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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A is for Aviation

Lindbergh, landing in Paris - 1927

"Where am I?"--Lindbergh, on arrival in Paris...

I have a theorem about Aviation American Gin; it is actually based on a mnemonic, like that one that tells you that places with "e's" in their names (i.e., Ireland, America) generally include the letter "e" in the way they spell whiskey, and countries without "e's" in their names (Canada, Scotland) generally don't.

My two-pronged theorem is this:

If you have in mind a gin cocktail beginning with the letter A, you might do well to enlist the sturdy services of Aviation American Gin.  And if you have in shelf a bottle of Aviation American Gin, you can do well by using it in many gin cocktails that begin with the letter A.

viation American Gin is moderately dry; as for me, that is the way I like gin things.  It is moderately tasting of juniper, also the way I like gin things. But it presents a special bouquet, I believe, especially because of the faint scent of lavender, a scent I fancy as I like Provence and thus have planted lots of lavender in my my backyard. Lavender, in fact, is such a natural compliment to lemon—which is what I like in martinis, a lemon peel twist and little else—that I am surprised more popular gin makers don't include this herb more routinely. But let me tell you how I got here, to the point at which Aviation American Gin might work for me in many circumstances.

For a very long time, perhaps since the time of the nascent Ford Administration, I drank Beefeater Gin when I drank gin, which turned out to be vurrry often. Years aggregated into decades.  In 1997—around the time of the Lewinsky Administration—and likely because I was visiting Churchill's six-volume memoir—I mixed in some Plymouth Gin, which was increasingly popping up as a premium call behind local bars I knew at the time.  If a barkeep stocked Plymouth, I'd do Plymouth; otherwise, I stuck to the Beefeater.

But it was only around the middle of the Cheney Administration that I really began to understand gin—and, along with that spiritual awakening, understand what I didn't like about the omnipresent premium of the past decade, Bombay Sapphire.  (Ted Haigh, who now that I think of it owes me a drink, helped me along the way).  I suppose it was also running a blog called "Martini Republic," the elegantly sociopath blog that was the forerunner to this one, that drew me into a lot more information about gin—and certainly to Ted.

This it was in a revelation one afternoon in late 2004 at that nearby, notable, nonstop Polynesian delight Tiki Ti (mercifully the most sanguine bomber bar I know is within walking distance for me) that I really came to understand what I was liking when I was liking Beefeater and Plymouth—and and also understanding that maybe it could even be done even better.

I saw gin in that revelatory moment as existing for me mostly along two distinct axes.  One was the dry-sweet axis and the other was the high-juniper/low-juniper axis.  There are other botanicals in gin but it's the juniper itself I like most among the botanicals—and juniper is the essential gin botanical, of course.  I recognized that I liked moderately dry gins and moderately present juniper.  Probably I am, on an imaginary gin scale, 60% to 65% towards high juniper.

his is a big step in appraising gins.  Because after you understand this about...well, about yourself...you can start to refine.  You either like or you don't like sweet (I don't--other drinks do sweet better, for me).  You either like or you don't like juniper (I do, a little more than a little).  Do you like orange? (Me: yes, but not dominant).  Do you like licorice? (Me again: yes, but not in gin). Do you like it hot, over 86 proof? (Me: it can be done, but if the proof is 90 or higher, the alcohol is the first thing I taste).

Beefeater as it happens has almost nearly the same spice footprint as Sapphire, but Sapphire is a lot sweeter.  For instance.

[And for the illustrious record, among gins I've sampled in the past year, Broker's, which is far hotter, has less of a spice footprint (and you would certainly expect that of a 94 proof gin), and Junipero, which has a very admirable spice footprint for 98.6 proof, still is not really in the same taste category either, as you expect more taste of a lower proof.  Those gins are meant to perform a different kind of feat: they are engineered to be sipping gins that also get away with murder on the alcohol content.]

Lavender - a step in the right direction
Now you know about a tenth of what I know about this.  I'm not going to ditch all my advantages just yet because I do want to get around to rapping about Aviation American Gin--and I wanted to be sure you'd understand my feelings.

In truth, it is hard to disappoint me with gin if the gin is not overly sweet.  But Aviation to me also does lemon very well, precisely because lavender does lemon so very well, and you can taste lavender if your buds really focus.  Lay some lemon yellow next to some lavender and see how well this works, even in the realm of color—and as nearly all top-drawer chefs know, things that work well in color combos often work well in other olfactory ways.  But there is also a hint of a whiff of orange in Aviation, and to me, therefore once more, it does the vastly underestimated fancy of orange-gin collaborations very well too.

Not surprising, because there is indeed a little bit of tiki in Aviation.  Marrying both Portland and Seattle as well as mixologist with maker of spirit, Ryan Magarian and Portland's House Spirits Distilling came up with the idea of blending not only talents but styles, and were thinking something along the line of establishing a kind of "regional" (Pacific Northwest) style of gin in 2006 at a fortuitous meeting.  They obviously went botanical-batty, but the result is something clean and yet chivalrous. It was a very good marriage.

ow look at this.  As it happens, some of my favorite cocktails that depend on lemon and orange begin with the letter A.  So we are working towards a decent mnemonic here.

The Abbey cocktail has long been a favorite of mine and as soon as I discovered the faint nod to orange in the first martini, I fixed an Aviation Abbey.

Predictably, as it goes so well with lemon but also with orange, it does exceptionally well with the cocktail that famously includes both, The Astor.

And sure, the Aviation Cocktail—a drink originally made with crème de violette—and a drink that should be still made with the rarefied stuff—for this, Aviation American Gin is predictably perfect.  Really, you owe it to yourself to try at least one of these before closing time.

So there's my broader theorem again for you: if you have in mind a gin cocktail beginning with the letter A, you might do well to enlist the sturdy services of Aviation American Gin.  And if you have in shelf a bottle of Aviation American Gin, you can do well by using it in many gin cocktails that begin with the letter A.