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Gin Up Your Bar

BY TIMOTHY R. SCHULTE CTW Features

Want to know the secret to getting a great drink at a wedding? Ask a bartender. “I’ll do straight spirits, man, every time. Gin and tonic or gin and soda,” says Danny Shapiro, co-owner of Scofflaw, a ginfocused cocktail bar in Chicago. Such enlightenment, of course, is the product of some tribulation. “I was at this wedding in Richmond, Va. I basically tried ordering an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan or something, and I had to walk the bartender through the steps,” he says, taking care to note that was during his “younger days” when he was first getting into cocktails. “There were people waiting for drinks, the bartender had no idea what I was talking about it. “Ultimately, you don’t want to coach them too specifically,” Shapiro says. So, he gave only a basic rundown of the ingredients and ended up with a terrible drink. The lackluster cocktail caused him to be upset for the next “15 to 30 minutes,” he says. “At that point I realized the way to go at weddings is straight spirits or a highball of something and soda or something and Coke.” For a lot of folks these days, that something is gin, which has been riding a wave of popularity — be it in the press, the rise in small-batch distillers or literal gin joints like Shapiro’s (both he and Scofflaw were named Chicago’s top ‘tender and bar in 2013). So, naturally, the spirit deserves a spot at your wedding bar. Here’s what you need to know. Get To Know Your Gin Shapiro stocks more than 80 varieties of gin at his bar. “What’s cool with gin is there are so many variations on one

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flavor profile, and those variations are so minute,” he says. “It’s fun to explore.” The takeaway: Whether you’re working to craft a signature cocktail or just want to make sure your mixers pair well with the spirit, spend some time getting to know its profile. And find out the ingredients in your gin. Orange or grapefruit? Garnish with a peel. If it’s barrel-aged and you pick up some clove, stud the orange peel with a few cloves. Cassia bark? Try a cinnamon stick. Rosemary, in its hardy glory, always makes a great cocktail garnish, too. “I usually try to taste the spirit on its own and focus on what I believe to be interesting notes in that spirit, then play upon them and exaggerate them with other spirits or ingredients,” Shapiro says. Mix It Right You want to be cognizant of your budget, but you also want to please your guests. Don’t skimp on a great drink just to make your alcohol go longer. Shapiro’s ratio for a great drink is one part alcohol to two parts water-based mixer. “One and a half ounces gin, 3 ounces tonic. That way you can taste your booze, but it shouldn’t be too offensive,” Shapiro says. Tweak the Classics If you’re unfamiliar with gin cocktails, just start with a classic drink — then modify it to make it work for you. Take the Pegu Club — gin, Cointreau, lime juice, bitters. Shapiro says subbing in blanco tequila would work just as well as the classic gin version. The same works for the inverse, such as a Gin Old Fashioned, with gin taking the place of the bourbon. You get the idea. © Brides 365

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