Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Stretton's London Dry Gin

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.


Tuesday was a mostly great Valentine's Day because I had low expectations and a partner who was thoughtful enough to suggest dinner at the beer and hamburger place by her office. People of Boston and beef-eating passers-through, have you been to Tasty Burger in Kenmore Square? The official Serious Eats review was mixed and I recognize some of the drawbacks, but they have pitchers of Notch Session Pils (for $20, which is a bit high for a hamburger stand) and really good onion rings.

Things got even more perfect when Emily made the surprise announcement that we would each be ordering our own individual meal! This almost never happens. I recently drew the line at splitting soup, but other than that I've long since accepted that I will be enjoying my restaurant meals on an every-other-bite basis for the foreseeable future. Emily has serious food issues, by which I mean that she doesn't like to eat twice as much as necessary. She just eats until she's full, and then she stops. Even if there's more food. Let's say she's in a restaurant that has 1,000 hamburgers out back. She will eat half of one, and then pause to consider if perhaps she'd like another third of one or maybe more French fries; she is a crazy robot. I don't want to hog all the hamburgers. It's not like I order 13 of them at a time. But I think they can spare me two, or one double at least. She rarely sees it my way.

I think she was just in a good and giving mood because she was still high on all of your nice comments on her guest column that day. Emily works in a hospital, and I suspect that deep down inside she thinks doctors are just as important as cheap booze reviewers. To each her own, I guess, and I don't begrudge her that weird stance. But I wasn't sure she'd want to write the guest column when Maggie proposed it four drinks into a recent Sunday afternoon at Neff's place, because she's not very blowhardy, which is one of the crucial requirements of this trade.

But write it she did and love it you did, and remember what else you did? You all made fun of my serial killer eyes. I've always thought of myself as a very generic looking whiteboy, and I have small doses of usual physical hang-ups and insecurities but nothing too severe, even though it's not perfect for my self-esteem to be engaged to a pretty young woman who eats her burgers a half at a time and therefore weighs less than my monthly Corn Nut intake.

So what this all means is that I ordered a double cheeseburger, which I then followed up with a couple of desserts at a couple of bars and Stouffer's French Bread Pizza on the couch. I did this because I am now free to get as fat as I wish, since the serial killer eyes will distract people from the gut. I relish the opportunity—nay, the challenge—of gaining 50 pounds before our wedding in the fall. I'm telling Em I'm doing it because if my face gets fat enough it will make my eyes seem kinda squinty and therefore less terrifying, but really I'm just doing it because cheeseburgers rule and screw you guys.

Oh yeah, the wedding. I thought we had the time and place details pretty well settled, but it turns out we're back to square one for some damn reason oh who cares. So now I'm thinking about various hotel type places, which got me to thinking of my favorite hotel bar: the Northampton Hotel in the very strange little city of Northampton, Massachusetts.

Emily spent the last couple of years at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, a couple towns over, and I manned the couch for her final nine months. Amherst is cool but not really our natural habitat, and while Northampton isn't either, it's a little bigger and has a couple more things to do, so we'd ride our bikes there on Saturday afternoons to crawl around the bars and hamburger places, and our first stop was always for a gin and tonic at the Northampton Hotel. We probably drank Bombay Sapphire or maybe Tanqueray, something like that, and it made us feel regal and dignified and pleasantly predrunk.

Gin isn't my favorite spirit because I don't have a lot of good ideas for what to do with it other than tonic it, but a nice G and T on a hot or cold day always makes me feel like a million bucks, so a couple weeks ago I go a bottle of Stretton's London Dry and this afternoon I drank half of it.

This strange and agreeable gin comes from the two unlikely sources of South Africa and sugar cane. It's 86 proof and $14/bottle and it tastes a little bit like celery salt. It's smoother and I guess I'll admit blander than a lot of gins, so it's nice in a simple preparation but isn't qualified to do a lot of heavy lifting. It won't change your life, but who says you need to change? Get a bottle and see what happens.