The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2016

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4  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2016 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR IN CHIEF In this issue (page 86), you'll find a story about a new truffle-infused vodka. As of press time, I haven't yet tasted this product, but being a lifelong fan of Perigord truffles (or any truffles, for that matter), I am very much looking forward to its imminent arrival in my office. Savory, as opposed to sweet, flavored vodkas are a mixologist's (and a Bloody Mary lover's) dream, and there is a plethora of them on the market these days. I've tasted versions infused with cucumber, dill, rosemary, basil, bison grass, Chesapeake Bay crab seasoning, Earl Gray tea, peppercorns, chilies, coffee, hemp and even tobacco (this one, alas, tasted like the bottom of an ashtray at the ΔKE house after a toga party). There's no end of innovation, it seems, when it comes to infusing a neutral distillate with interest- ing (if sometimes questionable) ingredients. But let's not forget that the original flavored vodka was invented a long time ago. It's called gin. I think of gin as the quintessential summertime spirit—some- thing to sip on during the hottest days and warmest evenings of the year. The British army certainly thought of it that way in the sweltering heat of India during the Raj, when gin was mixed with quinine-laced tonic water as a refreshing cooler, and as relief from the fever of malaria. My own moment of gin enlightenment came after a long forced march (aka press trip) through the vineyards of deepest, darkest Napa Valley. After eight hours of sampling some of the world's finest Cabernets, I was fading and on my last legs. As we arrived back at the hotel, I dragged myself to the bar and ordered a Gin and Tonic. The crystal clear liquid hit my puckered palate like a revelation. I was suddenly—miraculously—revived. I've been a gin devotee ever since. The contemporary cocktail movement—which largely got its start in London, spiritual home and namesake of dry gin—has been responsible for the revival of gin cocktails and has supported the profusion of gin brands available today. In this year's San Francisco World Spirits Competition there were 202 gin brands entered; in our first year, 2000, there were fewer than ten. Of course, each new brand wants to distinguish itself from the others, so experimentation with gin flavor components can get creative. One popular brand emphasizes cucumber; others veer in the direction of citrus; exotic versions pump up the spice quotient. But the expected core of juniper keeps gin from straying too far from its original Dutch roots as a cure for stomach ailments. (As far as I know, no gin counts Marlboro Lights among its botanicals. Not yet, anyway.) As I write this on a Friday afternoon, the outside temperature at The Tasting Panel offices is 99° and rising. No better time for a G&T. —Anthony Dias Blue In Praise of Gin

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