I adore gin. I am not overly fond of delicate gins, however. You can keep your Bombay Saphires and your Tanqueray Tens. I like my gin strong, botanical, and — dare I say it — harsh. I have a secret. I’m a sucker for good bad gin. I don’t mean bottom shelf dive bar well gins mind you: I’m talking about Seagram’s, Gordon’s, Gilbey’s. I do love Aviation and Boodles and Plymouth, but lately the wallet dictates a more modest investment. An aside: Notice how premium gins seem to drop the apostrophe before their final ‘s’? “Apostrophe s? How common.”
So, what’s a mixologist to do? Luckily a good hearty gin is a perfect component of vintage gin cocktails. It’s the harsh nature of the spirit (legal and illegal) that likely led to the numerous gin cocktails in the first place. At least that’s the common folk history I hear bandied about.
Here’s my lowbrow highbrow cocktail, The Madagascar Gin Sour. You could also call it a Vanilla Lemon Gimlet, which would be more descriptive. The lovely wife likes the combination of lemon and vanilla and I happened to have a bunch of vanilla syrup about for Tiki Drinks. I thought I’d try it as the sweet component of a sour mix for a gimlet-like cocktail. I didn’t expect it to balance so well on the first try. It’s gorgeous (if I do say so myself, and I do):
Madgascar Gin Sour
2 oz Good Bad Gin
½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
½ oz Vanilla Syrup*
2 dashes Fees Brothers Lemon Bitters
Lemon peel garnish
Dissolve syrup in lemon juice in a mixing glass. Add 3 oz ice, gin, bitters and stir to mix. Pour into small cocktail glass, express lemon oil on drink and drop peel in the glass.
Be sure to hit up Oh Gosh! to see everyone else’s submission and make yourself a nice cocktail when you get home from work on Monday. Goodness knows you deserve it.
We keep vanilla sugar for baking. It’s easy – just drop a few spent vanilla pods into a container and fill with sugar. In two weeks time, the sugar will be infused with vanilla. You can replace the vanilla extract in your favourite baking recipe with the vanilla sugar. The longer it sits, the better it gets. Whenever you remove some sugar, add the same about of regular sugar to the container and you can keep it going for up to 2 years or so.
Make simple syrup out of this vanilla sugar (I do 2:1 sugar:water, bring softly and slowly to a boil. Remove from heat as soon as the mixture clears — be careful as the sugar will caramelize quickly) and viola: vanilla syrup.