Of all the gin joints in all the world, I’m glad I walked into this one. I’ve toured wineries, breweries, cideries, distilleries and dairies, but I’d never been walked through the gin-making process until Friday night.
Alpine Distilling is presenting a special series of Friday night dinners at 350 Main in Park City where Alpine Distilling founder Rob Sergent explain gin and—party favor!—help you select botanicals to flavor your own bottle of gin which they distill while you dine and which you then take home.
The dinner is limited to four couples, because that’s all the stovetop distillery equipment Alpine owns. The set-ups are, to put it in girly terms for such gents apparatus—adorable. Each little copper alembic produces a bottle of gin. Kind of like a Mr. Coffee for gin.
Meanwhile, guests are given four shot glasses of different gins, taste the differences (if they can) and compare them to ‘aroma sticks,’ each one a different pure smell. With no visual clues, it’s surprisingly hard to tell roses from angelica. Who knew what angelica smelled like anyway? It’s like a dinner party guessing game—you try to identify the pure aromas as you sip each gin.
Not surprisingly, this gets harder and harder.
Of course, the main flavoring in gin is—and by regulation must be—juniper. But anyone who’s tasted gins as different as Ransome’s Old Tom and Tanqueray knows there’s more to it than one evergreen bush.
We chose flavorings from maybe a dozen jars filled with juniper berries, mixed it up, stuck our noses in it, adjusted for balance and turned it over with our bottle to the distiller. Who had this nifty countertop still. Like a Mr. Coffee but for making hooch.
At different steps during the process, we would each be served a thimbleful of our gin so we could taste the different stages along the way to the final product.
Chef Mathew Safranek’s menu was inspirational: starting with sous-vide octopus, grilled and topping a friseé salad with grapefruit, housemade fettuccine with braised goat, yes I said goat, and grated caproto hard goat cheese in a sauce balanced by vinegar and adorned with french horn mushrooms. It was one of the best. Things. I’ve Ever. Eaten. And I’m using the periods to prove it.
Then there was the big hunk of meat course—perfectly cooked center cut tenderloin on a bed of mushroom farrotto, with a touch of curry oil to bring the meat into harmony with the rest of the menu.
And finally, a Chuno dark chocolate mousse with a pistachio tuile and candied orange peel.
Gin-tasting continued throughout the meal and we finished with a sip of the elusive Preserve, a liqueur inspired by the Swaner Nature Preserve made with black tea, ginger root, blood orange, raspberry and lemon balm.
Our own gin is flavored with juniper, coriander seed, black cardamom, ginger root, licorice root, orris root, rosehip, grapefruit peel and dried grapefruit zest and Egyptian chamomile.
We think it’s delicious and enjoyed it first in an Aviator cocktail:
gin, crème de violette, maraschino cherry liqueur and lemon juice.
Bertie Wooster would approve.
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