Welcome to Pick Your Poison, wherein the world’s best bartenders help stock your bar, one spirit at a time.
Here's the thing about gin: When it’s great, it’s the best spirit in the world. And when it’s bad, it’s really terrible.
Add to that maxim the near infinite varieties (London Dry, Plymouth, Navy Strength, etc.), and you’re suddenly faced with the botanical paradox of choice ... when all you want is a damn G&T for the warmer months ahead.
But for some bartenders, gin’s broad range can be a blessing.
“To me, gin is both the most versatile and the most varied spirit,” says Danny Shapiro, partner and bar director at the gin-focused Chicago bar Scofflaw (and, as our Chicago editor notes, a “very skilled dude”). “It's great in cocktails, by itself, on the rocks or in a punch. There are so many different types out there and it's fun to encounter the nuances of each product. You never know the exact end profile each distiller had in mind, but no two are the same.”
Photo: Nick Murway
While you probably don’t have time to sort through all of gin’s nuances, we can at least provide a road map to a great gin-based cocktail. Herein, Shapiro’s five gin picks, in his own words:
Cotswolds Dry Gin
It’s one of my go-tos for a martini. It brings a cool floral element with a lavender finish. BUY IT HERE
North Shore Distiller's Gin No. 6
One of the loveliest gins out there. It's really complex, kind of lemony and citrus forward, but also bolstered by good spice. It's smooth and balanced and made in a pot still affectionately — and appropriately — named Ethel. BUY IT HERE
Bluecoat American Dry Gin
The first Philly gin I ever tasted. It carries a distinct orange note. This makes it a solid choice for dialing up any cocktail that contain a citrus component. BUY IT HERE
Even if Ford’s wasn’t created by our good friend Simon Ford, we'd still frequently reach for it behind our bar. It's a true workhorse gin — surprisingly dynamic and delicious in a wide range of cocktails. BUY IT HERE
The Botanist Islay Dry Gin
The Botanist uses a bunch of botanicals (20+) found on the island of Islay. It's a really pretty, complex gin. Each time I taste it, I taste something new. Sometimes it has a tropical note on my palate, other times it's more austere and herbal. It's a good one to contemplate if you're into that sort of thing. BUY IT HERE