Gin can be a love it or leave it spirit for many novice drinkers. Gin lovers tend to be brand-loyal while the gin-reluctant tend to assume all gin is mostly the same.
For the last decade, the gin market has seen progressive and accelerated growth around the globe as a modern approach grows its fanbase among drinkers. Modern craft distillers hail from India, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Spain, Italy and France, to name a few. Gin’s versatility makes it a favorite for mixologists and bartenders, too.
“People have an idea in their head of their first experience of gin, whenever that first was. … It was a very different world back then as far as options,” said Luke DeYoung, bar manager of Logan Square’s Scofflaw.
Scofflaw, 3201 W. Armitage, is a neighborhood favorite where the majority of the backbar is gin — from the familiar to hard-to-find varieties — along with a creative cocktail menu. The menu has an emphasis on gin-based drinks and changes every three months.
“I think the gin scene has continued to evolve [with] a focus on local botanicals, more aging experimentation, etc. The knowledge baseline is deeper, too, than when we opened 7 years ago,” said Danny Shapiro, Scofflaw’s co-owner.
The evolution of gin has been spurred by new styles of the spirit known as New Western Dry Gin, which rely on a vast array of botanicals and are most notably less juniper-forward in flavor. Some prefer to categorize gin simply as “classic” or “contemporary.”
New Western Dry Gin has exploded with a wide array of flavors in part because there aren’t a lot of rules governing the making of gin.
“Juniper has citrusy, resin, pine flavor — people associate it with cleaning agents,” said DeYoung. “And some people are very averse to floral flavors. For example, people love or hate Hendricks because of that.
“There are so many other styles now and flavors coming out [that] it’s nice to see so many people coming back around on it and changing their mind.”
Contemporary gins can take traditional flavors like coriander, citrus peels, cardamom, cinnamon and cassia bark and expand on them with spices, herbal, floral and earthy flavors or forgo them completely for something more unique.
“We’ve always been fans of gin and wanted to put it front and center for our neighborhood spot. Also, whenever I’d make a [Dealer’s Choice], I found myself reaching for gin,” said Shapiro.
Perfect for craft cocktails, the botanicals in gin enhance the complexity and depth of recipes and leave room for lots of creativity.
Staffers at Scofflaw are confidant they can find a gin to suit every taste whether you’re a whiskey, rum or mezcal lover.
“It’s a fun thing to do when [customers] are curious about gin… and want you to take them on a journey,” said DeYoung. “And they’re challenging you to change their minds!”
For those who favor tiki and tropical flavors, DeYoung recommends the drink In Burma featuring St. George Terroir gin, falernum, pineapple and lime juice. St. George Terroir gin is made from 12 botanicals from California’s Mount Tam including Douglas fir, laurel, fennel and sage.
“Falernum and St. George Terroir gin have strong personalities and stand up to each other,” explained DeYoung. “The herbaceous, Douglas fir and sage play well with pineapple, and the falernum adds baking spice and the tiki element.”
A classic Martinez is made with Notaris 3 year Genever, vermouth, maraschino and orange bitters. Genever is an old style of gin wholly or in part distilled from malt wine. Its distinctive and earthy flavor is often compared to white whiskey.
A barrel-aged gin from rural Finland is used in the Fitzgerald — the bar’s take on a gin sour. Kyro Koskue barrel-aged gin is shaken with lemon juice, simple syrup and Angostura bitters. This cocktail plays up the spice element with earthy, woodsy flavors.
Scofflaw is located at 3201 W. Armitage. For more information go to www.scofflawchicago.com.
- .75 oz St. George Terroir Gin
- .75 oz Brovo Lucky Falernum
- .75 oz Pineapple Juice
- .75 oz Lime Juice
Shake with ice, strain into coupe. Garnish with pineapple wedge.
- 1.5 oz Notaris 3 Year Genever
- .75 oz Carpano Antica Vermouth
- .5 oz Luxardo Maraschino
- 1 dash orange bitters
Stir with ice until very cold and strain into chilled rocks glass. Garnish with cherry and express an orange peel on top of the drink. Discard orange peel.
- 1.5 oz Kyro Koskue Barrel Aged Gin
- .75 oz Lemon Juice
- .75 oz Simple Syrup (1:1 ratio)
- 1-2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Shake with ice. Strain into coupe.