Booze Traveling with Gin: How and Where to Try It Around the World

Planning a trip? Take a page from Jack Maxwell’s book and find out how the locals enjoy their gin. You don’t have to shine shoes (as he did as a kid in Boston bars), but you should definitely stick around for a few stories.

Photo By: Photographer: Emilia Brandao

Photo By: Mike Denman

Barcelona: Bobby Gin

Alberto Pizarro, bar manager at Barcelona’s Bobby Gin, notes that Spaniards’ love for G&Ts is a many-splendored thing: “It’s a refreshing drink for hot summers; it’s a long drink that suits the Spanish taste; it’s used as an appetizer but also a digestive and a fancy drink.”

Bobby Gin’s most popular version is made with Hendrick’s and lemon thyme; bargoers also clamor for cocktails with Modernessia, a Spanish gin, infused with goji berries. (Click here for a sneak peek of Jack Maxwell’s trip to Barcelona.)

London (and Iceland): Martin Miller's Gin

Martin Miller’s Gin became the world’s first “super-premium” version of the spirit in the late ‘90s, when its namesake (once called “the Richard Branson of the antiques world”) resolved to topple vodka in his countrymen’s affections. Distilled in the UK (in ‘Angela,’ a century-old pot still) and combined with volcanically filtered water on a fjord in western Iceland, Martin Miller’s has admirers wherever G&T is spoken. Find it in its second home at Slippbarinn, on the harbor in Reykjavik (and find more of Jack Maxwell’s Icelandic favorites here); to reimagine classic cocktails, reach for 9 Moons, a barrel-aged gin the Martin Miller’s team decided to develop after mixologists at a Scottish gastropub in New York City (are you following all the globe-trotting here?) barreled it themselves. Recreate that “aha!” moment with a new take on an Old Fashioned (2 oz. 9 Moons gin, 1 tsp water, 2 dashed Angostura bitters, 1 sugar cube). 

Chicago: Letherbee Gin

Letherbee’s Brenton Engel began distilling in Chicago back in 2007, when he cooked up “Illinois Joy”—moonshine—in his basement. These days, he and his team produce barrel-aged absinthe, Fernet, Bësk, and a take-no-prisoners flagship gin; call it anti-craft craft distilling. “Our ‘botanical-forwardness’ is actually a direct reaction to all the new American gins that were starting to come out years ago which, in my opinion, were mostly too light, floral, whimsical, fruity and expensive,” he says. “I wanted to make a robust gin that could stand up to the bold food ingredients I was using in my cocktails.”

Letherbee also distills limited-edition Vernal and Autumnal gins; this fall’s Bloody-Mary-ready, borscht-inspired run of 2,500 bottles is made with beets, dill, black pepper, caraway and cumin. The beauty pictured here, in turn, is the Thai Derby from Melody Nelson Bar in Berlin (6 cl Letherbee gin, 4cl lime juice, 2cl honey syrup, and a dash of Angostura bitters, shaken, strained, and garnished with sage and a pinch of Ceylon cinnamon). Thirsty for more in Chicago? Visit Gold Star Bar, one of Jack Maxwell’s favorite cash-only dives.

Amsterdam: Razmataz

Gin-lovers in Amsterdam would do well to head to the Oud-West neighborhood and make themselves comfortable at Razmataz, a bar and restaurant which boasts more than 50 varieties of gin and two spins on G&T exploration: a professional-led tasting for large groups and a new, DIY version in which tasters are turned loose with three varieties of gin and an array of mixers and garnishes. Bestsellers and house favorites include Bobby’s (a Dutch gin that debuted in 2014), Dodd’s (a small-batch gin from London with lots of cardamom) and G&Ts finished with a splash of vermouth. (Click here to follow Jack Maxwell to Amsterdam and across the Netherlands.)

Alameda, CA: St. George Terroir Gin

The artisan distillers at St. George put northern California in a bottle with their Terroir gin; Douglas fir from a ranch in nearby Mendocino gives the spirit its signature bouquet, and wok-roasted coriander adds an earthy note reminiscent of the wild scrub in the Bay Area’s foothills. For a spot-on autumn cocktail, the team suggests echoing the gin’s herbaceous notes in a Collins (gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and soda) garnished with rosemary, sage or fresh California bay laurel; to follow the gin to its source, reserve a spot at one of the distillery’s tours or tastings. For the ultimate taste of the Golden State, try Karl Steuck’s “To Grandma’s house we go,” pictured here (2 oz. St. George Terroir gin, 1 oz. Dolin Blanc, and 2 dashes Angostura Orange bitters, garnished with a Yellow Chartreuse-infused fig).

Madrid: Gin Club

Gin Club, a bar that shares space and patrons with Mercado de la Reina, was one of Madrid’s first gin palaces; it’s also one of its best. In G&Ts, “Madrileños [natives and inhabitants of Madrid] have discovered a drink they love as much as wine and beer. Increasingly gin tonics appear as accompaniments to lunch or dinner; it is not unusual to see the marriage of our burger with gin and tonic,” says Gin Club’s Raúl Gómez. Martin Miller’s Gin reigns supreme at the Club, he reports; Bulldog—also a London Dry—is another favorite. What differentiates a gin tonic in Spain—a gin tonic at the Gin Club—from those one would find elsewhere? “The love with which we make them, of course.”

