Gin: A Historical Spirit Finally Getting Its Due

by: Jimi The Intern
January 19, 2018

If you’ve had one gin, you’ve had them all, right? — Wrong.

Wait, you mean all gin doesn’t taste like you just bit into a pine tree? And it’s not something I just mix with “juice” or tonic?

No and no.

gin

I have always had an affinity for gin, as the classic Gin and Tonic is my dad’s favorite drink, but we can do better by gin than just continuing with the same old drinks.

Gin deserves more than this. It’s a historical spirit.

It’s a spirit that has been around since the 17th Century. Wars were won with what was known as “Dutch Courage.” It was used as medicine. It caused a legitimate riot in England in the 17th Century when it became too expensive.

It gave birth to the Dry Martini for crying out loud.

I’m not knocking the G&T at all. I love them. They are a quintessential drink in the summer.

But, again, we can do better, and craft distillers across the country have finally recognized what gin can bring to the table.

Whether they are aging them in oak barrels or pumping them full of whole-leaf hops, gin has had a recent resurgence with new and exciting flavors.

What is Gin?

There is no strict definition of gin other than it must have a distinct juniper berry flavor. Gin is a neutral grain spirit base with a mix of botanicals that vary from distiller to distiller.

Gin also comes in four different styles.

London Dry Gin is the classic style that is familiar to most.

Dutch Genever is sometimes credited as the first type of gin and actually uses a malted grain mash similar to whiskey.

Old Tom uses sugar in a redistillation process, which makes it a sweeter version of the typical London Dry.

Compound Gin is what most of the people in London consumed during the 17th century. They would simply add flavors to a neutral spirit rather than distilling them with the flavors already infused.

A little booze history

As I said, the history of gin dates back to the 17th century when it was primarily distilled as a medicinal drink. It was used to cure gallstones, gout, and various other ailments.

Juniper berries were added later to make it more palatable.

British soldiers were given gin during the Thirty Years War, and it was known as “Dutch Courage.” They liked the drink so much that they brought it back and began distilling it in large quantities at home.

When King William III was on the throne, he actually enacted a law that in its simplest terms let pretty much anyone distill their own spirits legally. All they had to do was post a notice on their door and wait 10 days.

After that, as you can imagine, so many people started distilling their own gin that, well, people were pretty much drunk 24/7. Shocker, right?

This influx of gin led to the 50 Pound Act. Now, you could only distill once you paid for a license that was, you guessed it, 50 pounds. A considerable sum of money during that time.

While this meant legally very few people could make gin, the locals continued to make their own and gin production actually rose by 50 percent during that time.

People. Love. Gin.

It didn’t last long until a new tax was drawn up that was reasonable and fair. This led to higher quality gin production and a stable product.

After that gin was used to help cure malaria, it helped revolutionized the cocktail industry with the rise of the Martini, and, of course, Snoop Dogg was sipping on it with some juice.


Now, after that brief history lesson, let’s take a look at the current evolution of gin from regional and local distillers.

Tattered Flag Brewery and Still Works Pennsylvania Gin & Susquehanna Gin

Tattered Flag has two gin options that highlight different flavors.

tattered flag gin

With the Pennsylvania Gin, you get more a traditional London-style gin. It’s dry and heavy on the botanicals. A portion of the juniper berries they use are picked by hand in a local forest, and they donate proceeds from every bottle to the Pennsylvania Parks and Forest Foundation. 

Chinook hops are used in the botanicals for a slight piney flavor and an addition of lavender gives the spirit a sweet floral finish.

tattered flag gin

Their Susquehanna Gin focuses more on citrus notes as they use orange peel and Cascade hops while steeping the botanicals. The flavor is rounded out with additions of heather and rose hips.

Tattered Flag plans on doing a barrel-rested version of their Pennsylvania Gin in the near future.

Both Tattered Flag Gins would work great in a classic Tom Collins. If you want a bit more citrus, go with the Susquehanna Gin.

Social Still Barrel Gin

social still gin

Social Stil’s Barrel Gin drinks more like a bourbon than a traditional gin. Aging the spirit in barrels decreases the botanical notes but injects notes of caramel, coffee, and oak.

Negronis, a classic gin cocktail, are usually made with Campari, Sweet Vermouth, and gin. Well, the Boss altered the recipe slightly it by adding the Barrel Gin to make it more like a Boulevardier, which is a Negroni that uses Bourbon.

It was delicious.

Try it for yourself! Just add equal parts Campari, Sweet Vermouth and Social Still’s Barrel Gin with a lemon twist for a bit of acidity and zest.

