Bar Talk: Sip Safari
Recently, I got to go on safari. Not a traditional safari involving majestic animals, but rather a “Sip Safari” involving delightful cocktails with Hendrick’s Gin.
This drinking safari took place during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen at the Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection. Although not an official Classic event, it was another one of William Grant & Sons open-to-all celebrations (a welcome change to the exclusives that tend to come with the Food & Wine Classic territory, where you need to know someone who knows someone to get in).
Hendrick’s Gin is known for embracing the curious and quirky — the brand calls its product “delightfully peculiar” and “a most unusual premium gin” — so this safari party fit into the brand’s curious mold. It delightfully felt like it could have been a soiree thrown by the Life and Death Brigade in “Gilmore Girls” (IFYKYK).
But regardless of what the theme was, it was the host, Hendrick’s, that drew me in (gin is my spirit of choice), along with behind-the-bar collaborators from the renowned Death & Co bar.
I know gin is not for everyone. Many people complain about the flavor being too floral, too strange or even medicinal. However, I believe gin haters just haven’t been drinking the spirit correctly. For example, I think gin and plain soda water with a lime or lemon is far better than gin and tonic, so perhaps gin haters haven’t found the right gin for their palette.
During the Sip Safari, I had an opportunity to sit down and enjoy a gin cocktail with Sebastien Derbomez, the former national Hendrick’s Gin ambassador to the U.S. and now the manager of brand advocacy at Hendrick’s parent company, William Grant & Sons.
Our conversation weaved between discussing Hendrick’s Gin Palace (what they call the distillery in the seaside village of Girvan, Scotland), the “unusual and playful” nature of the brand and the woman in charge of every bottle.
Here is an excerpt from our chat.
Bar Talk: How did you get involved with Hendrick’s Gin?
Derbomez: I’ve been in the industry for almost 20 years now. I grew up in South of France, and I learned the craft of bartending in London, where I spent a few years at Nobu restaurant, of all places. It was a wonderful journey. And then from there, I ended up somehow in Australia, where I carried on my career as a bartender, and that’s where I started to work for Hendrick’s.
Bar Talk: There are four “expressions” currently in the Hendrick’s Gin lineup. Which one excites you the most, and are there any coming down the pipeline you can tell us about? (Editor’s note: An expression is a different version of the original. Hendrick’s Gin currently offers Hendrick’s Neptunia, Hendrick’s Lunar Gin, Midsummer Solstice and Orbium stateside and Amazonia internationally.)
Derbomez: We just released Neptunia, so that’s still super fresh because we released it back in March. It is celebrating the seaside of Scotland. The beauty with Hendrick’s is our master distiller Lesley Gracie. Gracie wanted to create something that was celebrating everything coastal in the wonderful city that is Gervin. She’s a very unique character, and I mean this in a most dearest way, because she’s a very dear friend of mine, but she’s got a wonderful personality. You see her, and you’re saying, ‘she was made, she was born for Hendrick’s.’ She’s a very quirky and funny person. But she’s also very welcoming, and she’s in charge of our innovation program. She had the skills and the knowledge to create new product, and now we are releasing a product every year, which is incredible. I couldn’t tell you what’s coming next, but I definitely can tell you that something will be coming next year.
Bar Talk: What is it about Aspen that keeps Hendrick’s coming back year after year to cultivate a following?
Derbomez: I think what I love about Aspen and every time I come back here is people are up to celebrate anything, I mean, you don’t have to twist their arm. You come here winter or summer — you guys never stop. We used to be on top of the mountain (during the Après Ski Cocktail Classic) serving hot gin punch … people were like ‘Yeah, I’d love to try’ and were getting into it. I think it’s a vibe of Aspen; it’s a happiness surrounding that place. I think people are very happy in general, very open-minded. And they love to celebrate and enjoy a cocktail or two.
Bar Talk: What is your go-to gin drink at the moment?
Derbomez: It will always be the martini for me. It’s kind of the king of cocktails. … It’s still such an iconic drink. That drink is the ultimate celebration of gin, and you can have it your own way, too. I like it with a fair amount of vermouth because it complements the gin, and I like it with a slice of cucumber or a little twist of lemon. I think it’s the perfect first drink of the day to celebrate your day, to celebrate yourself, to celebrate your time with friends and family.
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