Punch Drunk 

This Week: The 2010 Gin Draft

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Awash in a sea of crudely mixed orange crushes, Smirnoff Green Apple Vodka and Bud Lights, your intrepid reporter decides this week that enough is enough. The cocktail, by most accounts, is back, and I'm tired of subjecting my body to anything less (see the previously mentioned drinks).

So I make a pilgrimage to the ABC store.

If you guessed that I go directly to the vodka aisle you'd be wrong. I need something with body, with layers of flavor, with zest. No more of this inherently flavorless, odorless swill that Americans can't get enough of. Gin will be my libation of choice. I feel dashing just standing in the gin section — that is, until some hobo walks past me and grabs a pint of Seagram's.

Back at my villa, which is what I call my Mom's condo when I'm drunk, the iced martini glasses are readied, along with the olives, pearl onions, dry vermouth and cucumbers (Huh? I'll get to the cucumbers). I even decide to change out of my pajama pants and put on khakis, which seem martini appropriate. With Mom's collection of Michael BublAc CDs blaring, and my khakis on, I go to work. I figure that if noted gin drinkers — F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lillian Gish and W.C. Fields — all got together on a drinking binge that they'd probably play something similar.

My first pick of the 2010 Gin Draft is undoubtedly one of the world's best: Hendrick's. Bartenders and spirits connoisseurs probably would agree with my assessment. Billed as “a most unusual gin,” what makes Hendrick's so wonderful is an infusion of cucumber essence, which gives it a curiously cool finish. With barely a drop of dry vermouth and garnished with about six cucumber slices, this martini is heavenly, especially as I enjoy it on the veranda (aka the curb in front of my villa). I pretend that I'm in an Oscar Wilde play, enjoying cucumber sandwiches and spouting witty one-liners. Even if my only foils are the feral cats that sometimes visit my veranda.

The next bottle I try is something a fellow bartender insisted I buy. Plymouth Gin, while not technically a London dry gin (think Tanqueray), is still produced in England. Despite my hesitation with anything even remotely English, I bought a bottle because this bartender friend wouldn't shut the hell up about it. I'm glad I took his advice. For this martini I increase the vermouth quotient and use a twist in lieu of olives or onions. I'm glad my friend never shuts his mouth — the drink is fantastic. This time I'm Winston Churchill in wartime Great Britain and the feral cats are my top advisers. We discuss the Luftwaffe and other things that are troubling me. I'm an imaginative guy.

After this I try a variety of other drinks, including a Gibson and a cucumber mojito with the Hendrick's. All are right on point.

I guess drinking nearly a fifth of gin is just about the same as drinking a bunch of JAgerbombs and beer — at least based on how drunk I am — but it's definitely much classier.

Even if my definition of class is sitting shirtless on a curb, drunkenly quoting Oscar Wilde to two cats in military uniforms.

Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback consumes and slings drinks at a number of local establishments. He also writes a surly blog at jackgoesforth.blogspot.com. Find him on Twitter @jackgoesforth. Have a question or comment for the bartender? E-mail: bartender@styleweekly.com.

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