Gin purists and snobs will hate it, plain and simple. I’m a snob when it comes to making a martini, but not regarding the actual gin being used. I first had New Amsterdam Gin several years before this blog was created. It had been such a long time, that I did not remember anything at all about the flavor. I ordered a gin martini at a restaurant a few weeks ago. My first sip was a perplexing one. I was hit with an overwhelming burst of citrus. It caught me so off guard to the point that I had wondered if a citron vodka was used instead accidentally. I was going to send it back, but took another sip and found it pleasant enough to continue. There was a lemon peel on the glass and no olives, so I asked if they could bring me some…but I never asked which gin they had used.
Fast-forward to the other day. I was at the liquor store looking for something else. I walked through the gin section and saw New Amsterdam Gin (the word “Stratusphere” is in the title on the label but there is no explanation anywhere I can find that states if there is a difference between this and their regular gin, or if this is just their new look/brand) on sale for $12.99. This is a few dollars cheaper than normal. I was going to be needing a bottom-shelf gin pretty soon anyway, so I nabbed this bottle. I wanted something different from my normal go-to’s for lower price points, Gilbey’s or Gordon’s. When I got home, I made myself a dry martini with olives, straight up, using this newly purchased New Amsterdam. Before I took a sip, I smelled the product and had an a-ha moment. Was this the gin I had a few weeks ago? It only took one sip for me to confirm.
Once again, my first thought was, “How out of place is this?” But as I kept sipping, it grew on me more and more. Perhaps with olives, or if I wanted to make it “dirty” with some brine, New Amsterdam would not be my first choice. The light, effervescent sweetness of the orange and/or lemon rind which dominates this gin clashes with the salty, brininess of the olives. With a lemon peel garnish as originally served to me, however, it is a perfect match. The label on the back of the bottle notes the citrus being the strong component, while also mentioning botanicals and a “nod to juniper”. So there really are no surprises…if you actually read it.
I’m a purist when it comes to martinis. I like a dry gin, just a splash of dry vermouth (as Noel Coward would say, a glass “waved in the general direction of Italy”), three olives, and maybe some brine depending on the occasion. I don’t ever ask for, expect, or seek out a lemon peel. New Amsterdam is slowly changing my mind. While I would never fully convert, this product does offer me a nice change of pace. This company has been dominating the bottom-shelf gin market for some time, but their quality definitely speaks of a finer destination on your home bar. Not only does it boast a simple but sleek bottle, the taste is far from what you would consider bottom shelf. It is exceptionally smooth, and the citrus has a lot to do with that. I like the juniper edge of 95% of gins out there as much as anyone, but I would certainly take the refreshing flavor of New Amsterdam over those overly peppery “craft” gins any day. This was a perfect rediscovery with summer right around the corner.