Sun 2 Nov 2008
We discovered New Amsterdam gin one evening sitting in a bar, and, glancing at the array of glittering bottles on the shelves, saw something new. “That’s New Amsterdam,” the bartender told us, and we asked him to make two martinis, one with olives and one with a twist. Examining the bottle to see where the product was made, I was surprised that the label was so reticent. We’re in an age where spirits, especially gin and vodka, trumpet their origins, their purity, their sustainable character. Not so in this case, but when I read the magic word “Modesto” the revelation came. “Holy moly,” I exclaimed to LL, “Gallo makes this gin.”
New Amsterdam is an intensely fragrant and citrusy gin, and I have to disagree with several other bloggers and assert that 1. New Amsterdam makes a delicious martini, and 2. it makes a martini that should be garnished with an olive instead of a twist because the lemon oil can be rather aggressive with a product already dominated by the citrus element.
For the record, our favorite gins are Tanqueray, Junipero and Hendricks. The first two are traditional, austere, chastening and pure, the latter more winsome and floral, a summertime gin.
Anyway, acquiring a bottle of New Amsterdam for home use and sniffing and sipping it straight from the freezer, we discovered that it’s a gin with myriad immediate pleasures.
First greeting the nose are whiffs of cedar, juniper and cloves. There’s a quick and seamless segue to pungent scents of orange rind and burnt orange that remain steadfast but open to emit touches of white pepper, licorice and a chilly note of peppermint.
Only as the gin gradually warms in the glass does it offer a floral aspect, like some shy and astringent Alpine flower.
This sense of layered sensual appeal fades a bit in the mouth as the alcohol takes over, but New Amsterdam has a satiny texture that carries spicy juniper and general citrus flavors smoothly across the tongue and down the throat.
A great gin? New Amsterdam is no Junipero, which is made in small quantities in San Francisco by the Anchor Brewing Company and is, to my sensibility, among the greatest gins in the world; one would not call New Amsterdam beautiful or profound. Yet it’s a satisfying gin, one that’s beguiling and almost carefree; the word “fun” comes to mind, a quality that I’m certain the designers and marketers of this gin hoped for. And it sells for $14 for a 750 ml bottle, which is half or a third of what the great gins cost.