FEW Spirits in Chicago, Illinois make drinks that are an homage to the past. And one of their first specialty spirits is no exception. While it's quite common to put a spirit like tequila or rum into oak barrels, the practice was nearly extinct in the gin world. But Few Barrel Gin ($40) is now leading a pack of new barrel aged gins. It gives off the juniper aromas you are used to with a gin, but pours an amber color instead, thanks to the four months it spent in oak barrels. The result is a light smoky smoothness that is unlike any gin you've tasted. As the bottle states, "What once was clear is now complex."
How important is the water that is used to craft gin? Downright essential, if you ask the folks at Jack Rabbit Hill Farm in Colorado. Their CapRock Organic Gin ($30) sources pure spring water from an actual Caprock for this inebriant. In fact, it's one of the only purely organic gins made in the USA. It springs forward with a complex blend of apples, juniper, and an intriguing floral bouquet. Sip on it straight, and then mix up a batch of Tom Collins or Gin & Tonics for a crisp, clean cocktail at your next summer get together.
We've heard of bathtub gin before, but luckily this Homemade Gin Kit ($40) doesn't require you to set up a distillery in your bathroom. Instead, it has you grab a bottle of vodka and let it steep with the included juniper berries and carefully selected, hand weighed spices, botanicals, flowers, and aromatics. Roughly 36 hours later you'll have your very own small batch gin, which you can keep in the included 500ml bottle for your own purposes while gifting away the other 250ml in the other included flask.
No, that's not a typo. Crafted to one-up the classic worm in a tequila bottle, English Garden Worm Gin ($30) features a common earthworm floating around in the booze, which offers up a dry flavor and a alcohol content of 37.5 percent. As for what to do with the worm when you're finished? That's totally up to you.
While the larger spirit companies are busy inventing new flavors, plenty of smaller shops are busy resurrecting classic recipes in small batches. Take Brooklyn Gin ($40) for example. Created at Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery — New York's first licensed distillery since Prohibition — this crisp, smooth gin is the first Brooklyn Distilling Company product in over 100 years, and is made using hand-cracked juniper berries, freshly-cut citrus peels, and other locally-sourced ingredients that give it its simple, satisfying flavor.
Add an extra bit of oomph to your New Years martinis, long islands, and slings with Bulldog Gin ($30). Handcrafted in London using traditional copper pot stills and twelve unique botanicals, Bulldog offers fruit and citrus notes, a smooth texture, and crisp taste that make it perfect for mixing or solo sipping. As a bonus, the distinctive bottle with a spiked collar is sure to draw more than a few questions from your fellow revelers.
Made in Oregon as a historically accurate revival of Old Tom Gin from the mid-1800s, Ransom Old Tom Gin ($36) is here to fill the gap between London Dry and the sweeter Jenever. With a malted barley base, Ransom adds an infusion of botanicals like juniper berries, orange peel, lemon peel, coriander seed, cardamon pods, and angelica root to create a flavorful spirit with herbal and citrus notes. As for the whole "Old Tom Gin" bit, the name supposedly comes from wooden cat-shaped planks — "old toms" — outside some pubs in 1700s England, into which passerby would deposit a penny, then slurp up a shot of gin poured by the bartenders inside through a tube between the cat's paws. Seriously, we couldn't make that up.
Supposedly brewed in a tub until the owners shot a hole in the side, Tub Gin ($33) comes with an interesting backstory that belies its refined taste. Infused with several different kinds of hand-picked Colorado Juniper berries, Tub also offers notes of coriander, citrus peel, oris root, and other botanicals, and is craft-distilled in small batches to best capture the flavor of the makers' original tub-brewed hooch.