Gin Up with the Latest Craft Distilling Trends

Must-try methods for enlivening the bar

Move over, vodka. A “ginaissance” is upon us. Dutch courage is back and trading its pine-forward aroma for a smoother blend of floral botanicals and citrus.

Millennials make up the majority of regular consumers, and if they’re buying in, there’s likely a craft movement close behind. Craft distilling is, in fact, the gin category hero. While larger brands like Seagram’s, Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire are posting case sale losses, smaller producers are building momentum. Gin represented 23 percent of global craft spirit launches in 2015, up from 9 percent in 2011, according to market research company Mintel. “For craft producers, gin has the advantage of taking days rather than years to produce, unlike whiskey,” says Jonny Forsyth, global drinks analyst at Mintel. “As startups seek to balance production of more nuanced spirits with the commercial realities, gin is an appealing choice.”

Operators are drinking the juice, too. Gin-centric cocktail lounges and bars are popping up around the country, extending customers’ options far beyond the standard Martinez, gimlet or Negroni. At Midnight Rambler, a craft cocktail salon in Dallas, drinks feature unique flavor combinations, such as the Savory Hunter, which pairs lemongrass and makrut leaf gin with lime, coconut, cilantro and Thai chilies. In addition to an extensive cocktail list, Whitechapel in San Francisco offers gin punches and bowls—a great way to serve a group in one shot. The bar’s selection nods at seasonality and highlights the gin’s unlimited pairing options. The orange fennel punch, for example, blends Death’s Door gin, Galliano, Italian vermouth, fennel juice, lime and orange marmalade.

To get in on the gin action, follow these tips from Erik Holzherr. He’s the gintender and owner of Wisdom in Washington, D.C., which touts the largest gin selection in the metro D.C. area.

Do Your Homework
Read about different styles of gin and taste each. This knowledge comes in handy when a customer says he doesn’t want a drink that feels like getting smacked in the mouth with a pine branch.

Cover Your Bases
A well-curated gin collection should include a classic London Dry, delicate floral, aged, Old Tom and navy strength gin.

Inspect the Goods
Not all gins are distilled equally. Don’t get suckered into something because of its label. Have a plan, and make sure the product warrants the cost.

Pair the Right Gin with Each Drink
Don’t let a strong bitter crush the flavor of an Old Tom cocktail. Take flavor pairings to heart, and let the botanicals shine through, accentuated by the right supporting ingredients.

Ditch the Crappy Tonic
Don’t ruin a high-quality spirit with bad tonic. You’re halfway there—break out the good stuff or make your own.

Get Them Coming Back for More
A gin club or tasting program allows customers to expand their palate. Consider offering a discount on gin cocktails for program members or reward frequent purchases with prizes or exclusive tastings. It’ll give customers a reason to return, increase sales and build loyalty.

Serve Responsibly
Know the alcohol content of each gin poured, as well as each serving size. Consider recommending the high proof drinks before—and not after—two martinis.

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