The Nobler Mixer and Bathtub Gin

September 17, 2012

“I… (insert name here)… Member in good standing of the He-Man Woman Haters Club… Do solemnly swear to be a he-man and hate women and not play with them or talk to them unless I have to. And especially: never fall in love, and if I do may I die slowly and painfully and suffer for hours – or until I scream bloody murder.”

– The Little Rascals

We at the Nobler Experiment are not nearly as barbaric as those Little Rascals. However, for the nine times we have gathered to date, the Noblers have met sans the ladies. So for our tenth installment of the Nobler Gathering series, we felt strongly it was time to to branch out. And branch out we did, at the Nobler Mixer…

Just like we had in the past, we showcased one particular type of liquor, one of which made it’s name close to 100 years ago during Prohibition as men and women gathered for cocktail parties just like ours. Well sort of. Their cocktail parties were held in secret locations with the added excitement of breaking the law but that’s just semantics. One major difference however, was their drink of choice, bathtub gin, was driven by necessity, not preference. As the high (or even average) quality liquor became wildly expensive and hard to locate, folks looking to let loose and throw a party were forced to buy low quality, and in some cases dangerous alcohol. Let’s ignore the purchasing of wood based alcohol (which actually can kill you) for now, and focus on the “Popov” like grain liquor that was nearly un-drinkable.

We’ve all had the plastic jug vodka before, and we all know how nasty it can be. Vodka is kind of ironic in that way. We typically pay more for the stuff to taste like less. But for both taste and finish alike, these plastic bottle, $7.99 vodkas are a good comparison to what our Prohibition friends were faced with. These folks were smart, however. By adding herbs, spices, and other ingredients, they were able to mellow the grain alcohol and add some well needed flavor. In many cases, juniper berries were used to impart that “gin” like flavor profile as the strength of this flavoring went a long way for drink-ability. So why the bathtub labeling? Turns out, in order to mellow the grain liquor even more, bottles were topped off with water. And the most efficient and hidden method: using the bathtub faucet.

For our Mixer, I made three “bathtub gins” and served them in three fantastic cocktails. My lavender and honey martini was a perfect way to kick off the evening as we snacked on cucumber sandwiches, homemade ricotta and sweet pea and mint puree. Following up the martini was a citrus “bathtub gin” that had bright flavor notes from the lemon and orange peels paired with rosemary and lemon thyme. Mixed up with a rosemary lemonade and a cucumber slice, this cocktail was wildly refreshing (see top photo).  And last but not least, a more traditionally flavored “bathtub gin” with juniper berries, cardamom, rosemary, and fennel seed made for a perfect gin and tonic.

While the drinks went over exceptionally well, the food was just as delicious. Co-host, Kelly created some of the more memorable bites of the night with her mushroom and olive stromboli and most amazingly with her plum and rosemary tart with sweet corn ice cream. Friggin delicious! And to be completely candid, it was nice having the ladies there. They make us all look good!

So what to do if you are looking to make your own “bathtub gin”. It’s actually amazingly simple. With a few mason jars, and a couple bottles of decent vodka, you can replicate the process with almost any flavors of your preference. This is a great time of year as your herb gardens are dying for new applications and the fall months are perfect for a stiff drink. While it was really fun to replicate the traditional gin flavor, my favorite of the bunch ended up being the lavender. I used a few sprigs of fresh lavender and tasted daily. After about a week, the flavor was perfect. With a little bit of honey and a squeeze of lime, this martini is unreal.

The Nobler Martini:

4 full sprigs of fresh lavender

32 oz average vodka (don’t skimp but don’t go crazy)

4 tbsp honey

1 lime

1 lemon

In a 32 oz mason jar steep the lavender in the vodka for one week. Strain the vodka to remove the lavender and pour through a coffee filter to remove small impurities. Add the honey, the juice of the citrus, shake and keep in the refrigerator until ready. Shake 4 oz of the mixture in a cocktail shaker with ice and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a lime peel.




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