Gin, Wine and BBQ Sauce

By / Magazine / November 19th, 2010 / 1

A lot of my friends have recently discovered gin. What should I know about the spirit to keep up with the crowd?

Back in my day (around the time the Earth was cooling), a local pub in my neighbourhood kept an hour happy with discount gin and tonics. But, like so many of today’s hip, young and happening, I never considered drinking gin outside the shadows of that watering hole because the cool crowd associated it with – how do I say this gin-gerly – a more seasoned (i.e. grey-haired) tippler.

Sadly, gin really hasn’t come that far. While vodka, the other white spirit, has exploded in popularity, gin’s lucky to have its elderly demographic still alive and interested. So it’s nice to hear that it’s making some fans in the new millennium, because it actually is ancient booze.

Like so many members of a modern liquor cabinet gin came into existence on the path to the next medical miracle. With juniper berries high on the list of possible cure-alls somewhere around the 11th century, it was inevitable that someone (likely a monk) would jazz up the blend with some funky botanicals to create a more palatable concoction.

Jump ahead to 18th-century England, and gin has become as popular (and some might suggest as necessary) as water. That’s why the most famous style of gin is called London Dry.

Unlike flavoured vodkas that have their personalities added, gin gets its unique characteristics from each distiller’s secret recipe, which makes the spirit as much fun to experiment with as whisky or rum. Many of today’s producers (in an attempt to play catch-up to the vodka based competition) have taken to adding wild ingredients like cucumber and rose petals to make their creations stand in the glass.

Gin cocktails are made for warm summer days, so there’s no better time to get yourself a bottle and try mixing up a pitcher of an easy-to-create gin-spiked concoction (like my old friend, the G & T). Better yet, next time you’re out with the gang, ask the bartender to hook you up with his favourite way to serve gin. That should put you ahead of the crowd.

During the summer we grill just about everything. Are there certain wines that work better with barbecue sauces?

If there was only one version of barbecue sauce the answer would be easy, but here’s the problem: everyone and their grandmother has a recipe, and Bacchus only knows what might wind up lathered all over that grilling hunk of beef.

I can make some assumptions. Most sauces are based on the tomato in one way or another, and typically include a selection of basic spices in an effort to create an expressive but balanced flavour. They also tend to sway towards the sweeter side. All things considered, with their fruit-forward flavours and themes of berry fruit, red wines make the best match, in my highly respected opinion.

Having been to Argentina recently (a.k.a. barbecue world), it’s quite clear to me how well a Malbec matches with barbecue sauces. Their dark flavour and light undercurrent of spice may be the ultimate grilling companion. Red wines that often have sweeter profiles like New World Merlot, Zinfandel and Shiraz fight for the right to be my second choice. Lovers of the Old World could choose a French Beaujolais or cheaper red Burgundy. My left-of-centre choice would be an entry-level Italian Chainti (its ripe cherry fruit certainly likes tomato).
If a red just isn’t your drop, think non- or lightly-oaked white wines, or a refreshing rosé from anywhere or anyone that turns you on.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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