Gin-lovers have been talking themselves Pink Gin pink in the face for years from the sidelines, defending the mixability of the botanical spirit as the category slipped and the fashionably fickle fled to fruit flavored vodkas. But it took the efforts of some ambitious brand innovators - Hendrick's, Tanqueray No. Ten and Rangpur, for instance - and old favorites like Plymouth to stir things up in the past few years. Last year, in fact, domestic gins, which tend to be value products, grew a modest .5 % while the call brand imports jumped 2.6%.
The botanical mix from gin to gin varies mostly by degree, with Hendrick's rose petal and cucumber combo the most uncommon. But along comes Jean-Sebastien Robicquet, who made his mark a few years ago when his EuroWineGate company worked with Diageo to create the grape-based vodka, Ciroc, with G'Vine, which he calls the first grape spirit gin, but more importantly, one that's made with grape vine flowers.
Robicquet led me through a tasting earlier this week to show the evolution of his latest baby. The plain grape spirit was softer and more viscous than its neutral grain spirit counterpart, as you might expect, less spicy and easier. In his process, Robicquet then makes two sorts of spirits - a classic gin distilled to high proof and made with nine botanicals, including juniper, coriander, cubeb berries, ginger, cardamom and other ingredients, and a lower proof spirit infused with flowers harvested from ugni blanc grapes, abundant in the Cognac region of France where G'Vine is made - which are then redistilled. By itself, the grape flower infusion is more like a perfume or a cordial base, but as part of the full G'Vine package, the lovely floral aromas soften the assertive juniper punch many gins proudly proclaim.
But this is not vodka dressed in gin's clothing. The grape spirit and flowers, it's true, make for a much softer gin than many others, but the delicate, honeysuckle and white blossom aromas and flavors in G'Vine knit the other botanicals together, creating a unique product and one that stretches the range of what "gin" is. Mixologist have taken up G'Vine readily, and that's not surprising; now that every apparent fruit flavor has been wrung into vodka, it seems to be the time of the flower garden.
A number of the cocktail ideas G'Vine is distributing, including one from Stephen Schuler, wine and spirits buyer at NYC retailer Morrell and Company, include another flower spirit, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur - here it is:
2 oz. G'Vine
2 oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 oz. Velvet Falernum
1/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon bar sugar
1 egg white
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake hard for at least one minute. Pout into a tall glass, top with soda water and garnish with a lemon wheel and lime zest.