When it comes to the classic clear spirits debate, vodka or gin: I am Team Gin.
No disrespect to you vodka drinkers—but for nuance, breadth of botanical flavors and styles, it’s not even a competition. And especially during these warm summer nights, when nothing keeps me cooler than one of the many creative iterations of a well-made and well-garnished G&T or an ice-cold Gibson in a properly chilled glass, garnished with a quality cocktail onion.
So while I was looking to replenish my liquor cabinet with even more gin, I reached out to spirits educator and gin expert extraordinaire, Mark Stoddard. Having been the U.S. ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin for nearly a decade, Stoddard’s knowledge of gin is expansive. And thanks to his training as a certified sommelier, his palate is impeccable. Readers, this is the guy I message when I want to bemoan the disappearance of Gibsons in non-steakhouse establishments in New York City—because no one ever stocks cocktail onions anymore. (Stoddard reckons it’s got a lot to do with this generation’s unfortunate lack of interest—or awareness—of the sublime concoction.)
Stoddard, who started his career in spirits as an eighteen-year-old barback in a Colorado based restaurant group, dove deep into gin early on in his career. “The owner, Dave Query, and the beverage director, James Lee, took me under their wings and invested in my spirits education while I attended University of Colorado in Boulder,” he says. “As I rose through the bartending ranks, and had an opportunity to help open the first proper cocktail bar in the state—the Bitter Bar—and my understanding and appreciation of gin truly blossomed. My undergraduate education was in international relations. And gin’s vast history (mirroring the rise and fall of empires, global trade, and imperialism) became an obsession. After I competed and won the Cocktail World Cup in New Zealand, I sought to travel the world and expand my passion for spirits, beverage history—and began working for Hendrick’s. As ambassador, I spent a great deal of time in Scotland each year, and I was fortunate to visit and learn from dozens of incredible distilleries and wineries around the world.”