What I’ve learned today: martinis are delicious, you have to pair your martini with the correct garnish, and martinis are delicious.
This battle begins with a co-worker Christmas tradition in its first year – the booze exchange. Last year it was a book exchange, and that was great, but Christmas 2016 needed a little something specifically catered to being a new parent. I’m much too tired to read adult books, but when the kid is asleep and you have an hour or so to yourself in the late hours of the day, nothing beats a good cocktail.
So I got Kevin some Campari and he got me some local Arizona Distilling Co. Commerce Gin. And when there’s new gin, there’s a new BvsB (Kevin was more than happy to participate). (Also, why we didn’t have a BvsB negroni challenge is beyond me.)
In the blue corner, we have Tanqueray No. TEN (I’m just going to call it Tanqueray 10) – the flagship product (right?) from biggest gin brand in America. It’s 94.6 proof, is made with fresh, whole citrus instead of dried fruit, and is distilled four times (according to Wikipedia).
As far as accolades go, Tanqueray 10 has plenty. From [tanqueray.com]: “Upon its launch, this gin was crowned ‘Best White Spirit” three times in a row at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, at which point it was retired from the competition into the Hall of Fame, where it remains the only white spirit.” So fancy.
In the red corner, we have Commerce Gin from Arizona Distilling Company, arguably the most notable new distillery in Arizona. It’s 85 proof, is made from eight botanicals sourced from Northern Arizona (think tall Ponderosa pines, snowy winters, and big canyons), and is so new to the market that my bottle says “small batch no. 2”.
2 oz gin
1/4 oz Martini and Rossi Extra Dry
Notes: Stir the gin and vermouth with ice, then strain into a martini glass. Add a lemon peel or olive(s) to add a little something, although I didn’t add a garnish here.
Is there such thing as a bad martini? Well, yeah, probably. But if you like the taste of Christmas trees, don’t do anything silly with flavor variations, and find a good gin-to-vermouth ratio (I like 8:1, but if I have a good vermouth I do 6:1), you really can’t go wrong.
Kevin started with the Tanqueray 10. “Mmmm. Mmmmmmm. Gin is so refreshing.”
He savored the moment a little too long, so I coaxed him into giving me more thoughts. “This one is notably… there’s a vibrancy you don’t get from most gins. I dunno. It’s citrusy.”
He then tasted the Commerce. “Oooh. Oh wow. Ok, so these are two completely different tasting gins.”
Being so used to juniper-heavy gins, I was excited to try this new flavor, but I let him go on. “This one (Commerce) stays elevated, but the other (Tanqueray 10) has a juiciness. There’s a very clean flavor. It needs some olive juice to round it out.”
I went in and immediately knew the Tanqueray 10 taste. It’s very citrusy (for gin), has a good deal of that juniper taste, and has an oh-so-satisfying burn that lingers just the right amount. The Commerce Gin was completely different, but also delicious. Instead of the citrusy Christmas taste, it was almost briny, with the juniper replaced by less sappy pine needles. I can’t quite explain it, but it really does taste like northern Arizona – cold but sunny, lush with trees but bone dry, and just a bit funky.
Like Kevin said, both are great – the Tanqueray 10 just calls for a lemon twist while the Commerce Gin calls for a few olives.
There’s nothing worse than a reviewer on the fence, but that’s where I’m sitting. If I had three tasters there’d be a tiebreaker… oh well.
As it goes, my tastes lean towards the Tanqueray 10 with its juniper blast and citrusy juiciness. Kevin preferred the brininess of the Commerce Gin though, so we’re in a bit of a bind. Because I’m “The Author” I could just scoff and declare Tanqueray the winner, but I’ll hold off and leave this in an ambiguous place. This battle of gins comes down to whether you’re feeling sweet or salty that day – you should probably just stock both.