Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An Education

I am sorry for my hometown brewery but, in my mind, the Most Interesting Man in the World would not be drinking beer. Angus Winchester, Global Brand Ambassador for Tanqueray Gin, is a better fit. Part Ryan Bingham, part Mr. Palmer, Angus is not a figment of a advertising executive’simagination but a flesh and blood globe-trotting bartender with an encyclopedic knowledge of spirits.

I go to a lot of cocktail parties for both work and play. As the lone gin drinker in the office, I always get a lot of flack. The story of the DC origins of the Rickey is often told. My older colleagues go for Scotch while the young ones stick to vodka cranberry. Don’t even get me started on ‘Tinis. Tanqueray and Tonic is my standard drink order and I find the familiar green bottle to be a hallmark of quality when I find myself in far-flung bars.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to lunch at Bourbon Steak with fellow food writers to attend a session by the cheeky moniker, “the Ginstitute.” As a fan of spirits and the off-the-beaten path educational opportunities that our fair city has to offer, I couldn’t say no, even it if it was a Thursday. There are better ways to enjoy cocktails than standing by a bar, 4 people-deep and on an empty stomach. As our wonderful lunch highlighted, cocktails are a great compliment to full meals, bar snacks or hors d'oeuvres.

That distinctive bottle? A proprietary design from the early 20th century, modeled after a cocktail shaker. That mesmerizing green shade? The company’s way of showcasing the spirit’s purity. The citrusy aroma of dry gin? The result of the interplay between juniper berries and coriander seeds. Only Tanqueray Ten has actual fresh citrus, which makes it ideal for martinis. Tonic Water? Developed by the British army as a remedy to malaria in India. The great American contribution to cocktails? Ice! How Angus fills his days when he isn’t preaching the gospel of fine gin? Trying out Tanqueray and Tonics across the land. (The house T&T at Bourbon Steak is the Garden Elixir, and it's delicious). My wonderful surprise? Gin pairs marvelously with chocolate. Our responsibility as consumers? Appreciating the craft behind making good cocktails, and expecting more from bartenders than the simple dispensing of alcohol.

Eat, drink, and be discerning!

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