I spent my entire life thinking I hated gin. Apparently, the memory of sitting on my godmother, Midge’s, lap – YES MY GODMOTHER’S NAME WAS MIDGE AND SHE WAS EXACTLY WHAT YOU WOULD EXPECT A MIDGE TO BE LIKE- while she swilled gin and tonic, ice cubes clattering away as she chain smoked menthol cigarettes, butting them out in her dinner plate, scarred me for life. 

When we started dating, my guy always ordered a G&T and since I as already in too deep, I chose to not hold it against him. I was sticking to vodka soda, thank you very much until one day, we were somewhere that had no vodka and it was probably either a gin drink or a creme de menthe so I reluctantly agreed to tried a gin and soda with lime. OMGin! My entire life changed with the first sip because, as it turns out, I ADORE gin but I realized that it was the tonic water I didn’t care for. Quinine, anyone?

My first trip to Portugal solidified my love of gin because they are gin crazy over there and whatever tonic they were using grew on me as well. I also loved that they served them with a ton of ice and cucumber in giant, oversized wine glasses the size of fish bowls.

From that point on, I quickly became a gin connoisseur, visiting local distilleries when we travelled, collecting gins from around the world. My absolute favourite is still Dillons Unfiltered Gin 22, just bursting with floral flavours and how can you not appreciated the fact that they use so many homegrown botanicals? But, as I always say, a woman can not live by one gin alone.

I have not squandered my lock down time. I have spent the pandemic trying out different Canadian gins and will share some of my favourites with a few recipes to get you started.

First up is Niagara region distillery, Dillons Small Batch Distillery. They make all the usual spirits but are always doing small runs of different flavours – my most recent love was a Maison Selby Honey Pineapple Gin and I have a bottle of Maison Selby Cucumber sGin on the way to my house as I type. Make sure to drive out to the distillery for a tasting and to peruse all of the beautiful bar accessories that they sell in their shop

Dillon’s Hibiscus Sour

dillons hibiscus sour

Photo: Nataschia Wielink and recipe Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers

2 oz Dillons Dry Gin 7

*1 oz hibiscus syrup

3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

2 dashes Dillon’s Lemon Bitters

1/4 oz Chambord

1 egg white

In your cocktail shaker, add the gin, syrup, lemon juice, bitters, Chambord and egg white. Dry shake for 30 seconds. Add ice and shake again.
Strain the cocktail into your favourite rock glass. Garnish with dried hibiscus flowers and enjoy!

*Hibiscus Syrup: 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup dried hibuscus flowers (or hibiscus tea)
Add the water, sugar and dried flowers to a small saucepan. Heat until simmering. Stir and remove from heat to steep. Strain and keep in the the fridge for up to two weeks.

Our next offering is Romeo GinX.Romeo has added a watermelon distillate that gives this gin aromas of juniper, cucumber, lavender, dill, lemon and almond, making it nice enough to drink straight up on ice if you don’t want to bother with a cocktail. This gin was inspired by Montreal Artist, Miss Me and grew into a collaboration between the distiller and the artist. The X is a prominent symbol use by Miss Me in her work, offering a strong contrast between harmony and opposition. I just know it is a super cool bottle and makes a great hostess gift for your next two dose BBQ.

photo and recipe courtesy of Romeo’s Gin – the recipe is an interpretation of the girly drink by Vancouver’s Katie Ingram

1 1/2 oz Romeo’s Gin X

1/2 oz sherry solera medium

3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

1/2 ox grapefruit juice

1/2 oz grenadine

2 dashes Bittered Sling Suius Cherry Bitters

1 egg white

Garnish with half grapefruit wheel

Combine all the ingredients into your shakers and add one ice cuber. Dry shake with one ice cube to get your egg whites extra frothy. Fill the shaker with ice and give a hard shake. Finely strain your cocktail into a Collins glass with fresh ice and garnish with a half grapefruit wheel

Last, but not least, I want to talk to you about Junction 56 Distillery in Stratford, Ontario. I visited this small distillery back in 2019 and wrote about them here

After one whiskey tasting, Mike Heisz decided that he was going to learn how to distill so he took as many courses as he could and three years later, left his engineering career to open his own distillery. I love stories like that, turning a passion into reality from sheer force of will and determination.

They do some really creative gins and gin liqueurs and  they collaborate with other local producers like Rheo Thompson Candies to make a Mint Smoothie Liqueur or the insanely good Fireball he makes using a spicy, intense cinnamon tea from tea sommelier Karen Hartwick of Tea Leaves. You can get some of the products at the LCBO, order straight from them, go for a drive to Stratford, do a tasting and take some home because why wouldn’t you want to drive to Stratford on a beautiful summer day?

Rhubarb Gin Fizz

1 ounce Junction 56 Gin
1 ounce Junction 56 Rhubarb Gin
1 ounce *rhubarb syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Dry sparkling wine OR soda
Shake the gins, rhubarb syrup, and lemon juice over ice. Pour into an ice-filled glass and top with sparkling wine or soda. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
*RHUBARB SYRUP: 1 pound rhubarb, 2 cups water, 3/4 cups sugar!
Bring rhubarb and water to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and discard rhubarb, return liquid to the pot and add sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a glass jar and store in the fridge.

Photo courtesy of Junction 56

my list of honourable mentions:

Distilled in the tradition of Sloe Gin, the Hawthorn Berry Gin from the Spirit of York Distillery in the Distillery District is a perpetual fave in this house

Levenswater has three gins but for summer, it’s the Spring 34 for me. Made from potatoes, this one is gluten free and infused with 34 botanicals and is another gin that we happily drink straight, over some ice.

Lastly, I am loving the new gin on the block called, and I think it needs to win all the awards for the name alone, Valley of Mother Of God Gin. I think I may have attended an elementary school named Valley of Mother Of God…. I’m sure I have a soccer shirt from grade 5 around here somewhere…….