Gin is fast-becoming the mixologists’ new best friend.

From my experience as a mixologist (a.k.a. bartenders who really know cocktails), gin’s reputation hasn’t exactly been the most stellar. Case in point: the first three words uttered by a customer on one recent occasion were, “I hate gin!”

My guest conveys her disdain for the spirit as she’s sipping on a handcrafted cocktail that I just created with a small batch Oxley Gin. She takes another sip of the fresh island-grown basil and strawberry cocktail, and I can see her face light up as her palate seasons up to the botanicals, which are light and dry on her palate, finishing with sweet citrus and fresh ripe strawberries, alongside a hint of homemade honey syrup to round out the experience.

With a wry smile, I ask her what she doesn’t like about gin. Recalling her college days, she replies with a resolute, “It’s gross and I got really sick on it once…”

I laughed a little and came clean, as she was savoring the last sip of her drink. I informed her that the only way to make a cocktail that complex, with just a few quality components, is to incorporate gin.

It’s a common scenario to say the least. fie truth of the matter is, before gin becomes gin, it’s actually vodka. Gin is vodka, infused, distilled or compounded with the primary favor of juniper and most often, other botanicals that give it its unique and sometimes exotic favor.

“The Gin Category,” for mixologists is the fastest-growing category in the field of spirits, because it offers a great base of flavors to be able to enhance, mute and manipulate through technique, compounding and style of presentation.

Here are a few mixology boutique gin picks that are making a big impact in beverage circles both here and abroad, along with a cocktail recipe that gin enthusiasts-whether current or future-can duplicate at home:

NO. 209 GIN – 92 PROOF

Made in the only distillery in the world built over water-San Francisco, Calif. Registered Distillery No. 209 was established in St. Helena, Calif. in 1882. It was the 209th distillery permitted in the United States, hence the name. Recreated in 2005 with a new product, No.

209 Gin is now made on Pier 50 in San Francisco. Overall, the flavor of No. 209 is citrus forward, without being overbearing-although the bergamot orange peel (a clever botanical) clearly plays a large part in the ensemble. The warmth from coriander and cassia anchor the gin, while the cardamom imparts its very distinct taste. The juniper notes are much more subtle compared with the sometimes resinous feel of some classic London Drys.

Cocktail Suggestion:

The 209 Overture
2 oz. No. 209 Gin
1 oz. Amaro
1 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Orange Bitters

Method: Build in a mixer glass 3/4 filled with ice and stir the contents, strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass and garnish with a fresh orange swath.

OXLEY GIN “COLD DISTILLED” – 94 PROOF

Only 240 bottles produced per day, this English craft gin that contains 14 botanicals and opens with a signature gin fragrance. Its bouquet is soft and refreshing with subtle juniper, rose and sweet citrus notes. The taste is clean with a nice blend of botanicals accented with juniper and grapefruit. The finish is very dry-less oily than other dry gins-and just a tad spicy.

Cocktail Suggestion:
The Bee’s Knees
1 oz. Bombay Sapphire
1/2 oz. Locally Sourced Honey Syrup
(50% honey, 50% water) 1/2 oz. Fresh Lemon juice (3 lemon wedges)

Method: Shake all vigorously and strain up into a chilled martini glass, garnish with a fresh lemon twist.

MARTIN MILLER’S GIN – 80 PROOF

Distilled in England; blended in Iceland Martin Miller’s is a “super-premium” gin that entered the world market in 1999 and was soon winning awards globally, as the nose of the spirit is a wondrous bouquet of blossoming jasmine, juniper and the slightest touch of citrus zest. As the silky liquid caresses the tongue, the true botanical ˛ avors come to light with the most subtle juniper, cardamom and peppercorn leading the way. Juniper takes the spotlight in a short, warm finish in an explosive manner that contradicts all the previous subtleties.

Cocktail Suggestion:
Vesper
3 oz. Martin Miller’s Gin 80 Proof
1 oz. Russian Standard Vodka
1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc

Method: Build in a mixer glass filled 3/4 of the way with ice and stir the contents, strain up into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a fresh lemon twist.

Joey Gottesman CSS, Spirit Specialist/Mixologist has helped develop some of Hawai’i’s top bar programs. His dynamic approach to teaching mixology and ergonomic beverage engineering earned him the opportunity to make an impact with programs like the Four Seasons Manele Bay, The Ritz Carlton, Kapalua, The Westin K.O.R., Roy’s, The Hyatt Regency Waikiki, The Kahala Hotel and dozens of other notable restaurants around the state. He can be reached at joeygottesman@gmail.com.