My dad's a gin and tonic guy. I can't remember ever seeing him sip Scotch or bourbon, but I remember stealing a taste of the juniper-laced dregs clinging to the ice cubes in his glass on the same family vacation when I learned to ride a bike. (Ok, it was the second time I learned to ride a bike, after a brief period of forgetting, but that's a story for another day.) For many, many years, Dad stuck to Tanqueray gin and Canada Dry tonic—but recently he's been open to a bit more exploration, giving Fever Tree tonic and a few other gins a chance. He's been really into Organic Nation gin lately, but for Father's Day this year, I'd like to introduce him to Blue Gin, a spirit I discovered on a recent trip to Austria.*
My plan for the Austrian journey was to taste a ton of wine—peppery Gruner Veltliner, sparkling-fresh Riesling, floral, fragrant Gelber Muskateller—and to see where the wines imported by Terry Theise are grown. (More on all that later, I promise.) But I didn't know there'd be harder stuff involved. And I had no idea how much I'd like it.
You don't see a ton of gin coming to the US from Austria, but Hans Reisetbauer is a distiller worth paying attention to. His focus is schnapps—incredibly flavorful fruit spirits with no sugar added. There's a raspberry eau de vie that takes 35 kilos of wild raspberries to make one liter, and a crazy-delicious Pear Williams made from 3 different harvests of pears in order to capture the flavors of fresh, crisp fruit, ripe and juicy fruit, and lush, super-ripe fruit. Perhaps the best of the bunch is an intense ginger eau de vie that manages to burst with fresh, spicy Thai ginger flavor. It knocks any ginger liqueur you've tried out of the water, though it would be a shame to dilute it in cocktails. But my dad would have to work up to those, since he's not a big schnapps guy. The gin, though, he'd like immediately.
Reisetbauer makes Blue Gin with whole botanicals—27 in all, including Austrian hops, cardamom, almonds, white and black pepper, clove, cinnamon, chamomile, orange peel, and fresh juniper from Macedonia. Though many gins are either very floral or aggressively piney, Blue Gin is marked by smooth, rich texture and multifaceted flavor, with the juniper gentle and well-integrated, and a bright citrusy spice from the orange peel and hops. There aren't many gins that are delicious to drink straight—and even at room temperature—but Blue Gin is. If you must add tonic, taste as you go...it doesn't need much.
Do you drink what your dad drinks? Are you getting him a special bottle for Father's Day?
*Disclosure: I recently toured Austria with Blue Gin importer Michael Skurnik Wines. Turns out it's not all Gruner Veltliner over there!