aviation is softer than most gins. A little more inviting. It's designed to be used in cocktails, especially those from the pre-Prohibition era. But you can certainly drink it straight if you want to, and won't be disappointed.

I didn't make a Martini (or an Aviation, this gin's namesake cocktail), but I did mix it in a Gin and Tonic. I was concerned that the less assertive character of this spirit would get lost in the mix. But no fear. It balanced quite nicely, making for a tasty, refreshing cocktail that is dangerously easy to drink.

Aviation Gin is 84-proof, but never harsh. It's a different style of gin than the norm, but that's a good thing. Tasty alternatives are always welcome, and Aviation Gin matches up quite nicely on that score.

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Ask the Professor: Recommend a Cocktail

Julie H. writes in to ask:

My brother recently turned 50 and we're having him and his partner over for dinner. I'd like to offer them some cool potent potable at this gala, yet casual, event.

They mostly order dry martinis when we're out, but they love trying new things. Mostly they're not into sweet, but my brother occasionally orders Manhattans.

I have a drink to suggest: the
Martinez. Depending on who you listen to, the Martinez is either the
original Martini, a variation on the Manhattan — or both.
It was created in the late-19th century, maybe in California. The
town of Martinez, CA likes to claim the drink was named after it, but
there's no real evidence to support that. It was possibly invented by
the great Jerry Thomas, the author of the world's first cocktail
, but the truth is nobody really knows.

You can make a Martinez
with London dry gin (the standard gin of today, like Tanqueray or
Beefeater), but originally it was made with Old Tom gin, a sweeter
gin that was very popular back in the day. 
I, however, like to make them with genever. Genever (sometimes known as "Holland gin") was the
original gin produced in the Netherlands before it was adopted by the
English and adapted into their own style (London dry).

Genever has
many of the same botanical flavors as London dry gin (juniper, etc.)
but it is distilled at least partially from malt wine. It tastes somewhat similar to regular gin, due to the presence of the botanicals, but the malt gives it
a grainy taste that more closely resembles whiskey. It has a rich
flavor, along with a satiny mouthfeel that ordinary gin lacks.

I find
it a very interesting spirit, because it's different from what most
people are used to drinking. For many, many years it wasn't available
in the U.S., but Bols recently created a new version that they now
import to the U.S. Genever is a hip spirit, the kind of thing we cocktail geeks like to drink — but I think anyone who likes gin will love it.

Here's the recipe:

Martinez (Genever Variant)

2 oz Bols
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters or
Orange Bitters

Stir with ice, then strain into a
chilled cocktail glass.Garnish with a lemon or orange twist.

This is sweeter than a Dry Martini, but
not too sweet. (At least, it's not too sweet in my opinion. Although
I should say that I do tend to like my drinks on the sweeter side.)
About the same as a Manhattan, I guess.

Typically the Martinez is
made with equal parts gin and sweet vermouth, but I reduced the
amount of vermouth in this recipe to make it less sweet. If you want
to get fancy you can jazz it up with a small amount — maybe 1/4 oz
— of orange curaรงao or maraschino liqueur (which is a liqueur
made from Maraska cherries, NOT the stuff that maraschino cherries
come in). But that would require you to buy more booze, so you
might not want to go that way.

Genever can also be used to make a
Genever Old Fashioned, a Holland House, a Gin Fix, an Improved Gin
Cocktail, or even a Tom Collins.


Drink Recipes Gin

Martinez Drink Recipe – The Original Genever Version

MartinezRegarded by most cocktail historians as the forerunner of the Martini, the Martinez exists in many variations.

Although it is seldom drunk today, it's one of the classic cocktails for a reason, and definitely something you should try.

I mixed up one in the original fashion, using Dutch genever instead of the more typical London Dry gin.

Made in this way, you can think of the Martinez as a variation on the Manhattan, since genever has a flavor that is in some ways reminiscent of a young bourbon (along with the added botanical flavors, including juniper, that are usually found in gin).

The result is on the sweet side — you could cut back on the vermouth a little to modify that, if desired — but quite delicious.



1 1/2 oz Bols Genever
1 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz Orange Curacao
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


I recommend the Bols Genever for this cocktail, although you can substitute a different genever (prefreably of the oude variety) if that's all you have.

I used Martini sweet vermouth — any good sweet vermouth would work, just make sure it's fresh.

Marie Brizard is my go-to curacao, and it's definitely worth seeking out. If you don't have orange curacao, you can substitute Grand Marnier, although you might use a little less since it's sweeter.


Edit (4/18): The original inspiration for this post was based on something I read on Difford's Guide, which claimed genever as the spirit in the original Martinez. However, it now appears that the support for that claim is tenuous at best. When I asked David Wondrich about it, he prounounced it, "Unlikely. There's a divide in the late 19th century, with Holland gin going into the old classics and English gin in the new drinks…I [don't] believe that there's such thing as a Martinez as distinct from a Martini."

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Worlds Collide: James Bond and the Vesper Martini

Perhaps no one in thriller literature, or literature in general, is as associated with the Martini as James Bond. With just three short words he launched countless thousands of Martini drinkers off into the arms of Bacchus: "shaken, not stirred."

