Local Botanical Gin Infusions
Mar 31, 2020 08:08AM
By Wendy Fachon
If you enjoy a really good gin cocktail, Massachusetts has some fun destinations where you can learn more about how these botanical infusions are crafted. Gin is defined as any distilled alcohol that has been flavored with juniper, the bright blue, fragrant berries that grow in clusters on Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginia), which happens to be the most common type of juniper growing in Massachusetts. More specifically, unlike liqueurs, where flavorings are added to the distilled spirits, gin is made by re-distilling the spirit with the flavoring ingredients in the still and by passing the vapor through the flavoring agents during distillation.
Laura Killingbeck, food systems consultant at Round the Bend Farm, in Dartmouth, explains, “Gin was originally crafted as a medicine and sold in pharmacies. However, this medicine was so delicious that people started drinking it just for fun. Juniper acts as a diuretic and is used to treat gastrointestinal issues and urinary tract infections, but it’s also tasty as a gin and tonic.”
Round the Bend Farm, a Center for Restorative Community, is a working farm and educational nonprofit. Killingbeck says, “You can make your own gin by infusing juniper and other spices into vodka. There are really endless combinations of herbs and spices that you can use to make a delicious, and medicinal, gin.” She shares one of her favorite botanical gin recipes on the farm website, with a cautionary note: Like many spices, juniper is edible and medicinal in small quantities, but toxic in large quantities. Consume in moderation. RoundTheBendFarm.org/2020/01/10/how-to-make-botanical-gin-infusions.
Short Path Distillery is a craft distillery in Everett specializing in gin. The infusion is made in a pot still fitted with a gin basket. Above the boil kettle, a copper basket sits in the column where organic botanicals are placed. As the alcoholic steam rises up the column, it extracts the flavors of the juniper and accompanying botanicals, which are then condensed along with the ethanol.
The company’s Spring Gin has a flavor profile centered with juniper and coriander and surrounded by a suite of botanicals to bring out the best of the season: elderflower, chamomile, lemongrass, lemon peel, lemon balm, jasmine, myrtle and dandelion root. Mixing this infused spirit with mild flavors lets the floral subtleties shine through. Ingredients like wildflower honey, cucumber, fruit-tinged seltzers, citrus bitters or a squeeze of lemon are all compatible. Tours of the facility show visitors the production process, explain the science-based approach to flavor development and conclude with a guided tasting. ShortPathDistillery.com.
Grand Ten Distilling, a small distiller in Boston, produces three types of gin. Wire Works American Gin has tasting notes juniper berry, spruce tip, kumquat and angelica root. Hints of sweetness and bright citrus are paired with earthy richness and white pepper. This gin is made with nine botanicals, including juniper, angelica root, coriander and Massachusetts cranberries.
Wire Works Rosé Gin is a gorgeous spirit that lends itself to a myriad of summertime cocktails, from a gin and tonic to a martini with lemon. The spice is toned down in favor of a brighter citrus flavor. Notes of lemon are balanced by earthy angelica root which complement the hints of grape provided by City Winery.
Wire Works Special Reserve is aged in used American bourbon barrels and blended to produce a gin that possesses the distinctively soft textures and caramel-vanilla flavors of bourbon. This spirit bridges the gap between the citrus brightness of the signature gin and the soft, sweet notes of whiskey. The name Wire Works comes from the fact that the company’s space used to be a foundry that crafted wire. Grand Ten offers free tours on Saturdays, as well as tastings and bottle sales during bar hours. GrandTen.com.
Nashoba Valley Spirits, in Bolton, produces and sells fine whiskies, brandies, eau de vie, cordials and vodka, distilled from 100 percent apples, grown in its own orchards. The distiller’s gin, The Perfect 10, combines ten botanicals: juniper berries, elderberry, lemon, orange peel, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, anise and fennel. The gin is made by re-distilling a neutral base spirit through a gin basket loaded with juniper berries. The distiller then creates a geist with the other nine botanicals to create the hand crafted Perfect 10 gin. Nashoba Valley hosts year round tastings and tours, special events and apple picking at its stunning hilltop venue. NashobaDistillery.com.
Wendy Fachon is a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings and host of the Story Walking Radio Hour on the Dream Visions 7 Radio Network. Visit DreamVisions7Radio.com and search out her podcasts on sustainable living.