Some of the world’s foremost gin experts assembled in the cavernous event space of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on March 24 for the Pernod Ricard Gin Symposium. The first half of the day focused on the history and types of gin, and that was certainly useful, but the fireworks really flew when top bartenders from the U.S. and U.K. showcased gin in cocktails. After all, as Simon Ford said, “You don’t really drink gin neat, but you really can’t beat gin for cocktails.”
Ford’s co-host Audrey Saunders is another top bartender who probably wouldn’t disagree. Earlier in the program, she recounted her transformation into a gin-ophile. In 1999, when she opened Blackbird with Dale DeGroff, he made her a Pegu Club and she subsequently based her career on gin. Now, when bartenders start training at Pegu Club, her Manhattan bar, she lines up different gins and makes lemon gin sours, lime gin sours, adds a dash of Angostura, a dash of orange bitters, an orange twist, then flames the twist.
Saunders is a dynamic speaker and had her colleagues paying rapt attention to her views on gin cocktails, where “Flavors go from very sharp to more mellow.” She said to “Think of gin like a liquid spice rack.” For example, Plymouth is “a bit softer” and Beefeater is “much more citrusy.” Given that “Aviation is supposed to be a beautiful sour with the essence of cherry,” she uses Plymouth. However, “A Negroni is best made with Beefeater, since it can actually stand up to Campari.”
Even her choice of tonic is nuanced. For example, Saunders pairs Fever Tree with Plymouth and Schweppes with Beefeater. “Fever Tree gin and tonic is softer, allows more of a platform for the Plymouth to shine,” said Saunders. “Schweppes is a more aggressive tonic, so it will support Beefeater.”
When developing cocktails, Saunders and her bartenders will test a recipe with 6-8 different gins. Her Gin Gin Mule went through 60-80 different calibrations.
Saunders then ceded the mic for Cocktail Hour with Dan Warner, which concluded the symposium. Warner is a global brand ambassador for Beefeater, and he introduced some of top colleagues from L.A. and the U.K.
London bartender Nick Strangeway barraged the audience with a F-bombs before making his first cocktail, which he dubbed Myatt’s Mistake, a cocktail he named for a man who sells rhubarb at London’s Borough Market. Nearly every ingredient was infused. “Desmond [Payne] and Sean [Harrison] do a great job of making gin, and then I fuck it up,” said Strangeway. He infuses Beefeater with rhubarb since “Rhubarb has this sour note that really works with the Beefeater.” He uses “forced rhubarb,” which has a sweeter more delicate flavor. He joked that rhubarb is a purgative, and that “It’s guaranteed to do something.” He added, “The next thing I decided was Lillet wasn’t good enough anymore.” Finally, “Vanilla in the oak aged gin complements the rhubarb.” Here’s his recipe:
¾ oz. rhubarb infused Beefeater
¾ oz. oak infused Beefeater
¾ oz. Campari
¾ oz. Cinchona infused Lillet
2 bar spoons rhubarb syrup
dash rhubarb bitters
2 oz. Prosecco
Twist and wedge of blood orange
Strangeway’s second cocktail was an Earl 75, a variation on the French 75 that refers to the same earl that inspired Earl Grey, a bergamot flavored tea.
1 bar spoon Bergamot infused Beefeater
1 ½ oz. Beefeater gin
½ oz. Bergamot sherbet
1 bar spoon sugar syrup
2 bar spoons fresh lemon juice
3 oz. champagne
Quickly shake first 5 ingredients to chill, then pour in coupe and top with champagne
The Varnish co-owner Eric Alperin followed up Strangeway’s performance with an L.A. interpretation. He prepared a Gin Screwdriver, which in the Prohibition era was made with orange blossom to cover up the flavor of bathtub gin. At The Varnish, Alperin adds 2-3 drops of orange blossom water and a squeeze of lime, “which really adds a crunch to the cocktail.”
2 oz. Beefeater gin
1 oz. orange juice
½ oz. simple syrup
Shaken and strain. Garnish with orange wedge.
Chris Edwardes made the first cocktail with Beefeater 24. He was involved with the Atlantic and the Groucho Club in London. Now, Edwardes and his wife own a B&B in Brighton called Blanche House, and they’re scouting a summer spot in Ibiza and winter spot in the Alps. He prepared a “Variation on an Aviation called a Deviation,” adding, “If the bar has the ingredients, this is the drink I drink.”
2 oz. Beefeater 24
1 oz. Antica Formula
1 bar spoon lemon juice
Stir and strain
The Roger Room head barman Damian Windsor prepared a Gypsy Wine, named for a variation on the crysanthemum species.
1 oz. Beefeater 24
¾ oz. Dolin dry vermouth
½ oz. D.O.M. Benedictine
1 dash Angostura orange bitters
Stir and strain
Garnish w/lemon peel
Acclaimed British bartender Jamie Terrell was the first person to take a crack at Plymouth, preparing a Monk’s Gimlet.
2 oz. Plymouth gin
½ oz. lime sherbet
¼ oz. Lillet Blanc
¼ oz. fresh lime juice
1 bar spoon Green Chartreuse
Rinse frozen cocktail glass with Green Chartreuse. Shake rest of the ingredients with ice and double strain. Lemon zest garnish
Terrell’s second cocktail was the Rouge, his signature drink.
3 parts Plymouth gin
¼ oz. fresh pomegranate
½ oz. fresh passion fruit
2 bar spoons of simple syrup
Muddle pom, passion and syrup. Add Plymouth. Shake and double strain. Garnish with mint leaf.
The final bartender to present a cocktail was Marcos Tello. He prepared a classic cocktail called The Romanoffs, pulled from Ted Saucier’s “Bottoms Up” (1951). Tello described the drink as “A gin buck with a little bit of bells and whistles.”
Tello is a true historian, and recounted the tale of Harry F. Gerguson, who arrived in Hollywood in 1927 and pawned himself off as Russian prince “Romanoff,” but spoke with an English accent. He was outed in 1931 by Russian community and exiled, but returned in 1941 and worked his way up at Chasen’s before swindling Darryl F. Zanuck and Jack Warner for a restaurant deal. He opened Romanoff’s in 1945, and the restaurant became known for its French food and power lunch booths.
2 oz. Plymouth
3/8 oz. cherry heering
3/8 oz. Grenadine
½ oz. Ginger syrup
1 oz. fresh lime juice
Top up soda
Shake and strain, top with soda. Garnish with lime wedge.
As the symposium wound down, Audrey Saunders summed up the event and the cocktail community in general, saying, “The idea for us is to continue to learn together and continue to pay it forward.”