Today’s adventure: Making gin!
Me and gin, we’ve got a thing.
Last week, during a trip to Park City, Utah, I mixed a blend of botanicals to create my very own gin, suitable for sipping.
Rob Sergent, owner of Alpine Distilling (which, besides making booze, has a pie bar!) walked me through the process.
But first, he poured me a cocktail made with the distillery’s Preserve Liquor, flavored with blood orange, black tea, lemon balm, raspberry and ginger, and told me a bit about the business.
I sipped it. Yum. And at first my notes were clearly legible.
I carefully jotted down that Alpine Distilling, at 350 Main Street, makes vodka, gin, bourbon, whiskey and a few liquors. I also noted that the distillery’s gin is crafted with juniper berries imported from Croatia. Depending on what type of other botanicals are added, you can vary its taste.
Sergent handed me a small card listing a whole array of ingredients, from coriander to rose hips to grapefruit peel. He explained a little about each one, and what it would add to the gin – or take away.
I sipped a little more of my cocktail.
First, I had to decide whether I wanted my gin to have light, medium or heavy juniper flavor. At Sergent’s suggestion I chose light, since I wanted my gin for sipping instead of stirring into a gin and tonic. He also recommended that I add a dash of coriander. Check, and check.
From there, though, things got creative. Also, my notes got sloppy.
I know that I chose orris root as a binder, then added licorice root, ginger root, and dried orange, lemon and grapefruit peel. (Fresh peel – and I did add a little fresh orange peel to my special brew – tends to add a bitter note).
Sergent then presented the ingredients that, used too heavily, could ruin a gin – lavender, cassia bark, chamomile, rose hips, grains of paradise and cardamom. I picked a little cassia bark (cinnamon) and a bit of chamomile, to smooth out the mouth feel. Hopefully it didn’t ruin my gin, but since I haven’t tasted it yet, I can’t tell you for sure.
Sergent placed everything in a copper bowl, tossed it like a fresh salad, then handed the whole kaboodle to an assistant, who dashed back into what looked like an upscale chemistry lab crossed with a Kentucky still. (Sergent hails from Kentucky, and photos of his relatives distilling their own booze hang on the walls).
Alpine Distillers’ gin is built on a base of strong vodka, which is heated and mixed with the botanicals. So is some other stuff, but by this point I’d quit taking notes.
I do remember the assistant hovering over the copper pots in that glassed-in back room, wearing safety glasses and looking like she was having lots of fun.
Now I’m just waiting for my gin to age a few more days. Then I’ll bake a pecan pie, because Sergent says gin and pie make good company.
Or I’ll just take it on my next winter hike in the woods.
“Everything we do is inspired by nature. Put it in a flask, get outside. That’s why Alpine Distillery exists,” Sergent says.
This, by the way, wasn’t my first gin rodeo.
Last year, I traveled to West Texas to harvest juniper berries with Molly Cummings and her Wild June Gin. Read that story here. https://www.statesman.com/news/20180818/west-texas-on-the-rocks-a-spin-on-gin.
For more information about Alpine Distillers, go to