Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Booth'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.


After mostly tuning out the first 93 months of the presidential election campaign, I've been paying a bit of attention since the conventions. So far I've deduced that both candidates are very clever and impeccably groomed and also that, for all their differences, they have one big thing in common with each other and with every other nationally prominent politician: An unshakeable belief that every thought that pops into their heads is pure genius.

I don't mean that dismissively or even negatively. I'm okay with politicians being crazy narcissists. I cringe whenever the discussion veers to speculation over which one seems like more of a "regular guy" or which one would be more fun to have a beer with. Neither! Neither one would be any fun at all to have a beer with. If forced to choose, I guess I'd pick Romney, because he doesn't drink, so good, more beer for me. Other than that, I think the experience would be the same either way. It would suck.

But like I said, that's fine with me. I want my president to be unapproachable. I don't want him to be "in touch" with dirtbags like you guys. I just want him to preside. And that probably takes a lot of confidence and even arrogance. What's generally an obnoxious trait makes perfect sense for these fellows. Romney and Obama are both handsome, successful men with nice families and big houses. What's to be humble about? I mean, the one marketed as the more regular and less wealthy has a bowling alley in his basement. These are not common folk, nor should they be.

I never considered a career in politics, which is a good thing since I'm unqualified by nearly every conceivable measure, but I bet I could have come through on the self-importance if all the other stuff had lined up. I refer to myself by the third person from time to time, and I talk about my wedding for the first 700 words of most liquor reviews. But I just never made enough of myself to become a truly top-notch narcissist, which is why I don't quite believe that my afternoon tea-drinking is influencing the weather. Quite. Yet.

In early June I started replacing my afternoon coffee with an afternoon nap, which worked great until I ran out of money and couldn't find a financial visionary bold enough to invest in my nap-taking. So a couple of weeks ago I grudgingly accepted that it was time to implement a post-lunch recaffeination regimen, and I decided to try tea. I've never been a big tea guy, but I like the idea of drinking it all day long without falling asleep or getting overly jittery. I think of tea as a kind of session coffee, and it's served me well in that capacity. But perpetual tea-taking feels like an awfully British affectation, which is why I can't help but notice that it has rained every single day since I began this experiment.

If I'm going to bring about England's most famous liquid by drinking its second, then I might as well indulge in the third. I haven't had a bottle of English gin in the house for months, and I suppose I still don't if you're one of those sticklers who maintains that Plainfield, Illinois, is technically outside of England, but geographical quibbles aside, I am now the proud owner of a bottle of Booth's London Dry Gin. The label says this 90-proof cheapie ($13 per 750 mL) is made in Illinois under the supervision of Booth's Distilleries of London. That'll do.

This is fantastic booze for the money. It opens with the standard onslaught of juniper, with other traditional herbs and spices showing up later—predominantly coriander and lemon peel, plus a small dose of mint. If you're looking for a specific flavor profile, then by all means pay more for a Hendrick's or an Aviation (two of my favorite off-beat gins) or what have you, but if you're in the market for a classic "-and tonic" London dry, I'm not sure you can beat Booth's combination of purity and price.