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Cookbook Review: <i>Gin: The Manual</i> by Dave Broom

New cocktails and new brands appearing from boutique firms in London, Brooklyn, Upstate New York, Scotland, France, Germany, Spain, and many other spiritual by-ways. Gin has been rediscovered. The days of the bathtub are long gone.
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Dave Broom is a spirits guru and a world-class expert on whiskey. He has authored The World Atlas of Whiskey and last year produced a very clever book Whiskey: The Manual, manifestly THE tour book to the understanding, buying and enjoying whiskey.

Dave has extended his spirits portfolio with the brand new Gin: The Manual. Like the earlier manual, this is a superior guide to everything gin: history, styles, best brands from around the world, and, of course, de lux cocktail recipes.

The core of this book is a survey of superior 120 gins from all corners of the world. There is a beginning section naturally for the British brands for it was around London that gin was perfected. Today, gin is in. New cocktails and new brands appearing from boutique firms in London, Brooklyn, Upstate New York, Scotland, France, Germany, Spain, and many other spiritual by-ways. Gin has been rediscovered. The days of the bathtub are long gone.

The "manual" part of this book comes from the intensely packed descriptions of a spectrum of superior gin brands. A typical page is shown at the bottom of this post. The description announces Botanicals: what are the flavorings used in the creation of this gin. Literally hundreds of flavors are used around the world and, yes, most gins do contain some juniper berries. Beyond the juniper, gins typically have handful of other ingredients to generate their own particular flavor and aroma profiles. Noet's Silver Dry Gin from The Netherlands is typical: juniper plus citrus peels, orris root, liquorice root, white peach, Turkish rose, and raspberry.

But other gins can rival one of those aperitifs from a monastery. Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin from Germany has juniper and 40 others elements, like bee balm, honeysuckle, acacia, rose hips, and dog rose. Dog rose? That is a very dainty purple climbing wild rose native to Europe.

After introducing the botanicals, Dave provides a detailed one paragraph introduction and description to each gin. Here you will learn the facts -- who, why, where, and how -- behind this particular bottle. Very importantly, Dave has tasted each gin so you will find here is very educated opinion of its flavor and inherent strength. That Noet's Silver Dry Gin has a perfume nose, one that reminded Dave of the perfume of his teenage daughter [and the daughter agreed].

So, if you were in a liquor store, The Manual in hand, you could pick up a bottle and, if it is one Dave has surveyed, find what goes in it and how it is made. But how would you use it? That's the ultimate benefit of the very extensive research Dave has systematically applied.

The bottom of each review has a section called the Flavour Camp [he's British so flavour does come with a "u"]. Dave offers reviews and guidance for using this gin in four iconic gin beverages:

  • The G&T
  • With Sicilian Lemonade
  • Negroni [that combo of three liqueurs: gin, vermouth, and Campari]
  • Martini

Dave tells you if -- because not all gins work for every cocktail -- the gin should be used in each beverage and gives a rating for the quality of the final cocktail. The details grows here. There are recommendations for how to mix the cocktail, say, light or heavy on the vermouth. For the Negroni, which is this seemingly combustible combination of liqueurs that may conflict at times, Dave has tested out four different ratios of the three liqueurs and suggests the precise proportions that generate the best beverage experience.

I have never seen this detail before in a beverage book. It is rocket science impressive. And I intend to celebrate with a G&T. First though, I have to push aside my Hendricks and Tanqueray and find some Sipsmith V.J.O.P. which, in his expert opinion, give you the very best G&T on the planet.

Ah, there are other gin drinks beside that G&T. And the back of the book provides thirty pages of recipes for a variety of delights, some old and some new. Dave calls this BV and AV, for Before Vodka and After Vodka. A hundred years ago, we drank gin, not vodka, and we made our cocktails with gin, not vodka. Life, styles and cocktails change. We had the Cold War and the onrush of vodka which was used for new drinks with new profiles. Now, with resurgence of gin worldwide, the classic cocktail formulations are back with us. And mixologists are having a field day experimenting with all the new brands and flavors. Who knows, you may have already sipped some dog rose in an upscale bar.

No "manual" would be complete without some history and navigation. The book opens with fifty pages devoted to gin history, production, mixers that you might use, and the half dozen classic recipes you need --just in case you don't make it to the back of the book.

On that iconic scale of 1 to 10, Gin: The Manual is an 11 or 12. You could not write a more sophisticated book or pack more detail onto each page. It's an absorbing book, one that I will be carrying along every time I visit my liquor store. You'll want your own copy of this traveling and drinking companion, too.

I was proofreading this review and discovered I've done it again: used liquor in some places and liqueur in others. I have not sinned by mixing the works. The term "liquor" refers to an alcoholic liquid made via distillation. And you do buy them in liquor stores. A "liqueur" is a liquor that is mixed with herbs and spices, to add flavor or sweetness.

Gin is a liqueur and Gin: The Manual will surely add flavor and sweetness to your drinking experiences.