Our Quest for Caesar Salad
I was bottling some of our Chapter One London Dry gin the other day and found my mind wandering, trying to explain just what we were after when we decided to launch our distillery with this gin in particular. It’s always been the hardest to explain of our lineup because, on it’s face, it is not a new or radically different gin. We’ve tackled the big, bright citrus profile of our Navy Strength, the whiskey-kissed nature of our Woodcut, and most recently our Japanese botanical infused Co-Authored Series gin. So how do you describe a London Dry gin?
Salad my friends, salad.
One of the reasons I’ve always been fascinated by gin is that I’ve yet to have two that taste the same; the spectrum of flavor profiles is one of the most diverse that you can find in the spirits world. So if you say you’ve just tried a gin, it’s like telling me you’ve just had a salad. We know it’s a spirit with juniper just as we know a salad is lettuce with a dressing. What you have to remember is that juniper, as a botanical, is not that strong compared to many others. We count our juniper in pounds per batch and other ingredients like citrus peel in grams. By law gin must be distilled or flavored with juniper, but it’s easy to make gin that tastes little like the pine-forward juniper and still be making ‘gin’. Grapefruit gin, Cobb salad. Rye gin, steak salad. You get the idea, it’s still gin and it’s still salad.
So what would London Dry gin be if it were a salad, in our humble opinion? The king of salads: the Caesar. Here’s where things get tricky though, and if you don’t fancy a Caesar salad then this next part may not make as much sense to you, but bear with me. We named our London Dry gin Chapter One for several reasons: we have a literary theme and find many similarities to the spirits world in literature, it was our first endeavor and product in this business, but most importantly we wanted to go back to ‘Chapter One’ of the dry gin playbook which is, in essence, the London Dry style. Just like the Caesar, everyone is familiar with it (if they are gin drinkers) and have had variations of it over the years. It’s true to juniper, has a dry yet oily mouth feel, and was made for a martini.
Sounds like an open and shut case right? Not exactly. Just because we’ve narrowed the category doesn’t mean we’ve solved the case. If you do like Caesar salad then you’ve likely had a bit of it over the years, at home or in your favorite restaurants. Have they all tasted the same? Just like comparing the $8 gin to the $50 gin, there are always differences. The price doesn’t necessarily have to reflect the quality, but more often than not a nicely prepared Caesar at a seafood restaurant doesn’t quite compare to the “salad kit” you get at the local grocery. Think about it: you buy days-old salad in a bag and mix it in a bowl with a dressing that was on the store shelf, not needing refrigeration because of it’s various preservatives, and maybe toss a little Parmesan in there for good measure. Does this measure up to making it with fresh romaine, an egg yolk, anchovies, and a high quality extra virgin olive oil? Probably not.
Now think about the best Caesar you’ve ever had. For me it always seems to be the ones at the steak restaurants. You know, the ones that you can only afford to go out to on really special occasions or if you’re feeling particularly flush and want an over the top dining experience. Sometimes the salad is so good you forget about that marbled rib-eye that’s coming up right after. So what makes them so damn good? As with a London Dry gin it is rarely a ‘secret ingredient’; once you start changing the dressing it no longer becomes a Caesar that’s true to form. More often than not, the salad is amazing because of it’s simplicity. Fresh, no-compromise ingredients prepared with care and presented elegantly, often in small (or individually prepared) batches. This, in a nutshell, is exactly what we believe a London Dry gin should be and what we set out to do with ours. We may not be able to make you a table-side spirit, but we aim to come as close as possible.
We wanted to capture that ‘magical’ essence of the steakhouse Caesar, and it’s no coincidence we’d always recommend a gin martini to accompany it before your main course. In the past we’ve had a harder time selling our London Dry than our other gins because there have always been ‘alternatives’. Well, just like the salad, there are always alternatives that will get the job done. One trip to your local liquor shelf will prove that point. I guarantee at least half of the gins will say ‘Dry’ or ‘London Dry’ on their labels. But when you want that refined, delicious, and impossible to explain quality of a true London Dry gin look no further. Chapter One has won an award in every competition we’ve entered it in including double gold, gold, and several best in class awards. It’s what we set out to do: elevate your cocktail experience with an inexplicable quality to your gin, one that’s familiar yet somehow better. Go ahead, order the Caesar and don’t look back.
*Photo credit Gena Hamshaw, Food52