‘But why do you need more than 20 kinds of gin?’ said no one, ever.
Actually, that’s not true. A few non-gin-drinkers (yes, they do exist, and yes, I do occasionally deign to talk to them) have asked me this exact question when they’ve glimpsed my rather meagre collection of the good stuff, to which my usual response is to either launch into a long-winded explanation about all the different kinds of gin or offer them a gin flight so they can taste those differences for themselves. After all, it’s a bit like asking why you need different types of wine, or beer, or underpants: it’s essential. But now I’ve discovered the Abbey, the days of those discussions and flights may be over. Here is a cocktail that tastes completely different depending on which gin you use. (Yes, yes, I’m sure there are many such cocktails, but this is the first one I’ve made using two ostensibly ‘dry’ gins in which the flavours end up being worlds apart…try it for yourself, you’ll be amazed.)
The Abbey is originally from The Savoy Cocktail Book, which was published in 1930. Gin was big back then, but not even the legends behind the bar at The Savoy could have predicted just how many regional varieties of dry gins would have existed nearly a century later, when the 52 Cocktails crew decided to try making the drink using two vastly different dry gins. Fittingly, one of the gins (Tanqueray) is a London Dry Gin, in honour of the Savoy’s location; the other is Australian, just like 52 Cocktails. Specifically, it’s McHenry’s, a Tasmanian drop that pitches itself as a ‘classic dry gin’. Drunk neat, the Tanqueray has more of a floral nature than the McHenry’s, which (perhaps oddly enough) seems drier and earthier than the London Dry. But in a cocktail? Wow. What a difference. Here, the McHenry’s comes into its own, enlivening the already floral notes of the drink to new heights, while the Tanqueray makes it taste almost medicinal. And this, dear friends, is why it’s essential to have many kinds of gin (and whiskey, and tequila, etc) on hand; because sometimes a cocktail that seems a bit ‘meh’ may end up being wonderful if you just switch the brand or style of spirit. So keep experimenting – that’s the spirit!
45ml dry gin
22ml Lillet Blonde
22ml freshly squeezed orange juice
1 dash orange bitters (be careful with the bitters – any more than a dash will overpower the drink)
Cocktail glass or coupe
Add all ingredients to a shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake, hard, then strain into the glass. Garnish with orange peel if desired.
Well, that depends on which type of gin you use – and, although we haven’t actually tried this out, we dare say it depends on which type of orange juice and orange bitters you use, too. Done right, this is the kind of orange-based drink you’d like to have with brunch – light, refreshing, and innocuous. Done wrong, it’s a heavy-handed version of a screwdriver – drinkable, but not as enjoyable.
Although this recipe first appeared in the Savoy Cocktail Book, this version comes from The Architecture of the Cocktail by Amy Zavatto (Harper Collins, 2013).