The peculiar tale of a delightful Scottish gin

Juniper berries be damned! It's the cool cucumber and rose hips that makes Hendrick's Gin oddly unique and unabashedly delicious.

By Tim Rutherford
   It is loved and loathed. Governments have levied huge taxes against it and riots filled the streets. It can be had for pocket change or priced for kings. All this, and the moniker “mother’s ruin.”
   “It” is gin, the distilled spirit most known for its often potent flavor of juniper berries. With a family tree reaching to the 13th Century, gin rose to stature in England during the so-called “Gin Craze” of 1695-1735. Poor quality barley unfit for beer brewing was gin’s foundation and made it cheap enough to fuel the masses. During this time, more than half of England’s 15,000 registered drinking establishments were gin shops. By the 1730s, consumption in London had risen to the equivalent of 2 pints per week per Londoner. Politicians and religious leaders argued that gin drinking encouraged laziness and criminal behaviour.
   The Gin Act of 1736 was an attempt to quell gin’s hold on Londoners – but the tax pushed drinkers to revolt and riot. Stalwart government leaders clung to the prohibitive measure until its repeal in 1742. Parliament tried to regulate gin again in 1751 -- requiring sellers to be licensed and encouraging men to drink beer.
   But enough history patient readers. Let’s get on with this business of 21st Century gins – born of majestic copper pot stills and a far cry from the simple concoctions of the past. Modern gin at its best is a complex beverage showcasing distillers’ mastery of infusing botanical flavors and aromas.
   No sirs and ma’ams – this is not your grandfather’s gin. No more wincing faces or turned up noses. Brace yourself for gin that is a splendid base for refreshing cocktails and can be sipped on the rocks with sweet enjoyment.
Fred Parent
   One such gin, and notably THE gin that occupies my bar top is Hendrick’s. Its squatty, distinctive earthenware apothecary bottle is simultaneously classy and quaint – the stuff inside is magically remarkable. Recently, I had the opportunity to explore the Hendrick’s process and taste its evolution with the talented raconteur and brand ambassador Fred Parent.
   Fred is, in his own words, "a peculiar imbiber, tippler, potent potion inscriber, unusual occasion devisor, and juniper elixir mixer with skills in corpse revival. He views the world through rose colored lenses, and rides a cucumber chariot through the winding roads less traveled. On a quest to study the mystical and inexplicable, for a birds eye view of what makes this planet digable.”
   Dude is crazy – crazy cucumber cool. Fred’s journey began slinging drinks and shaking together concoctions in the bars and night spots of New York City. He was a fixture in the trend-driving Harlem cocktail scene. His love of gin – particularly Hendrick’s – married with his passion for music and music history. Today Fred travels the country weaving together a hip tale of music, gin and the gospel of Hendrick’s.
   What makes Hendrick’s special? Hendrick’s is the marriage of two different spirits from two rare and unusual stills: the Bennet still and the Carter-Head still. By combining the two, the Scottish distillers create an extraordinarily smooth gin that has peculiarly enjoyable character and balance of subtle flavors.
   In all, 11 botanicals are used to craft Hendrick’s complex and inviting flavors. But, for me, it’s the subtle and consistently present character of cucumber and rose petal that is so alluring. Fred explained, and then we tasted, each of those extractions. The flavors are created separately from Hendricks two-still process and blended after the distillations are merged. The tasting included samples of gin straight from each still, then blended, then combined with cucumber and rose for the final product. From what are essentially very raw, high alcohol distillates, Hendrick’s arrives smooth as silk and deliciously refreshing in its final form.
   Well made, complex gin is an exploration for many of today’s drinkers – it’s a spirit often overlooked amid the overcrowded array of other clear spirits. It is well worth the time to try – get a bottle of Hendrick’s and give it a spin in these recipes.


   This iconic cocktail shows off Hendrick’s Gin nearly perfectly. Cool, refreshing and even more enjoyable garnished with a thin slice of cucumber!


8 Parts Hendrick's Gin

1 Part Dry Vermouth


Combine all in a mixing glass, stir to dilute, and chill. Strain into a martini glass.


   Considered a predecessor of the gin martini, the Martinez gets a hint of sweetness from the vermouth and Maraschino liqueur. Bitters add some zip to this classic cocktail.


2 Parts Hendrick's Gin

1 1/2 Parts Sweet Vermouth

1/5 Part Maraschino Liqueur

Dash Angostura Bitters

Dash Orange Bitters.


   Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker and shake hard over ice. Strain into martini glass and garnish with orange zest.


   There are a variety of Corpse Reviver recipes – all “hair of the dog” hangover “cures.” This recipe first appeared in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Handbook and uses a splash of absinthe for flavor and color.


1 Part Hendrick's Gin

1 Part Cointreau

1 Part Lillet

1 Part Lemon Juice

Dash Absinthe

   Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker and shake briskly over cubed ice. Double strain into cocktail glass.

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