Guests who shy away from gin seems to have a horror story about why—typically one that involves cheap, inferior products from their youth or school days. Pedro Goncalves, wine director at Oceana in New York, recalls a recent guest in his forties who said he had tasted a sip of his parents’ Martini when he was a teenager. The experience was so bad, the guest said, he decided to swear off gin forever.
But when the guest and his friend ordered oyster shooters, Goncalves mixed with gin. And they loved them—much to the gin hater’s surprise.
“I see this time and time again,” Goncalves says. “I often employ the gin drinker in groups to convince their friends to try the gin cocktails.”
Education—and a little nudge—is the key to increasing gin sales and winning over new aficionados. “Our bartenders all have a deep background in classic cocktails, mixology and gin,” says Brady Caverly, co-owner of Flintridge Proper in Flintridge, CA. “And they train the servers who are starting to become fairly expert as they taste and discover our gins.”
He points out that a small-batch, under-the-radar gin often becomes a top seller during a week that a server was introduced to it. Flintridge Proper also offers gin flights, which help educate guests on the history of gin, traditional vs. modern styles, and bartender favorites.
Comfort-food restaurant Willie Jane in Venice, CA, holds daily meetings at which the staff is schooled on the history and inspiration for the featured drink, says mixologist Derrick Bass. For instance, “the Bentley ($12) is a riff on the classic Rolls Royce—gin, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and Bénédictine—so I explain the difference, where it comes from, the flavor profiles of the gin being used, and what dishes it might pair with,” he says.
When in doubt, Goncalves always recommends the G&T as a way to win over the haters. “The tonics give a completely different dimension to the gins. I’ve yet to have one person not like a Gin & Tonic.” (For more on gin, see The Gin Game in the Jan./Feb. issue of Cheers.)