Bartenders Name Their 3 Essential Gins

Innovation churns the gin category as producers experiment with base spirit ingredients, unusual botanicals and even barrel-aging. Whole new subcategories are arising, from sweet and savory styles to pink gins.

Distillers in Japan, Scotland, Ireland and other far-flung regions are gaining recognition for unique gins. With all these new products coming to market, it’s even harder for bartenders to find enough room on the backbar. These experts whittle down the possibilities to just three essential gins that would cover all the bases.

The Paramour Bar, a rooftop venue in San Antonio, TV, carries more than 50 different gins. “Last time I counted we were sitting at 55, and each gin has their own story and style,” says general manager and hospitality director Misael Gonzalez.

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If pressed, Gonzalez would pare that down to Ransom Old Tom, Plymouth Gin, and Bols Genever. But, he adds, “I’d probably insist that you really need four and I’d go with Boodles London Dry to finish us off.” 

The Social Order Dining Collective operates five restaurant concepts in Oklahoma City, OK, each with its own cocktail program. At The Jones Assembly, the flagship restaurant and music venue, gin is a solid growth category and the bar there stocks some 30 different gins.

“This is a much harder question to answer than I expected,” says bar lead Charles Friedrichs about narrowing the selection to just three gins. “But if I had to choose, the first choice would be Gordon’s London Dry to cover the basics, followed by Citadelle for its balance and mixability,” he says.

“Lastly, I would pick Waterloo Antique gin from Treaty Oak Distilling. This barrel-aged gin out of Texas is great for substituting gin into whiskey or rum cocktails to add a botanical note when it is least expected.”

Shula’s Restaurant Group, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, FL, encompasses more than 25 restaurants spanning a spectrum of fine-dining, premium-casual, casual and fast-casual concepts including Shula’s Steak House, Shula’s 2 Steak & Sports, Shula Burger and 347 Grille by Coach Shula. Each brand has a distinctive atmosphere, menu and beverage program.

If he could only stock three gins, Rohini Moradi, Shula’s Restaurant Group’s director of bars, would pick Beefeater for a London Dry style; St. George Spirits Terroir for a new style gin, and Tanqueray, “a crowd favorite.”

“We like to use gin in cocktails because of Burma’s ties to England and historical usage of gin in that country,” says Scotty Wolff, beverage director at Burma Club, a Burmese-inspired restaurant in San Francisco. Burma Club carries 12 different gins.

Wolff parses out these three choices: “A classic London Dry: Beefeater, which is dry, with strong juniper-forward notes, and a balance of citrus and other botanicals. An Old Tom style of gin: Ransom, where the sweetness comes from the botanicals. And for a New American style: St. George Spirits’ Terroir Gin.”