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Eat Your Words: All the Gin Joints

By Roger Kamholz in Food on Nov 11, 2011 9:20PM

2011_11_11_gin-book.jpgAuthor and veteran restaurateur Michael Turback's new cocktail book, All the Gin Joints: New Spins on Gin from America's Best Bars, features 101 drink recipes, and every last one includes gin. If you're a fan of the stuff, like we are, clear a space for this book at your home bar. Turback has gotten dozens of exceptional bartenders from around the country to contribute their ambitious and impressively varied recipes for gin cocktails. There's also a strong dose of local flavor; the anthology includes drinks by Chicago bartenders Ryan Golden (Plan B Bar + Kitchen), Charles Joly (The Drawing Room), Paul McGee (The Whistler), Debbi Peek (The Bristol), Mike Ryan (Sable Kitchen and Bar) and Adam Seger (Nacional 27).

All the Gin Joints ($14.95 off leaves little doubt that gin is one wildly versatile spirit. It plays well with a host of other flavors, from, say, the white crème de cacao Mike Ryan uses in his Saruman's Tower to the bonded apple brandy Paul McGee employs in his Vermont Cocktail.

Taking a step back, there's incredible variety to what gin can taste like alone. Turback's informative introductory section entitled "Gin-ealogy 101" delves into the history and breadth of this spirit. There's London dry, Plymouth, Old Tom (a 19th-century style now seeing a revival), and Dutch-style genever, which shares traits with whiskey. But what strikes us as puzzling is that, after this cogent recount, Turback chooses to omit what types or brands of gin are called for in each recipe. With so many gins to choose from these days, in part thanks to the many upstart craft distilleries that have launched in recent years, the range of flavor profiles available seems too diverse to simply instruct the home bartender to grab any old "gin." A cocktail made with Hendrick's, heavy on the cucumber notes, will be pretty different-tasting than one made with robust and malty Old Tom.

Our only other gripe with All the Gin Joints is that there is not a single photo of any of the drinks. In fact, there's no photos, period. On the one hand, we appreciate the utilitarian underpinnings of the book - it's meant for reference, not display, after all - but seeing the color and overall presentation of a drink does help to re-create it at home.

That said, All the Gin Joints gathers a treasure trove of interesting recipes for the gin enthusiast to experiment with. With 101 recipes to work through, you're getting a valuable and lasting resource. Not only does it show off what gin can do, the book bears witness to the incredible ingenuity of America's top contemporary bartenders, including several of Chicago's best.