It’s not every day you can feel all Mad Men at the office, but today was far from an everyday occurrence. For years, contra has been part and parcel of working at a media company. Contra budgets aren’t quite what they used to be (oh those days of student radio, skulling cases of free vodka energy drinks. It was a very good year), but occasionally we still get fun experiences rolling on through work. Today’s entertainment came via Bombay Sapphire and an assortment of paired tonics/tinctures. We had a bonafide alcopothecary in our work kitchen doing tastings.
People from assorted departments scrambled to find a vessel with which to join in. I darted back to my desk to find something, anything that could a) hold gin and b) look pretty. I returned with a one litre Pyrex beaker that I scavenged for inscrutable purposes, none of which I’d yet discovered. Finally came the beaker’s time to shine. The host regarded it with a raised eyebrow and an approving nod. He tipped a generous quantity of Bombay into my “chalice”.
He taught us how to properly smell spirits as opposed to wine. With wine, the idea is to get in and fill your nose with the scent. Spirits, having a much higher proof, benefit from a lighter touch. Open your mouth he said, to enjoy the aromas without the burn of alcohol. It made a huge difference, the flavours came through unimpeded by the alcoholic odour. Maybe this dude knew what he was talking about. I took a quaff of gin and ended up with most of it in my beard. One litre beakers are messy to drink from. With such an unwieldy vessel, it’s impossible to gauge when it’s actually gonna hit your mouth. I sheepishly traded it in for a small plastic cup.
He gave out plastic spoons and we sampled a bunch of the different flavour infusions he had on hand. A couple of variants on orange, keffir lime, lemongrass, cinnamon, lavender. The tastes varied wildly, but not just from one another. He urged us to try the small drops of infusions we were each given, then follow them with sips of gin to see how it changed the taste. Dramatically, was the answer. Adding the gin opened up dimensions in each flavour. One of them tasted kind of like jalapeños on its own, but with the gin a sweetness enveloped it. As a group he got us to come to a consensus on our favourite three infusions. After we’d decided on a cinnamon, lime and lemongrass combo, he took out a micro measure (that’s my word for it) and inserted them one at a time (quantities according to relative strength of flavour) passing around tasters with each addition. It was crazy how much the flavour grew as new infusions were mixed in.
He made up a bunch of our consensus based signature cocktail and passed them around. We were informed that in a week or so, we were gonna be sent a pre-mixed bottle of our combination, enough for thirty or so drinks. All I can say is that next Thursday will be an excellent lead in to a very Good Friday.