Dogfish Head Mellowdious Gin

dogfish head gin

If you can barrel age a stout, you can barrel age a gin. That’s just what Dogfish Head did. 

You still get all the crisp botanical flavors from the spirit but with softer edges due to the barrel-rest. There’s also some hints of caramel, vanilla and a bit of smokiness as well.

Pour an ounce or so in your favorite rocks glass with a little bit of ice to experience the full flavor.

Dogfish Head Whole Leaf Gin

Pine, citrus, and herbaceous are all common terms used to describe certain breeds of hops. Those are also flavors that are found in many gins so it would make sense to combine the two.

Dogfish’s Whole Leaf Gin uses whole leaf Cascade hops for a punch of pine and citrus with a little sweetness from the grain build.

Perfect for a new twist on a G&T.

Eight Oaks Craft Distillers American Gin

Eight Oaks is unique in that they are a farm distillery. This means that all the grain that goes into distilling the spirit has been grown on their farms.

Their American Gin has a lot of the botanical notes that you would expect, but it also finishes with a zesty citrus flavor that is very refreshing.

As they say, “It’s not your grandmother’s gin.”


Now that you are armed with perhaps some new knowledge, go out and look for a new kind of gin and have some fun with it.

This by no means is an exhaustive list. There are many local and regional distilleries distilling great gin. Other gin options include Bluecoat American Dry Gin (Philadelphia), Thistle Finch Market Alley Gin (Lancaster), and Wigle Ginever (Pittsburgh).

What is your favorite gin drink?

Categories: Cocktails, Food/Drink

Weekend Roundup 1/18

by: Sara Bozich
January 18, 2018

Happy Weekend!

Hey weekenders! Tonight we’re having our GK Visual company dinner at THEA, which should be lovely. I’d love to hit 3rd in the Burg activities Friday (fingers crossed). Saturday I get my hair ‘did (not sure what to do with it, though), and by night we’re hosting a dinner for friends! Sunday is no longer for football, so maybe I’ll finally see the new Star Wars movie (Or maybe I’ll just watch The Force Awakens again)?

Look for Intern Jimi, who will be doing double-SaraBozich.com duty this weekend. Find him judging the costume contest at the Capital Area Polar Plunge at Gifford Pinchot State Park and later at the Capital BlueCross Outdoor Classic at Hersheypark Stadium.

weekend roundup

What are you doing this weekend?

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Categories: Featured, LivePA, TheBurg

4 Shows You Don’t Want to Miss this 3rd in the Burg

by: Micah Jacobs
January 17, 2018

It’s time for the 1st edition of 3rd in The Burg for the new year, and there are some great shows lined up throughout the city.

Winter’s hold is keeping a lot of us inside because let’s face it, 5 degrees with 20 mph winds makes even the shortest of walk in the city downright painful. The January edition of 3rd in the Burg and some above freezing temps should make for a great night out for some live music. Maybe some of you Steelers fans still need a little help forgetting about last Sunday (Sorry Jimi and Sara), so here’s a look at just some of the performances you can catch this Friday.

Best Music for January’s 3rd in the Burg

Ian Fitzgerald at Midtown Scholar

Ian Fitzgerald was featured in my post last week highlighting his upcoming performance at Midtown Scholar Bookstore. This Rhode Island-based singer-songwriter is the perfect way to kick off 3rd in the Burg with an intimate performance of some original, old school style folk music. There is, of course, no cover charge and the show starts at 7 p.m.

Strangest Hearts at ZerØday

Zeroday Brewing Co. hosts Harrisburg-based original rock band, Strangest Hearts. This talented band of musicians have been gaining momentum in the area and are sure to put on a great live show set to the backdrop of some of the greatest brews you could find. The show starts at 8 p.m. on Friday. Make sure get there early, grab a few pints and get ready to rock out!

Driftwood and Mountain Ride at The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Co.

The Abbey Bar welcomes in Driftwood from Binghamton, NY on their 2018 Winter Tour. The Yellow Bike recording artists have been doing Americana style folk music since 2005 and have toured the country playing an average of over 150 shows a year! They take the Abbey Bar stage with PA-based bluegrass favorites, Mountain Ride. Tickets can be purchased on Ticketfly for just $10 and the music starts at 9 p.m.!

Dr. Slothclaw and Aortic Valve at HMAC

Are you ready to dance all freakin’ night? In what may be one of the greatest co-headliner bills we have seen in 3rd in The Burg history, the freak funk forces of the incomparable Dr. Slothclaw team up with the senses altering beats of Aortic Valve for a night of booty-shakin’ vibes and captivating visuals. The Capital Room at HMAC sets the perfect stage for what I can only hope becomes some sort of 3rd in The Burg tradition. Tickets are available through the HMAC website for just $10 and the funk drops at 8 p.m.!

