Nicknamed everything from Blue Ruin to Madame Geneva to Mother’s Milk, gin’s roots date back to 13th-century Flanders, and it’s one of the world’s most storied spirits. And today, with once-forgotten styles being resurrected and more bottles finding their way to market than ever before, if ever there was a time for gin to shine bright in the spirits spotlight it’s now. But how well do you know this dynamic distillate? Take our spirited gin quiz and find out.
1. Which of the following is not a style of gin:
A: London dry
B: Old Tom
2. Considered one of the oldest styles of gin, this offering uses a malt spirit base (similar to whiskey) and dates back to 13th-century Europe:
A: Old Tom
D: London dry
3. This style of gin is often considered the missing link between London dry and Dutch genever:
A: Old Tom
B: American dry
D: None of the above
4. Old Tom gin got its name from:
A: A black cat
B: A distillery employee
C: A cobblestone street in London
D: It’s a mystery
5. As a requirement, juniper must be the main flavoring in order for a spirit to be classified as gin:
C: May we please just enjoy a gin cocktail now?
6. What is bathtub gin?
A. Gin that has a soapy flavor profile
B. Homemade gin, produced illegally
C. Gin popularized in the city of Bath
7. Is the classic Martini made with gin or vodka?
1: D. Trick question! If your initial response was C, nice try, but Plymouth is not only a brand name, but also its own style of gin. Named for its only place of production—Plymouth, England—this gin is similar to the juniper-assertive London Dry style but a bit earthier on the palate. Get a taste for it in this refreshing Collins. If you answered D, we’re impressed! While sloe gin is made on a gin base, it’s actually classified as a liqueur since it’s sweetened and flavored with the tiny purplish sloe fruit from the blackthorn bush. Try it in the classic Sloe Gin Fizz.
2: B. French for juniper, genever is rich and malty, distilled from a mix of rye, corn, wheat and barley. And while juniper is the predominant botanical flavoring, distillers have been known to use everything from lemon to licorice root in their formulas. Fans like to sip it solo chilled, and we really like how its malty-sweet presence asserts itself in the Viering cocktail.
3: A. Considered a long-lost cousin to malty genevers and über-assertive London drys, Old Tom gin bridges the gap between the two styles with a soft and slightly sweet profile that varies from producer to producer. The gin of choice for 19th-century bartenders, Old Tom fell from favor during Prohibition but has recently been experiencing a worldwide revival. To learn more about how this style is staging its comeback, check out our September/October 2012 issue, and get a taste for yourself in the Tom Terrific cocktail.
4: D. What’s in a name? When it comes to Old Tom gin we may never know. Some tales involve a sign depicting the image of a black cat (this signaled a clandestine spot to sip bootleg gin), other legends put its name simply with an old English distillery employee. Whatever the origin, the one thing that won’t come into question is the nuance it adds to drinks like the Ford and the Lowcountry cocktails.
5: B. Oh, the bountiful botanicals found in a bottle of gin! While juniper is the primary flavoring for the more conventional styles, some distillers choose to infuse an abundance of flavors into each batch. London drys tend to stick closest to a juniper-rich profile, whereas more modern offerings introduce a whole host of flavors, such as rose petals, peppercorns, teas and roots.
6: B. Despite the name, bathtub gin wasn’t always made in a bathtub, but it was made at home illegally, often in precarious conditions. The term came out of Prohibition, when people would make spirits improperly at home using poor-quality ingredients, which unfortunately resulted in a number of deaths at the time.
7: A. It’s the never-ending conflict—the gin vs vodka Martini drinkers. But despite what 007 orders, a proper Martini should be made with gin—and stirred, not shaken (sorry, Bond). The Martini’s early recipe combined two parts gin, one part dry vermouth and a dash of orange bitters, but that formula has been tweaked over the years to include less vermouth for those who prefer a dry Martini. Now go stir one up yourself!
6-7 correct: Congrats—you’re a gin wiz! Pat yourself on the back, or better yet, mix up your favorite gin cocktail and celebrate your impressive spirits know-how.
4-5 correct: Nice work—your gin education is coming along swimmingly. You’re somewhat acquainted with the various styles, but we think you could still stand to take another sip of two to hone your knowledge. Prime your gin-drinking palate with either a Poet’s Dream or the Income Tax cocktail.
0-3 correct: You get an A for effort, but you still need a little schooling in gin. As homework, we suggest mixing up a few classic gin cocktails like the Martini, Negroni and the Corpse Reviver #2, and checking out “Ginning Things Up” from our September/October 2009 issue as well as “The Cat’s Meow” from our September/October 2012 issue.