With its small-batch London Dry, Sipsmith brings gin back to its roots.
Perhaps even more so than other spirits, gin was long characterized by its lack of variety. If you could name a brand other than Beefeater, Tanqueray, or Bombay Sapphire before 2010 or so, that made you something of a gin scholar.
That changed with the rise of craft distilling, as did our collective understanding of what gin could be. Drinkers who found gin harsh and piney embraced new styles made by small outfits that bucked the stodgy rules governing gin distillation. Many craft distilleries dialed back the juniper and added in a host of non-traditional botanicals, resulting in newer styles with distinctive flavor profiles.
Ironically, the once ubiquitous London Dry-style of gin has become something of a novelty in today’s crowded market. But Sipsmith, a small-batch, London-based distillery, is intent on helping people discover – or rediscover – gin in its classic form.
Craft Gin in its Ancestral Home
Sipsmith is the brainchild of childhood friends Sam Galworthy and Fairfax Hall, who worked in the American spirits industry before deciding to bring craft distilling to their native England. But their plan to open a copper pot–based distillery and make high-quality gin in small batches apparently flummoxed British liquor authorities, who hadn’t granted such a license in nearly two centuries.
Two years of lobbying and legal wrangling ensued, and in 2009, Sipsmith finally won a license to distill and opened its doors in London. (The regulatory changes they pursued helped spur a craft distilling boom in the UK, and particularly in England – home to a mere 23 distilleries in 2010 and 135 as of 2017.)
Once you remove the bottle’s thick green wax seal (which takes longer than you might expect), Sipsmith quickly establishes itself as a London Dry gin. On the nose are big notes of juniper and lemon, along with a distinct floral essence. The gin is crisp and dry on the palate; angelica and coriander join the juniper, and the citrus notes become increasingly prominent. The finish is dry and surprisingly smooth, with a balance of juniper and lemon.
Fresh mint and citrus make the South Side an excellent springtime drink. A dry gin like Sipsmith works well here, accentuating the soft herbal notes of the mint and balancing the drink’s sweetness.
- 2 ounces Sipsmith gin
- ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
- ¾ ounce simple syrup
- 10 to 12 mint leaves
Gently muddle the mint leaves in a shaker. Add all other ingredients, fill shaker with ice, and shake. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with a mint leaf.
Although it’s rare that I drink a martini, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate occasion to make the most iconic of gin cocktails. The martini is a showcase for Sipsmith, the cocktail’s simplicity and subtlety allowing the botanicals to shine. I used Noilly Prat vermouth because it’s what I had on hand, but a vermouth with more prominent citrus notes would be a better choice.
- 2½ ounces Sipsmith gin
- ¾ ounce dry Noilly Prat vermouth
- 1 dash Scrappy’s orange bitters
- Lemon twist
Add gin, vermouth, and bitters to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail or coupe glass. Express lemon oils and garnish with peel.
Sipsmith is an old-school gin with all the appeal of a contemporary small-batch spirit. It’s balanced, dry, and highly versatile, with a blend of customary gin botanicals.
I’m an unabashed fan of modern-day gins that experiment with non-traditional botanicals. But sometimes there’s no substitute for a true London Dry gin, and Sipsmith lets you use that classic flavor profile in a cocktail without having to default to the usual big brands.
Note: I received a complimentary bottle of Sipsmith gin with the understanding that I would use it in a product review. No one from or associated with Sipsmith influenced this content.
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