So let’s kick this cabin fever and awake from our hibernation slumber. The holidays are gone, the days are short but the nights are long. Get out there and enjoy some great live, local music this Friday in Harrisburg!

Steelers End of Season: Cheers, Jeers, & Fears

by: Jimi The Intern
January 17, 2018

The Pittsburgh Steelers put up 42 points on one of the best defenses we’ve seen in recent memory and lost.

I have said that to my self and others around me around countless times, and it still doesn’t seem real. I never thought that the Steelers would lose this game because of their defense.

The Steelers defense couldn’t come up with timely stops, and the Jaguars took advantage of their many opportunities.

Another killer for the Steelers was failing at situational football. They refused to run a QB sneak on two 4th & 1 occasions, they ran an onside-kick when they should have kicked it deep, and they couldn’t get off the field on several 3rd and long situations.

Those three things led to the Steelers sitting at home on Championship Sunday, while the Jaguars moved on.

It’s always hard to come to terms with the end of the season. I thought this team had something special. I thought it was the team who could finally “get over the hump” and get back to the Super Bowl.

Writing this sucks.

Here are my cheers, jeers, and fears for the upcoming offseason.

Cheers

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For as bad as they played in certain situations, the Steelers offense was overall great on Sunday.

Big Ben aired it out for five touchdowns and almost 500 yards against one of the stingiest pass defenses in the league.

Brown, Bell, and Bryant all made spectacular catches to keep the Steelers in the game. It’s a shame that they won’t have another shot at the Patriots because I think this offense has the best shot at taking down the Evil Empire.

Pittsburgh moved the ball almost at will against the Jags even up until the final seconds of the game. Sure, it was disheartening to take the loss, but with Ben coming back next year there shouldn’t be any drop off in production.

Jeers

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Where to begin?

Defense? Fourth down play selection? Special teams?

It all went wrong for Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Let’s start with the defense. It’s hard to imagine that the Steelers’ top 10 defense surrendered that many points to a mediocre offense.

More than that, they had so many opportunities in 3rd and long situations where they let the Jags gain first downs to prolong drives and drain time off the clock.

Keith Butler’s zone defense schemes haven’t worked. I’m not sure why he keeps going back to the well with them. It’s like ramming your head into a wall over and over again and expecting not to get a headache.

Butler’s job may be on the line.

Now to fourth down. Big Ben is 6′ 5″ and 260 pounds, and he has one of the best guard/center combinations in the league with Decastro and Pouncey. There’s no way they shouldn’t be running a QB sneak on 4th and inches.

The toss-sweep play to Bell was one of the most frustrating play calls I’ve witnessed in a while. Why get four yards when you only need less than one?

Special teams came up big with the punt block but failed on the onside kick attempt. It wasn’t the time to run that. Kick the ball deep and get one stop.

It will be very interesting to see if Pittsburgh makes any changes to their coaching staff this offseason. Todd Haley has been under scrutiny for years in Pittsburgh, and Butler’s defense just isn’t working.

I don’t think Tomlin is going anywhere after another 13-win season, but weirder things have happened.

Fears

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Pittsburgh has a lot to deal with in the offseason.

It starts with figuring out how they want to play the Le’Veon Bell situation. Personally, I would like to see them get a deal done before week one, but I think another franchise tag is in his future.

Bell is one of the most prolific running backs in the league and deserves to be paid as such.

Second, the Steelers need to assess what they want to do with Ryan Shazier. While Shazier is making strides in recovery, it still seems like it could be at least a year, if not more, until he even thinks about getting back on the field.

Shazier’s future means a lot to Pittsburgh. If he can’t return, then Pittsburgh needs to make a move in the draft to grab the best linebacker available.

I doubt Pittsburgh will be able to get Reuben Foster, the top linebacker in this year’s draft, but Roquon Smith from Georgia or Raekwon McMillan from Ohio State are two great talents that could fit very well in the Steel City.

Other draft needs will be a younger defensive line because Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt aren’t getting any younger, and possibly looking at a safety who can cover over the top.

It’s going to be a long offseason, and I can’t wait until next August. Watching the Steelers on a weekly basis is one of my favorite things to do, and this season was stressful fun as hell.

Thanks to everyone who read throughout the season, and thanks to the Boss Lady for the all of the nachos, ham and cheese sandwiches, and wings to get us through some stressful times.

Categories: Sports, Steelers

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