Book Review: ‘All the Gin Joints’ – Michael Turback


Book review

Title: “All the Gin Joints — new spins on gin from America’s best bars

Author:Michael Turback

Publisher:Curiosity Company. 2011,

Price: $14.95; trade paperback; 6 x 9 inches, 140 pages, black and white.

Available from: Online, as both a print and e-book, alltheginjoints.com, local bookstores

If you know me, you are probably not surprised that my editor gave me this book to review. I have been known to have a gin martini (as far as I am concerned, without gin it is not a martini), now and then (shaken, stirred, over ice, etc.) and have sampled a number of top shelf and basement gins in my life.

I must add that when I was in Korea and offered a drink from a bottle that had a label with only one word, “GIN,” looked and smelled like pink gasoline and when poured into my canteen cup removed all the tarnish, I had to draw the line and say “NO!” I was very young then and fortunately a lot smarter than I am now.

Someone once said, “Gin: invented by the Dutch, refined by the British, and glamorized by Americans.” That is basically true.

To give you a bit of history on gin, it was invented in the early 1600s in Holland, although the Italians claim they made it first. Originally it was sold as a medicine to treat stomach complaints, gout and gallstones. Because it was really just grain alcohol, juniper berries, which have medicinal properties of their own and are now the major flavor in most gins, were added to it to make it easier to drink.

During the 30 Years War (1618-1648), British soldiers were given gin or “Dutch Courage,” to keep them warm during the cold and wet months. From there they took it home to England, where it became the favorite drink of the poor, being cheaper than anything else.

By the mid-1700s London alone was producing about 14 gallons of gin per adult male per year, and most of it was of poor grade.

Finally the government and the producers got together and came up with laws that exist today, encouraging the production of quality gin.

In the early 1900s Americans got cocktail fever and adopted the cocktail party, which American hostesses in England had created to fill in the period between tea time and dinner. Gin became the American drink and by 1950 the Bartenders’ Guild had registered 7,000 gin cocktail recipes.

In “All the Gin Joints,” author Michael Turback does an excellent job of describing his book: “Engaging and complex, sophisticated and quirky, gin has become a vital component in the mixing cups of a new breed of artisan drink smiths.

“Its title an homage to Humphrey Bogart’s lament in the 1942 film ‘Casablanca,’ (“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”) it is the guide to a journey around the upper echelon of the bartending profession in 101 recipes — exploratory gin-based concoctions developed in the progressive cocktail laboratories of American ‘gin joints,’ often bringing methods and flourishes of the kitchen to the glass with fresh juices, muddled fruit, infused syrups, earthy spices and leafy herbs.

“With this volume as trusted companion, you’ll be able to re-create their remarkable formulas with precision and authenticity. May each raised glass provide the beginning of a beautiful friendship and, borrowing once again from Bogart, ‘Here’s looking at you, kid.’”

The book opens with an explanation of the proper bartending tools that will be needed to produce the “101 Artisinal Cocktails” listed. After are listed the 101 cocktails (but no martini), one by one. Each recipe includes its source, and everything needed to make it. If something special is required, instructions are included on what it is or how to make it.

There is no doubt that most of these gin cocktails look very good, but you won’t be able to produce a majority of them without some prior work infusing honey, making syrups, finding fresh herbs and locating some very uncommon liquors.
I am sure that most of you don’t have a bottle of Blume Marillen Apricot Eau de Vie, Aperol or Amaro Ramazzotti in your liquor cabinet or have on hand, Roobios tea-infused gin, ginger-lemongrass syrup, Bar Keep Organic Baked Apple Bitters or cucumber-basil foam. But, that shouldn’t stop you.
It would be fun to make some of the required ingredients or do a search through the dusty shelves of a store for that special liquor needed.

Use the book to make a party of it. Give your friends a list of what to find, make and bring. It could be a lot of fun. But, don’t drink too much and, please, designate a driver.

In the meantime I’ll stick with a martini, “shaken not stirred,” made with Tanqueray 10 and just a whisper of the word “vermouth” over the shaker.

Turback became a gentlemanly drinker during his tender days at Cornell, and he remained curious and adventurous on the matter of imbibing throughout a prominent career as restaurateur and saloon keeper.

Turback is credited with reviving classic formulas, influencing a generation of “craft bartenders,” and elevating mixology to a culinary art.

As an arbiter of food, wine and cocktails, he continues to advise the hospitality industry. As an author, he has previously taken on, with distinction, such topics as the ice cream sundae, the banana split, hot chocolate, coffee drinks, Finger Lakes wine country, and his hometown farmers market.

All the Gin Joints is available on Amazon

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