Gift-Worthy Gins to Bestow This Holiday Season
High quality juniper, locally-foraged herbs, wild sloe berries and even everyone’s favorite pink wine go into these bottles that recipients will be beyond giddy to unwrap.
Distinctive aromas are intrinsically linked to the holidays—fresh evergreen boughs, cinnamon sticks, peppermint candies, etc.—and presents during holiday season are often just as fragrant. This year, skip the candles and cologne for a bottle bursting with heady botanicals. Whether you are looking for a dinner party host gift or something for your cocktailing cousin who has everything, these gins stand out (and we guarantee they won’t stay corked for long).
Pierde Almas Botanicals +9
In 2011 after he had already been creating his own mezcals for several years, Jonathan Barbieri begin exploring the new American gins on the market. He was drawn to the way some producers were re-imagining the synergy between juniper berries and other other botanicals and immersed himself in comparing and contrasting the history and origins of the two spirits. “Gin and mezcal represent two great rivers in the history of distilled spirits, each evolving separately on its continent within its own traditions, in its own context.” The result of his research and musing is the world’s first mezcal-based gin, produced using a 100% espadin agave spirit and nine classic botanicals and akin to a musical performance of sorts, with juniper’s piney-floral notes singing as the soprano, the accompanying Mediterranean spices as the chorus and mezcal’s rich and earthy tones providing the orchestra. “Whereas grain alcohol based gins tend to be nose forward and rather fugitive on the palate, Pierde Almas Botanicals +9 is a full, viscous mouth experience,” Barbieri explains. “It’s bright and clean, but incredibly long-lasting, which makes it a true sipping gin, but…[can] stand up to pretty much any cocktail.” $95
South Hollow Spirits Dry Line Rosé Gin
It’s pretty widely accepted these days that there is no longer a “rosé season”, with the vibrant and fruity pink-hued juice quaffed all year round by its legions of devotées. But what if you want the flavor of rosé with a bit more oomph to hold its own in a libation? Massachusetts’ South Hollow Spirits’ newest offering is distilled from 100% cane sugar and locally-grown Cape Cod botanicals, which is then blended with a grenache-based wine from California’s Truro Vineyards. “Our coastal location and amusement for innovation naturally inspired us to craft this unconventional, spirited blend,” says head distiller Dave Roberts, Jr. “The bright flavors in our signature Dry Line Gin balance perfectly with the smooth rosé to create something entirely new and exciting.” As the base in a French 75, mixed with Fever Tree Elderflower or Aromatic Tonic in a G&T or in shaken in a Ramos Gin Fizz, the spirit adds fruity flavors and a delicate rosy hue. $34.99
Though there are other sloe gins on the market, this is the only one with an age statement on the bottles to show different vintages. The London producer only makes it once a year, in the autumn when the organic sloe berries are at peak ripeness, so there can be some intriguing variation in flavor and style from year to year. Once harvested, the berries are frozen to break the skin and extract their black fruits, then left to macerate in their copper still-crafted London Dry Gin, during which it picks up “marzipan, almond and dark fruit flavors,” says brand ambassador Keli Rivers. The sloes are strained out, cane sugar is added to offset the tartness and it’s brought to 29% ABV; the result is a spirit with hints of redcurrant, cassis and soft cherry and a velvety mouthfeel and rounded fruitiness. Rivers uses it as a stand-in for regular gin in a Negroni but sees it as more than just a cool weather component; it’s also a fab porch sipper with lemonade and club soda on hot summer days. $37
The philosophy behind this spirit from Charleston, South Carolina’s Striped Pig Distillery, says partner and distiller Todd Weiss, is that “less is more.” Just four botanicals are macerated for twenty-four hours in their handcrafted vodka made with corn grown in Bowman, South Carolina; with lavender and orange peel the predominant flavors in the final product, which won double gold in the 2018 NY International Spirits Competition. “It is an example of how gins can explode with flavor but don’t need to include fifteen botanicals,” he says. “We like to let people taste what they are drinking, [and] you can almost pick out each of the ingredients as they pass over your tongue.” He prefers it in a classic G&T to let the taste shine through, but it’s also fab in a Cucumber Martini and mixed with grapefruit juice and lime over ice. $29.99
The Torrey Pine tree—a variety unique to San Diego’s semi-arid shores and one that lends comparisons to the juniper trees—is the inspiration for this California craft gin made in a London Dry style. It’s vapor-distilled on their original 2007 still with eleven botanicals: bitter orange, clove, lemon, cinnamon, juniper berry, rose petal, orange, lemongrass, coriander, licorice root and grains of paradise. “Our botanicals blend to create a bouquet of aroma and flavor, with each of the different items complementing each other for a well-balanced award-winning [gold in the 2018 NYISC] gin,” touts director of marketing Nicole Wood. Perfect in traditional gin recipes, it also lends itself to tropical drinks, she says; it’s also mixed with housemade grapefruit cucumber tonic for a ready-to-enjoy canned cocktail. $26.99
Company records show that distilling on this Highland property dates back to 1794; the current owners still subscribe to a farm-to-bottle ethos, with all of the ingredients for their spirits planted, sown, grown and harvested on site and mountain-filtered water for distilling and proofing taken from their underground lagoon. Botanicals are selected by master distiller Kirsty Black, including kelp, carline thistle and blackberry, which embody the elements of ocean, rock and land found there. Try it in a Martini or even a Seaweed and Grapefruit Gimlet. $40
The name of this spirit (pronounced “ca-ROON”) is the Gaelic word for rowan berry, a Celtic botanical that’s the backbone of this Scottish gin. For it, gin master Simon Buley mixes six traditional botanicals (juniper, coriander, orange and lemon peels, angelica root and cassia bark) with five wild locally-foraged ones (rowan berry, bog myrtle, heather, coul blush apple and dandelion leaf) in the world’s only working copper berry chamber. The result is a beverage with the clean, crisp taste of apple slices along with hints of flowers, citrus and spice and a long-lasting slightly dry finish. It’s recommended to serve it in a G&T with slices of red apple standing in for lime wedges, but it’s versatile enough for anything from an Aviation to a Hot Toddy. $35
Oh, you want juniper in your gin, do you? With this intensely flavored bottle, you have it! To produce it, a traditional London Dry style base is produced in a copper pot still. However, on top of that, local Northumberland juniper along with botanicals such as Douglas Fir, black currant and Amalfi lemon are individually vacuum distilled to produce a concentrated shot of aromatics. The juniper is further distilled in a CO2 process, creating another layer of extraction. So many new gins are produced to distract from the juniper flavor, but for this one, “We make juniper the star,” says brand co-creator Nick Strangeway. This gin needs little backup—even just soda water and a slice of grapefruit makes for a refreshing serve—but this gin was born to match good, dry vermouth for a Martini. $50