Caithness, Scotland: Rock Rose Gin

Martin and Claire Murray drew inspiration for their Rock Rose Gin from Viking scavengers, as one does; a millennium ago, the savage travelers harvested rose root (which the Murrays now grow in their distillery garden) to give them strength for long journeys. “We only use a small amount in our gin,” says Claire, “as it is actually very astringent and is quite a powerful flavour—we only want to add a hint!” The Murrays can’t reveal the identity of the woman who gave her name to Elizabeth, their traditional copper pot still, in print—but she’ll happily tell the story in person. Do she and Martin have a favorite way to serve their gin? “As husband and wife we can’t always agree on things and we each have our perfect serve! I like it best with a curl of orange, and Martin [likes it] with a sprig of rosemary. I think it shows that garnish is down to personal preference and what notes you enjoy and want to pull out as a dominant flavour in your gin.” If you’re inspired to pluck a bit of wild rose root as your garnish, watch your step out on the Scottish cliffs: “it can be difficult to reach!” (Follow Jack Maxwell’s travels in Scotland here.)

Brooklyn: Greenhook Gin

Brothers Steve and Philip DeAngelo put a Brooklyn spin on gin at their distillery in Greenpoint, where they use New York-grown wheat in their American Dry Gin and macerated Long Island Beach Plums (once used as currency by local Native American tribes) in their one-of-a-kind Beach Plum Gin Liqueur; their overproof Old Tom, in turn, pays tribute to the robust Genevers that fortified Dutch settlers in the 18th century. Greenhook Gin makes appearances in bars and bottle shops across New York; if you head north along the Atlantic, Bar Sugo in Norwalk, CT offers Greenhook Gin as a winter warmer in its Negroni Verde, pictured above (1 oz. Greenhook Gin, 1 oz. Suze, 1oz. Cocchi Americano, 1/4 oz. Blood Orangecello; stir with ice until chilled, then strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice and garnish with orange zest).

Greater Manchester, UK: The Old Bell Inn

The Old Bell Inn, an 18th-century former coaching inn in Saddleworth, broke the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of gins commercially available back in 2014 (with 404 total); owner Philip Whiteman says that they now have 775 different gins. It’s no trouble to pick favorites among them, reports mixologist Sam Winterbottom: "Most of the staff have one to recommend and luckily we have a diverse taste so no one tastes the same thing twice." When asked for an unusual choice, Winterbottom recommends the first gin produced locally in Manchester: "The Thomas Dakin [pictured above] has a unique savory flavor with 11 botanicals, including horseradish, based on a 1761 recipe, definitely more obscure." Has he ever met a gin he doesn’t like? "The non-alcoholic one would be high on the list!"

Wellington, South Africa: Jorgensen's Gin

Craft distillation in South Africa suffered a fatal blow in the 1960s, when the then-Nationalist government revoked private distillation licenses and concentrated rights among a handful of big companies. That underwent a sea change in 1994, the year Nelson Mandela became president, South Africa adopted a new constitution—and Dawn and Roger Jorgensen began distilling spirits with local ingredients on their family farm in Wellington, 45 minutes outside of Cape Town. They produce their delicate, small-batch gin with local ingredients such as juniper grown in South Africa, “Grains of Paradise” from Ghana, naartjie, (a native citrus), and Cape lemon peels. These days, the premium microdistillation movement is gaining momentum—and Roger is thrilled to have company. “It is gratifying the market recognizes us all as providers of unique spirits that tell an African plant story. Gin is like no other spirit in the way that it can accurately describe the terroir or local environment.” Visitors who call ahead are welcome to come out to the farm for a tour and a tasting; look for Jorgensen’s Gin at top Cape Town hotels like Cape Grace and The Table Bay, at local gin bars (“of which The Gin Bar in Wale Street is a leading light,” says Roger), and online. (Click here for Jack Maxwell’s adventures in South Africa.)

Berlin: Monkey Bar

Berlin’s most enterprising gin enthusiast, the late Montgomery "Monty" Collins, was an Englishman—a wing commander in the RAF, more specifically, who came to the city after World War II as an administrator. Thirsty for the spirit he left back home, he developed his own gin recipe and named it for Max, his favorite Monkey at the Berlin Zoo. Black Forest Distillers consider that recipe the heart and soul of their own potion, now one of the leading gin brands in Germany. The best place to enjoy it, of course, is Berlin’s Monkey Bar, which perches on the 10th floor of the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin...and has an unparalleled view of the zoo. To enjoy gin as one does in Deutschland, prepare your own batch of Monkey Bar’s green apple gin (whizz one apple with a bottle of gin in a blender, let it rest for an hour and strain it through a cloth), or, if you find yourself at the bar, order a Rafiki (pictured here, with gin, rhubarb juice, rosemary, lemon balm, lemon juice and sugar syrup).

Oslo: Vidda Tørr Gin

Local, independent distilling is coming back to Norway (where, until last year, the State Wine Monopoly reigned supreme). The team at the brand-spanking-new Oslo Handverksdestilleri decided to make a Norwegian mountain gin that celebrated the Scandinavian tradition of foraging after a five-hour hike that culminated in the discovery of an ice floe in a mountain lake—which they wrapped in a jacket, hauled back home, and chopped into chunks for "one of the most beautiful G&Ts [we’d] ever had," they remember. Vidda ("mountain plateau") Torr ("dry") is infused with wild local botanicals like meadowsweet and heather; "we wanted to capture in a bottle the feeling of the mountain walk, the smells and taste of the mountain flora, and [the] experience of the extreme Norwegian climate." To taste the winner of Vidda’s first cocktail competition in its home country, head to Lysverket Bar in Bergen and ask for bartender Elias Vega’s Blossoms and Fjords—Vidda, Marka (the distillery’s bitters), lemon juice, honey and sugar, garnished with a lemon twist.