Putting the "In" in "Gin"

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke

Weekly insight into the world of drinks with Paul Clarke from the Cocktail Chronicles and Imbibe magazine.

In case you've somehow missed all media coverage of drink trends in recent years, let me fill you in on something: gin is in. In today's Los Angeles Times, staff writer Betty Hallock notes the continuing fondness for the juniper spirit among bartenders nationwide.

For decades, starting in the 1950s, it looked like gin was on the ropes, its once-strong grip on the culture of mixology eclipsed by the more approachable vodka. But with the current cocktail renaissance, gin is again in vogue. A quick glance at the shelves of your liquor store could tell you this much: new brands and bottlings of premium and artisan gins are continuing to push the tired cases of Seagram's and Gordon's aside.

But while the hype about gin being the next vodka may be overstated, there's no doubting that creative bartenders are finding a lot to love with this classic spirit. Hallock mentions one of the nation's most prominent gin cheerleaders, Audrey Saunders of Pegu Club in New York; Saunders' bar is named after a venerable gin cocktail, and her own creations include modern classics such as the Gin Gin Mule, made with fresh mint and house-made ginger beer. And as today's gins begin to explore new directions in flavor and balance, bartenders are likewise introducing fresh herbs and off-the-beaten-path mixers into gin cocktails, such as the self-explanatory Cucumber, Gin and Sherry Twist at BLT Steak on Sunset Boulevard, or Akasha Restaurant's Emerald City, which mixes gin with lime juice and Thai basil-infused simple syrup.

There'll always be a place at the bar for the classic gin martini or a tall, sparkling gin and tonic, but the options are wide open. What's your favorite gin drink? And have you had anything new that's been especially memorable?