Yes, I know. I’ve written my share of posts about alcoholic beverages. First, there was the post on rum, then the one about wine, and more recently ones on gin and cocktails. I write these posts not because alcohol is always on my mind (disputable by some :-)), but rather because I am fascinated by all the different alcoholic beverages that exist and the even greater variety of drinks that result when you mix these beverages together or with other non-alcoholic beverages. For instance, think about how different a rum and coke is from a vodka and coke, even though both look the same and vary only by the clear spirit used to make each drink. Then compare the latter to a Bloody Mary (a cocktail made of vodka and tomato juice), the difference this time being the mixer used.
Well, that’s all great and good, but today I would like to talk about a difference that is a little more subtle. Imagine making the same drink, say a gin-and-tonic (G&T), and varying the type of gin used. Do you think this difference would be noticeable to anyone other than the greatest connoisseurs of gin? I didn’t think so for the longest while and then one day, I clearly learned from experience that I was…wrong! Allow me to start this story from the beginning.
In my early twenties, my drink of choice was a gin and tonic. I loved G&Ts because they were so refreshing. Poured over a lot of ice, a cool G&T went down smooth and fizzy and caused me little trouble the following morning, what with gin being a white spirit (as the say: the darker the spirit, the worse the hangover). Whenever I would order a G&T in Nairobi, though, I would often get asked a question that I was rarely clear on how to answer. The question was “What gin would you like, Gilbey’s or Gordon’s?”. Frankly, I thought all gins were essentially the same, and since Gilbey’s was usually less expensive, that is what I would choose. That was until one fateful afternoon in Arusha.
On a beautiful sunny Sunday, a couple of years ago, I found myself traveling from Moshi to Nairobi, via Arusha, where I had a one-hour layover before changing shuttles. This was not a problem for me because this layover was at Arusha’s The Impala Hotel, where I absolutely love hanging out on the outdoor terrace. I love the warm mid-day sun on this terrace, with the beautiful blue of the swimming pool not far away. The people on the terrace always seem particularly jovial, possibly because the majority of them are on holiday. Whatever the case, this joyful mood is always contagious for me. Being at The Impala Hotel terrace instantly puts me in a happy mood. And so, on that beautiful, sunny Sunday as I sat on the terrace waiting for my shuttle’s departure, I ordered a drink—a gin and tonic to be precise.
When my drink finally arrived, I took a sip while letting the pleasure of my surroundings soak in. Wow! My drink tasted unusually good. I sipped and sipped and sipped, thinking that maybe, my drink tasted so good because I was in such a happy place. But no, after a while, I had to concede: this G&T was special. Not one to leave a mystery uninvestigated, I decided to find out more from the bartender. As I got up to order another G&T (you know I had to! :-)), I asked my bartender what he had used to make my drink. He seemed a bit confused by my question and told me that he had simply given me a double Gordon’s Gin as well as the tonic water which had come in a bottle so I could mix my drink for myself. The difference, I concluded, must have come from using Gordon’s instead of Gilbey’s.
When I finally got to Nairobi, I put my hypothesis to the test. When next asked what gin I wanted when ordering a gin and tonic, I alternated between choosing Gilbey’s and Gordon’s. Whenever I ordered Gilbey’s, I got the same G&T that I had become accustomed to prior to my experiment. Whenever I ordered Gordon’s, my drink tasted as superb as it did that afternoon in Arusha.
I quickly became a convert. For me, if you ask me whether I prefer Gilbey’s or Gordon’s, my answer is clear: it’s definitely Gordon’s. I am not sure what makes Gordon’s a tastier gin—I am not a connoisseur of gin like that—but in laywoman’s terms, there’s just something more aromatic about Gordon’s. I like to say it has a “rounder” taste by which maybe I mean it has a more complex, symphony of flavors (as opposed to being flat and one-dimensional), but that’s just me. After all, taste is a highly personal thing.
How about you? Which do you prefer? If asked Gilbey’s or Gordon’s, what is your response? Why? I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Until the next time,
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