Gin 101 with Kai Wilson
26 May 2020
Under COVID-19, we’re becoming home chefs, film critics and mixologists. Luckily, we recently spoke to someone who’s well-equipped to help sharpen your skills in that last category — Kai Wilson, Restaurant Manager and Beverage Baron at Mercat a la Planxa. Last we spoke with Wilson, he shared his knowledge on all things tequila, and this time we’re back for more to learn about Gin 101.
What is Gin?
Invented in the late 16th century and brought on military campaigns as medicine, Wilson tells us, “Gin is basically an early example of flavored vodka.” Made through distillation or steeping processes, “a variety of botanicals, like herbs, spices, citrus and roots are infused into a high proof liquor, and the ingredients may vary, but juniper must be present in order to be called gin.”
Gin isn’t the stodgy old drink that many still perceive it to be. Rather, the flavors can vary widely from bright and citrus-forward to heavily botanical. “Like an aperitif,” says Wilson, “it can really brighten up and cleanse your palette at the start of a meal.”
Mixing Gin at Home
Of course we couldn’t talk about all things gin without sharing the best ways to mix gin drinks at home. “My personal favorite cocktail,” Wilson shares, “particularly for the summertime, is the Gin Rickey. The simple recipe helps show off the gin flavors.” With gin and half a lime, he instructs, juice the lime into the glass and drop the rind in with it, then fill the rest with your favorite mineral or soda water. “Classic, and always refreshing — I’m partial to using Hendrick’s for this one.”
“For those who like more complexity,” Wilson says, “another favorite of mine is the Pegu Club.” Named after a British Officer’s Club in Burma more than a century ago, the cocktail uses 2 ounces of preferred gin (Wilson recommends a citrusy Modern Dry), ¾ ounce of Orange Curacao (or Triple Sec), ½ ounce of lime juice and a dash each of orange bitters and Angostura bitters.
Though typically drank as an aperitif, during a meal, or paired well with olives or a tantalizing charcuterie plate, we had to ask whether gin can’t go well with dessert, too. “I’d never thought about it,” admits Kai, “but it could go great with a green tea ice cream or even a good key lime pie.” Food for thought…
With so many types of gin to experiment with, from London Dry Gin to Old Tom Gin to Modern Dry Gins, and endless cocktails and pairings, there’s no time like the present to start experimenting with your new gin knowledge.