Gin Club Session #5

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This session looks at gin during prohibition America, our featured gin Hendrick’s, and the Southside cocktail.

Last week we looked at Sing Gin and how to make the white lady cocktail if you missed it click here!

In the lead up to the 20th century, America had a thriving cocktail culture, which celebrated gin. Genever was the preferred beverage or its sweet cousin, old tom. The newest style of ‘London dry’ had yet to reach American shores and for this reason, the first American gins were Dutch in style and usually aged. Quite different from the gin we would associate with mixing in our martini today.

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Mixed drinks were becoming increasingly popular and gin was considered the best tool for the job. Along with the availability of ice and the introduction of the cocktail shaker circa 1840, we saw the emergence of a very fashionable drinking culture.

THE GREAT MISTAKE

The Volstead act of 1919 brought about prohibition from 1920, banning the sale and production of alcoholic beverages nationwide.

Ironically, American whiskey began to diminish whilst gin was much less affected. Distillers had to reroute their deliveries via Canada or the Bahamas, but the booze made its way, via bootlegging, across the US border all the same. A cocktail was no cheap vice and in the top tier speakeasies of the time, this exclusivity would set you back upwards of 40 dollars apiece. Unsurprisingly, drinks were more frequently mixed at home. 

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In the cities, their urban answer to rural moonshine was Bathtub gin. Industrial alcohol mixed with turpentine and sweeteners became commonplace, mirroring the London gin craze of the eighteenth century. Despite this, gin continued to flourish throughout the 1930s and post-prohibition.

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HENDRICK’S GIN

A firm favourite with guests at Blind Tyger.

Produced by William Grant & Sons: whisky giants and pioneers of that cucumber garnish. Created by master distiller Leslie Gracey, using two stills from two very different walks of life. One rather old, possibly pre-19th century, 1000 litre pot-style Bennet still and a second 1000 litre Carterhead with built-in vapour infusion chamber.

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Each still had sat relatively idle until Leslie decided to experiment and test the mixture of 11 botanicals on both – with differing results. The Bennet gave bold and heavy notes whereas the Carterhead distillate was delicate and light. Deciding that both had unique elements, the two were blended. The remaining key ingredients of rose and cucumber were to be added later. Not the first gin maker to use cucumber as an identifiable ingredient, but certainly the strongest at making it part of their brand. 

Hendrick is supposedly named after a gardener employed by the Grant family.

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A hedgerow-esque gin such as Hendrick’s makes it a perfect foundation for the Southside cocktail. Originally served tall over crushed ice and apparently, a favourite of Chicago mobsters from the south side of the city. Those on the Northside would drink theirs with ginger ale. The version we are making today is served straight up and was pioneered at the 21 Club in New York.

For more information and recipes from Hendricks – Click here

Make sure you’re following our sister bar’s Instagram to tune in to our Live Gin Club every Friday at 5pm