“When I read about the devils of drinking, I gave up reading” – Henry Youngman
The Curious Bartender’s Gin Palace
This is the latest in the Curious Bartender series of books by Tristan Stephenson. The Curious Bartender and The Curious Bartender: An Odyssey of Malt, Bourbon & Rye Whiskies have both received critical acclaim.
Stephenson has also written The Curious Barista’s Guide to Coffee; he can call himself a drinks expert, having been an award-winning bar owner, bartender, barista, chef, journalist and co-founder of Fluid Movement, a global drinks consultancy company.
In 2009 he was ranked 3rd in the UK Barista championships, was UK bartender of the year in 2012 and included in the London Evening Standard’s top 100 most influential Londoners. His Worship Street Whistling Shop has been ranking in the ‘World’s Fifty Best Bars’ for three consecutive years.
The History of Gin
The book starts with a comprehensive history of gin; from the distillation of spirits in the 2nd century BC through to the recent gin renaissance via an exploration of medicinal juniper, the spice trade, Genever, the London gin boom of the 17th century and beyond. There’s a section on the Gin Palace (cut price gin dens), gin in America and the spirit’s wane in popularity at the end of the 20th century.
Fascinating facts abound and I defy anyone to read this section and not discover something new. I particularly like the quote used from the London Medical Recorder in 1890;
‘Our attention has been recently called to the “Original Plymouth Gin”. As this Medical Recorder will circulate amongst the profession in India, we have no hesitation in calling attention to its value for medicinal, as well as general use.”
Hear, hear I say…
How Gin is Made
This section details the production of gin, describes the different processes that can be used and provides a description of the most common botanicals with a very useful list of gins in which they are most prevalent, and a flavour profile of each botanical.
I particularly like the flavour map that takes all the gins listed in the book and places them on the chart in terms of style from classic juniper-led gin to more contemporary citrus lead or unconventional flavoured gin. It also places them according to whether they are light or heavy in style.
There is also an explanation of the classification of gin; what makes a London, Plymouth, Old Tom, Genever and other types of gin.
The Gin Tour
Some of the photography in this book is stunning. In this section, distilleries are listed by location – England, Scotland, Europe and the USA. There is a detailed description of the distillery and gins produced therein and a brief review of the taste. 50 distilleries and 137 gins are covered.
There are not only cocktail recipes in this section, but a fascinating history for each and personal anecdotes. There are classic cocktails such as a Negroni, unusual cocktails like a Clover Club and Tristan’s take on certain cocktails; I particularly liked the Fruit Cup recipe.
A nice touch toward the end of the book is a glossary of distilleries that did not make the final cut, such is the depth of gin production currently. There is a brief summary of the gin produced by each distillery mentioned.
The gin man says ….
I first thought that I would like more detail on the gin itself in the review section, but on reflection realised that this is covered elsewhere on the internet and in other books. What we have instead is a fascinating, well written and authoritative piece of work that would be a worthy addition to any gin lover’s home. Oh, and did I mention the superb photography?
The Curious Bartender’s Gin Palace by Tristan Stephenson (Ryland Peters & Small, ￡16.99) Photography by Addie Chinn
“Alcohol is the anaesthesia by which we endure the operation of life” – George Bernard Shaw