I won't go into why this is the wrong way to prepare a Martini — actually, I will: briefly, it spoils the crystalline purity that is one the drink's sublime pleasures — nor will I offer a diatribe on how Bond convinced so many drinkers that a Martini should be made with vodka instead of gin. (Something akin to making cookies with peanut butter and calling them chocolate chip.)

No, the purpose of today's post is to discuss something that Bond — actually his creator, Ian Fleming — did right: he created a new drink.*

Here is the relevant passage, from Casino Royale (1953), the novel that introduced 007. Bond walks up to a bar, accompanied by his CIA contact, Felix Leiter, and orders a drink:

"A dry martini," [Bond] said. "One. In a deep champagne goblet."

 "Oui, monsieur."

 "Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?"

Bond called the drink the Vesper, after the book's love interest, the beautiful double agent, Vesper Lynd.

It's basically a Dry Martini with vodka substituted for some of the gin in order to mellow out the flavor a little. Kina Lillet, used instead of vermouth, was a French aperitif flavored with cinchona bark (quinine), giving it a slightly bitter taste, but leaving it still a little sweeter than the typical dry vermouth.

All in all, a tasty way to make a Martini. Sadly, Bond never drank it again. The book does not end well for Vesper Lynd — it never does for Bond's ladies, does it? — and he discarded the drink along with her memory.

Here is the recipe:

The Vesper Martini

Shake with ice:

3 oz gin
1 oz vodka
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add a lemon twist for the garnish.

Bond liked his cocktails on the large size (see below), so this will make a hefty drink. You can adjust the quantities if you'd like. Just keep the ratios the same.

For the gin, I recommend a strong-flavored London Dry, like Tanqueray. This will approximate the flavor of the British Gordon's gin of Bond's time. (A different animal from the Gordon's sold in the U.S. today.)

For the vodka, Bond preferred Russian or Polish, but distillied from grain, not potatoes. So you might use Stolichnaya or Sobieski. (In the movies Bond usually drank Smirnoff, but that's because Heublein paid the studio a lot of money for product placement.)

For the Lillet, it gets more complicated. The Kina Lillet that Bond requested is no longer available. The company now makes an aperitif called Lillet Blanc, which is similar, but doesn't have the quinine (and thus the bitterness) of the original. The drink will still have the same basic flavor profile, but it will be slightly different.

One possible substitute, first proposed by Jason Wilson, is to use Cocchi Americano instead. Cocchi Americano is a French aperitif wine akin to Lillet Blanc, but flavored with gentian root, giving it a similar bitter flavor to the original Kina Littlet. I have not tried this combination, but it sounds promising.

Regardless of how you choose to prepare your Martini, I will leave you with one final piece of advice, also related by Monsieur Bond in Casino Royale:

"I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad."

Sound advice from a man who knows.

*According to Dale Degroff, the recipe was actually created for Fleming by Gilberto Preti, who tended bar at Dukes Hotel in London. Ted Haigh, however, says this is doubtful.

Ingredients Mixology

A brief word about ice

"A man who has drank his drinks cold at the same expense for one week can never be presented with them warm again." -Frederic Tudor, the 19th-century "Ice King"

One of the greatest advances of the past century is something we all take for granted: the availability of ice on demand. Image what life would be like if you couldn't just open the freezer and grab a few cubes whenever you wanted. It would be like living in the Stone Age, for crying out loud! We might as well start cooking our food by rubbing two sticks together to make fire.

Ice makes almost every beverage better. That's why we drink it in water, soda, punch, lemonade, even iced tea and coffee. I've seen a few brave souls pop open a room-temperature can of Diet Coke and guzzle it down — and it makes me shudder. I can't even drink it cold out of the fridge. I need my ice.

Ice is also a crucial ingredient in most cocktails, and it's not one that should be taken too lightly. Ice plays a vital component in two ways: cooling and diluting.

Ice brings down the temperature of the drink significantly, making it taste better and more refreshing, in addition to dulling some of the sharper edges. (Our taste buds can't register the extremes of flavor in colder drinks as they can in warmer ones.)

Ice also serves to dilute the drink, softening the "fire" of the alcohol and helping the various flavors come together, while also increasing the volume of the drink.

So what kind of ice should you use? The colder and fresher, the better. Ice made in your freezer should be avoided if possible — it tends to pick up noxious odors and flavors from the leftovers you stuck in the back and forgot about three years ago. So unless you have a standalone icemaker, you probably need to buy it from the store. Once you do, keep it as cold as possible. Crank up that thermostat on your freezer until Frosty the Snowman could call it home.

Once you've got your cold, fresh ice, don't be afraid to use it. If you're building a highball, fill the glass to the top with ice. If you're mixing a cocktail, load the shaker up with cubes and shake it like you're straddling the San Andreas Fault. If you're stirring it (as with a Martini or Manhattan, which should usually be stirred), stir the drink for a good thirty seconds.

Making a quality cocktail requires using quality ingredients. Don't spoil that expensive liquor you paid so much money for by using crummy ice. Your palate will thank you.