San Diego County's Calwise Spirits Company says their Big Sur Gin is distilled from grapes and wild native herbs. The label brags that you can "taste Big Sur without licking plants," which is probably a good thing on both counts. The spirit is crafted using juniper, sage, bay, fennel, elderberry, yerba santa, lavender, lemon, so there's a lot of good stuff in that bottle from Spring Valley. The gin comes at 80 proof and sells at Whole Foods for around 30 bucks. Calwise also makes two rums, spiced and blonde.
Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry is dry, not sweet, made from a wine base with plants, alpine herbs and spices included. For a martini, they suggest equal parts Dolin Dry and gin. Yeah, right. I make mine at a three to one ratio.
I like a dirty martini, which means a bit of olive juice tossed into the mix before stirring. I’m currently using Dirty Sue, a twice-filtered brine. I'm also using a dash of Peychaud's bitters. It hails from New Orleans, so I'm all set to make a sazerac if I want.
Together, Big Sur Gin and Dolin make a distinctly aromatic martini. Pine notes and citrus on the nose, and a bit of a kick on the palate. The juniper comes on stronger than in most gins and the herbal element is huge with fennel. It's an outdoorsy flavor. Spicy may be a good word for it. This gin does not try to hide its attributes. It definitely makes a martini on which a wine lover can ruminate.
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