Any poor soul who asks for my opinion on the spirit of choice around these parts has to hear me declare Fort Worth is not a gin-drinking town. I’ve based this on years of informal and highly intrusive polls of random citizens. My complete lack of respect for the scientific method aside, the data spit back barrels full of whiskey lovers, first, with vodka, tequila, beer, wine, and Fireball-chuggers all ahead of the juniper-based liquor.
There doesn’t seem to be one unifying reason people turn up their noses at the booze the British used to call “mother’s ruin.” For some, the first gulp of a bad gin and tonic was the culprit. Aside from the overly tart cheap hootch that served as most people’s introduction to gin, the bitter quinine in tonic water doesn’t work well for some people’s tastes, and that initial G&T goes down like a rocks glass of liquified pinecones.
For others, it’s the mere fact that gin is generally clear, and they mistakenly think it should be a neutral base spirit like vodka. Most commonly, it seems lazy bartenders also inflicted good people with lousy, out-of-balance concoctions. Luckily, Fort Worth has a batch of badasses behind the bar who know their Gin Rickeys from their Fizzes and Flips.
The Aviation is a pre-Prohibition gin cocktail that became a cult-favorite among the cocktail cognoscenti – probably because it was impossible to find crème de violette stateside for many years, and anything unattainable is oh-so sexy. People stopped ordering the drink because, truthfully, the original version is far too sour.
The floral Aviation Variation at Bird Cafe (155 E 4th St, 817-332-2473) addresses every layperson’s gin gripes. This light blue, slightly frothy concoction combines Ford’s London dry gin, Parfait d’Amour liqueur, Luxardo maraschino, simple syrup, lavender bitters, and rosewater and is then finished with an egg white. Instead of a sip that challenges your palate, especially if you are already on the fence about gin, this one is profoundly satisfying and smooth.
It’s not shocking that I would send you to the embrace of the hardcore libation nerds down at The Usual (1408 W Magnolia Av, 817-810-0114) to cure any liquor-based phobia. There’s far too many top-notch gin drinks to recommend at this lounge, like the Negroni, Bee’s Knees, Gimlet, and French 75. But the bright, fragrant Last Word is a stellar example of how marrying the botanical-forward Ford’s London dry gin with herbaceous green Chartreuse can create a cocktail that is impossible to duplicate with plain old vodka.
Part of why I’m leading the gin pep rally is because of how easy-drinking gin-based cocktails can be during the face-melting reality of a Texas summer. Clearly, over at Proper (409 W Magnolia Av, 817-984-1133), they are thinking similarly. The bar’s Summer on the Riviera features a French-produced Citadelle gin that serves as the base spirit, highlighted by Bitter Truth elderflower liqueur, Ferrand dry curacao, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Overall, the result is not too sweet, not too tart, and loaded with citrus notes that temper the juniper flavor.
If you are one of the multitudes of people who hasn’t had a sip of gin since the days of watering down that dusty bottle of Tanqueray in your parents’ liquor cabinet, I implore you to give it another go. If anything, you’ll learn it’s the preparation and not the product you don’t like. At best, you get to prove me wrong the next time I declare Fort Worth isn’t a gin town.