I saw The Homemade Gin Kit on the shelf of a kitschy shop in North Park. I’m not sure why but I was drawn to it like a moth to flame. The simply designed packaging spoke to the hipster tendencies we are all starting to let seep into mainstream culture. The back listed only 4 steps to the creation of a delicious beverage to drink. A bottle for me, and a bottle for a friend. Seemed like the right thing to buy despite the fact that I don’t now nor have I ever been a gin drinker except for an ill advised week in college when I found a pre-mixed Gin Bullfrogs cocktail bottle in the bargain bin at the liquor store.
I held back…for a short time before caving and ordering it online. It retailed at $49.99 plus shipping (full disclosure I got it at a discounted rate). I saw it as a fun holiday project to do with Wife. We failed miserably trying to brew beer together, but this would be different I promised myself. And for once I was right. We failed making beer because it was a lot of recipe following directions, and we’re both creative Type-A’s. Meaning we both ignored the directions and went in completely different directions to end in the same place. Pissed off. This was different. Mostly because there wasn’t much to do.
“Eureka!” The Gin Kit greeted us when the box was opened. There was some blather about how we were now alchemists and part of an exclusive society of small-batch gin producers. I had a sinking feeling that I had been had. On the back of the instructions was the list of steps repeated with an additional infusion step added to the list on the back of the box. The first step was, “OBTAIN A GENERIC VODKA.”
Shit. I forgot to do that. In my head I thought a $50 kit would include the vodka even though the box clearly states that it doesn’t. That’s my bad. I obtained a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka, long hailed as a quality value for its taste to cost ratio. Vodka expenses = $12.99+tax.
Time for step 2. “ADD THE JUNIPER BERRIES”. Seemed simple enough. We dumped the berries from the fancy berry tin into the bottle, and wondered if there would be enough room for all the additives because, you know, displacement. It hadn’t said to do that in the directions. Then we put the cap on, shook it up and left it in the booze cabinet for 24 hours. So far there wasn’t really much to do as a D.I.Y. project. The first two steps took all of 4 minutes.
A day later we convened for step 3, “ADD BOTANICAL BLEND.” At this point the future gin was a light yellow color. We added the blend. In a weird twist several bits of the botanical blend were too big to fit in the funnel. Someone was not focused on quality controls. Displacement caused some vodka to splash out on the counter. Wife used a paper towel to wipe it up. It took about 30 seconds. Then we had to wait another 12 hours.
12ish hours later we convened for a third and final time for steps 4 & 5. Actually, it was just me. Wife was still asleep. The 12 hours screwed up our schedule, and she had lost interest enough to not bother getting up. More of a “fuck off,” when I tried to wake her. The gin liquid looked like chardonnay. A clear light yellowish. Step 4 “STRAIN THE GIN.” The most labor intensive stage. I got a bowl to strain the gin into instead of the supplied gin bottles. I figured it might be beneficial to strain it twice. I’ll let that sink in. Two strainings, got it? I poured the bottle that was formerly vodka but was now, through the magic of infusion, gin into the bowl. Then I strained it again into the supplied bottles. Our bottle was a liter and not the recommended 750 ml so there was some left over. The perfect amount for tasting. Only a few bits of botanical made it through the strainer. As far as ‘strainings’ go I’d say I was expert level right from the start.
Even though it was only 8 in the morning it was time to taste. I poured it in the Delirium Tremens glass and put it too my nose. It smelled like the woods. Pine and flowery scents came out with an undercurrent of vodka. I let the liquid lap against my lips, and used my tongue rub the taste around my mouth and took a little sip. It tasted like vodka with some pine needles and maybe a hint of cinnamon or nutmeg bite at the end. But again I’m no expert. I’d have to bring in the big guns. I called Mother-In-Law. A gin drinker. Not quite connoisseur-level but close.
“It’s time for Gin!…before I brush my teeth.”
Mother-In-Law didn’t hesitate to take a healthy swig. “The floral comes through first. That must be the secret botanical. The Juniper comes last which is the only thing that makes me think of gin. It’s interesting. It isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t worth $50. It tastes good,” she paused, “but it doesn’t taste like any gin I’ve ever had. It’s just too expensive. If I really wanted gin I’d just go get a bottle of Hendrick’s.”
I have to say I agree. For the cost of buying the kit & the vodka you can buy some pretty damn good Gin. A bottle of Hendrick’s is only $32 at the local BevMo, and that’s just for starters. The list of good gins under the price of The Homemade Gin Kit is long and distinguished. The value in a product like THGT is the process of doing it, and the feeling of accomplishment when it is done. After finishing THGT I just felt like I wasted 10 total minutes of my life and a bottle of perfectly fine tasting vodka. The failure of the Gin Kit is that it takes a simple process and makes it so simple there is no real success in completing it. The success of the Gin Kit is that it comes in a well designed box that looks good on the shelf and provides an interesting conversation topic at parties. The “Hey, guess what we are going to do…” conversation. Unfortunately, that conversation only lasts until you actually do the kit.
In conclusion, I’ve made all the gin I’m going to make.