For a variety of reasons—but mostly laziness—I've been drinking a lot of straight gin this summer. After a long hot day, I just can't find the energy to run out for tonic, let alone make a cocktail. A couple of ice cubes, maybe a lime wedge. On a steamy day straight gin is pure bliss. So why don't more people drink it?
Put crudely, gin is not too different from flavored vodka: it's likewise a neutral grain spirit. The only difference is that it's infused with botanicals, then redistilled. The botanicals could be anything—along with the requisite juniper, common ingredients include sloe berries, anise, coriander, orange peel, cassia bark, and cinnamon. How they're combined, though, is the art—a gin-maker has to select and balance a basket of maybe a dozen flavors, as well as monitor how they change during redistillation.
Too often, though, gin is like coffee: appreciated from afar for its formal qualities, but almost always enjoyed through a thick soup of mixers that dilute and confuse the most delicate flavors. A recent, admittedly unscientific web poll by Imbibe magazine found that out of more than 1,650 respondents, only 4.5 percent picked gin when asked, "What's your favorite spirit to sip neat?" —placing it dead last in a field of eight.