Gin Up, Sailor

By The Editors
September 9, 2013 9:00 am

Gin, like a mustachioed Brit in Victorian fighting stance, is a pop in the mouth.

More flavorful than the bland cypher of vodka. The gentleman’s bridge to the piney outdoors.

Especially of late, as micro-distilleries try their hand at juniper and nostalgic barmen get back to gin’s roots: slings, gimlets – even yardarms.

Nowhere is this more true than the Mandarin Oriental’s gin bar, where the recent introduction of London’s Sipsmith (copper-stilled, clean, delicious) gives you good reason to stop in.

This is a perfect date spot. Bonus: upstairs awaits the finest sensual massage service you could ask for.

So here’s your guide to a finer pour. Don’t hesitate to solicit the wisdom of veteran barman David Rowe if questions linger.

Entry Level

Gin newbie? Wet your toes with Spencerfield’s small-batch Edinburgh Gin. The pine is muted, if dressed up with a hint of orange and warm on the tongue. It’ll take to tonic like a champ, though it’s no slouch in the sipping department, either.


For a local, laid-back taste: Bummer & Lazarus. Setting aside the 19th-century mutts for which it was named, Raff’s Treasure Island distillery has built an aromatic, easy-drinking gin with a touch of anise and candied fire to round out the sipping experience.

Deeper Exploration

In the balanced by excess department, Alameda’s St. George and their complex Botanivore. With 19 botanicals including bergamot (i.e., easy-going citrus), cilantro, fennel and juniper, the result is all signal, no noise. Rich gin finish with a straight-up heavenly aroma.

Exclusive to the Mandarin (in all of North America, in fact): Sipsmith, an indie London Dry. Your gin lesson: London Dry means juniper rides shotgun. Copper-stilled, this is an even, clean, pine-driven spirit, and it’s delicious.


Master Course

Did your grandpa drink gin? He wished he was drinking Cadenhead’s Old Raj. It’s literally every bit of the London Dry style turned up to 11. Toss some quinine in the mix and you’re outfitted for a cobra fight, Kipling-style.


Love gin and hate pine? Few’s American is the gin for you. Loud citrus notes over hushed juniper while vanilla bean thrums a backbeat in your nostrils. Fine a cocktail as this might make, we advise against. Make it neat. Repeat.



If you’ve tried it all and need a little more, give Old Word Distillery’s oak-barrelled Rusty Blade a shot. As peppery as their standard Blade, but with a golden color and an autumn warmth that feels homey for both the nostalgic and the Whiskey Man. It’s the last ditch weapon in gin’s arsenal to make you a true believer.


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