If it weren’t for Prohibition, Tikiphiles might all be drinking gin-based concoctions. Don The Beachcomber, who in 1934 single-handedly invented both the Tiki drink and the Tiki bar at his eponymous Hollywood watering hole, found his initial creative inspiration in a gin drink: the storied Singapore Sling. He gravitated toward rum drinks largely because rum was dirt cheap after Repeal; overstocked rum-runners couldn’t give the stuff away once Americans could finally return to their spirits of choice (gin and whiskey), instead of the spirit of last resort (rum).
Seventy-five years later, two New York mixologists are doing what Don The Beachcomber might have done had rum cost more than 70 cents a quart back then — creating exotic gin drinks as spellbinding and intricate as the Beachcomber’s “Rum Rhapsodies.”
At the Manahttan speakeasy Death & Company, head bartender Brian Miller is mixing with gin the same way Don The Beachcomber mixed with rum: combining disparate brands together in the same drink, to create a dimensionalized base spirit that no single brand could offer. Brian’s latest experiment is called the Winchester, which he categorizes as “basically a gin Zombie.”
Here’s the recipe: 1 ounce each Tanqueray gin, Hayden’s Old Tom gin, and Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength gin; 3/4 ounce each fresh lime juice, fresh grapefruit juice, and St-Germain elderflower liqueur; 1/2 ounce grenadine, 1/4 ounce ginger syrup, and a dash of Angostura bitters. Shake with three ice cubes and strain into a Tiki mug filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a lime wheel and a cherry (to look like the bull’s eye on a target).
Our next drink comes courtesy of Gary Regan’s new book. The éminence grise of cocktail consultants and spirits journalists, Gary is the author of the influential Bartender’s Bible and The Joy Of Mixology. His latest, The Bartender’s Gin Compendium, tells you everything you need to know about the history and varieties of gin, starting with these words of wisdom: “Gin can gnaw on the back of your neck till she nigh-on draws blood, and she can just as easily kiss you softly behind each ear, stroke the back of your shivering hand, and make you know that everything’s going to be okay.”
Of the book’s 250 recipes, our favorite is an exotic cocktail by Gary that he calls The Everest (named after an Indian restaurant he frequented in the 1970s). To make one, place 2 1/2 ounces Beefeater 24 gin, 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice, and 3/4 ounce pre-mixed coconut curry paste (made by mixing a teaspoon of curry powder with 1 2/3 ounces Lopez coconut cream) in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake like hell and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a pinch of curry powder.