The Curious Bartender’s Gin Palace

I’ve been curious to read one of the growing series of Curious Bartender’s books. The first one was devoted to the craft of the cocktail, another is about whiskies and bourbon, this one on gin, and a Curious Barista’s Guide to Coffee, all by the same author, Tristan Stephenson. Mr Stephenson has obviously hit on a winning formula, with Rum Revolution out soon too.

For some reason I expected a regular-sized hardback but Gin Palace is a handsome and hefty coffee-table book that runs to 224 pages. It begins, not surprisingly, with a history of gin, and although I’ve read several histories of gin this one is an entertaining romp through the story of gin. It goes back to the very start of distilling, explains how gin developed, and the different styles which emerged. There are sections on medicinal juniper, the arrival of genever in the Netherlands, how it became a fashionable London drink, the story of gin palaces, how gin arrived in the USA and through to the modern gin renaissance around the world.

How Gin is Made
The next section explains how gin is made, covering many topics including the different methods of distilling, the botanicals, juniper, and pages on the most common botanicals such as cardamom, coriander, liquorice and angelica. There’s a section on how to classify the different styles of gin, too, so you can tell your London Dry from your Old Tom and your Plymouth Gin.

The Gin Tour
The next section is a big chunk of the book, the Gin Tour, in which the author travels the world in search of the best and most interesting gins. You can’t have a book about gin without writing about brands like Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire, but there are plenty of smaller distilleries, new distilleries and some surprises too. His travels around the gin world take him to places such as the Philippines, Spain, Sweden and France, with the longest sections not surprisingly devoted to gin-rich countries such as England, Scotland, the Netherlands and the USA. I’d like to have seen a section on the interesting gins coming out of Australia right now, though.

Gin Cocktails
As the author’s a bartender you’d expect there to be a section on gin cocktails, and the book concludes with thirteen recipes, all accompanied by some great photography (by Addie Chinn). There are the classic recipes like the Dry Martini, the Gimlet and the Negroni. There’s a Salted Lime Rickey, instructions on how to make Sloe Gin, and for his Gin and Tonic recipe he makes it more interesting by explaining how to make your own tonic.

About the Author
This is what the author’s Amazon page says about him:
Tristan Stephenson is an award-winning bar operator, bartender, barista, chef, and bestselling author of the Curious Bartender series of drinks books. He is the co-founder of London-based Fluid Movement, a globally renowned drinks consultancy firm and his bar The Worship Street Whistling Shop has been placed in the ‘World’s Fifty Best Bars’ for three consecutive years. Tristan’s first book, The Curious Bartender: The Artistry & Alchemy of Creating the Perfect Cocktail was shortlisted for the prestigious André Simon Award. He lives in Cornwall, UK.


The Verdict
This is highly recommended for anyone even remotely interested in gin. It covers a lot of ground and does it in an entertaining fashion, which is never boring. I can’t wait to read more by the Curious Bartender now.

The Curious Bartender’s Gin Palace is published by Ryland Peters and Small and costs £16.99 in the UK, $21.95 in the USA, and is available worldwide.