Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | September 28, 2010

Beefeater 24 Launches in DC

After nearly a year wait, Washington DC has become the eighth US market where Beefeater has released their new gin, Beefeater 24. Only the iconic brand’s second bottling, Beefeater 24 is the project of Master Distiller Desmond Payne. Last night Payne and a a huge stock of Beefeater 24 were at The Gibson for the official DC launch party of Beefeater 24. The menu included four classically inspired cocktails (including one by The Gibson’s Jonathan Harris).

During the reception, Payne talked about his forty-plus year career as a gin distiller. He’s probably the most experienced gin distiller on the planet, yet his work at Beefeater has been fastidious in maintaining the same gin recipe used for over 150 years. He set out to make his own new gin, one that was balanced and robust, but distinct from Beefeater. After traveling to Japan and immersing himself in the study of tea, he began experimentation with using tea in the mix of botanicals. While it was a process to get to where he wanted his gin to be, when he was done it included Chinese green tea, Japanese Sencha tea, as well as more traditional botanicals like juniper, grapefruit, Seville orange peel, angelica seed and orris root. Beefeater 24 gets its name from the steeping process – the botanicals sit in the neutral grain spirit for twenty-four hours prior to distillation.

I’m incredibly impressed with the result of Payne’s work. The tea flavors are not dominant or imbalanced. He succeeded in making a new gin that while different than a traditional London Dry Gin, maintains the robustness that Beefeater is known for. It stands up well in cocktails, while still showing some of the notes from the Sencha and Green teas. Unlike many other new gins, juniper still plays an important role. In some ways it becomes new by addition, not subtraction or dramatic rebalancing.

While describing his creative process, Payne emphasized his desire to make a new gin that still worked well in classic cocktails, going so far as to say that his work was really only half the battle and now it was up to craft bartenders to create iconic cocktails with the new spirit. There were four such cocktails last night. Beyond a Gin and Tonic with slices of lemon, lime and orange, there were three cocktails. Here are their recipes:

Tomorrow Yesterday
Created by Jonathan Harris of The Gibson, Washington, D.C.
2 Parts Beefeater 24™
½ Part Tremontis Mirto Myrtleberry liqueur
½ Part Sirop de Citron Vervein (Lemon Verbena Syrup)
Housemade Bitters

Stir and serve in a chilled cocktail glass.

Shifting Sands
Adapted from a recipe by Sasha Petraske of Milk & Honey, New York
1 & ½ Parts Beefeater 24™
1 & ½ Parts fresh grapefruit juice
¼ Part fresh lemon juice
2 Bar Spoons of Maraschino Liqueur
Club soda
1 grapefruit wedge, as garnish

Build in a tall glass, add ice and stir. Top with club soda and garnish with grapefruit wedge.

24 Martini
Created by Dan Warner
5 Parts Beefeater 24™
1 Part Lillet Blanc
2 Dashes of Regan’s Orange Bitters

Stirred and served up with a grapefruit twist.

These were all really good, interesting cocktails. I probably enjoyed the 24 Martini the most, but that’s not shocking given the Dry Martini is my favorite cocktail. Of course, I never go for a 5:1 ratio – I prefer 1:1. But I actually found that it really worked, with both the slight softening of the Beefeater 24 and the stronger aperitif. The Shifting Sands ended up having a lot of similar qualities to a Hemingway Daiquiri, only made as a tall drink with gin and lemon. I really liked it and saw a lot of people enjoying it as well. Tomorrow Yesterday was probably the most complex and interesting of the bunch. It was rich and boozy, with lots of spice.

Now that Beefeater 24 is available in the DC market, I’m sure I’ll be picking up a bottle. I’ll be looking to explore how it works as a substitute for not only London Dry gins, but Plymouth and Old Tom. I want to see how it changes classic gin cocktails. Experimentation should be fun and will hopefully provide the second half of the equation that Desmond Payne is expecting to place.

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