Among the most significant improvements I’ve made to Ted’s life are two introductions: to Maine, and to gin. Like every WASP girl of my generation, my first real drink was a G+T, and my freshman year in college (when the drinking age was 18), my roommates and I practiced being grownup by having gin and tonics every evening before walking to the dining hall—we kept the empty seaglass-like Gilbey’s bottles lined up on the top of the living room bookshelf as decoration. Eventually, I graduated from Gilbey’s (still a perfectly fine gin), to Tanqueray (ditto), to Bombay Sapphire, my all-around favorite for what I continue to believe is the most perfect cocktail, especially on a warm summer day.
Our move to Maine, and my writing about the food and drink scene for the Portland Press Herald, coincided with the discovery of distinctive, locally distilled gin. While they haven’t sprung up at the rate of craft breweries, largely because distilling is a far more expensive, complex process, distilleries are a growing addition to the Maine economic and cocktail landscape. There are six in the Portland area alone, including New England Distilling, launched in 2011 by our friend Ned Wight in an industrial complex on the outer edge of the city. Ned is a fifth-generation distiller; beginning in the 1850’s until 1958 his family made rye whiskey in Maryland. Ingenium was Ned’s first spirit; he’s now added the popular and delicious Eight Bells rum and Gunpowder rye to his repertoire. (And don’t despair if you’re not in Maine, Ingenium is also sold in Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and D.C.)
Dry and with a distinctive blend of botanicals, Ingenium is one of Ted’s favorite gins. He says it’s reminiscent of genever, which explains why it is not my gin of choice for a classic G+T. I do enjoy its bold, astringent flavors in other cocktails, such as this heady mix of Ingenium and blood orange shrub. If you’re not familiar with shrubs—also called drinking vinegars—they are made from fruit juice, sugar and vinegar, and add a sweet-tart complexity to cocktails. If you don’t want to make the blood orange shrub for this recipe, Vena’s Fizz House in Portland stocks a wide variety of shrubs; Spiker’s Ruby Red Grapefruit would be a delicious substitute. If you do want to try your hand at making the shrub, our friend Kate McCarty shows you how over on her terrific blog, The Blueberry Files.
Read more about Maine gins in a story I wrote for the Press Herald a few years ago: Maine craft distilleries making gin sing.
And here are some more gin cocktail recipes from our archives:
- 2 ounce Ingenium gin
- 1 ounces blood orange shrub
- slice of blood orange and rosemary sprig for garnish
Recipe courtesy of New England Distilling