Monday, July 9, 2012

Sloe Gin's New American Cousin

Beach Plum Gin.

An American cousin to sloe gin, using the beach plums that grow along the eastern seaboard. Why didn't someone think of that before?

Well, they did, actually. Bartender Toby Cecchini vacations every summer in Cape Cod and, for the last few summers, has brought back a bunch of beach plums with him and converted them into homemade beach plum gin. But Steven DeAngelo of Brooklyn's Greenhook Ginsmiths is the first person to commercially market such a liqueur. (Apparently, he got the initial idea from reading about Cecchini's experiments.)

The stuff is delicious, particularly with tonic. I'll be drinking it often this summer.

Here's the article I wrote for the Times:
Plummy Gin, Close To Home
THE beach plum is a delicacy for the vacationing New Yorker. The scraggly bushes that bear the small, tart fruits love sandy soil and are familiar to anyone who frequents the dunes and beaches of the Northeast during July and August. Spot a jar of beach-plum jam in a kitchen pantry and you know its owner has recently returned from Cape Cod or eastern Long Island.
For those stuck in the city all summer, such preserves are hard to come by. Those folks will have to be content drinking their beach plums.
Greenhook Ginsmiths in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, has introduced what the company believes is the only beach plum gin on the market. Like its predecessor, the distillery’s American Dry gin, which came out last February, the beach plum gin puts a Yankee spin on a traditionally English spirit.
“I wanted to do a traditional sloe gin,” said Steven DeAngelo, the founder of the small Greenhook Ginsmiths. Sloe gin, a liqueur associated with England, is flavored with astringent sloe berries, common in Europe.
But Mr. DeAngelo soon learned that sloe berries are hard to come by in the United States. He abandoned a plan to contract an English farmer to ship berries, fearing they would spoil even if frozen. So he cast his sights on indigenous fruit.
“I knew about damson plums, but there’s a damson plum gin on the market, so I didn’t want to do that,” he said. “I learned that beach plums were close relations to damsons and sloes, but they’re native to the U.S.”
Fruit-wise, Mr. DeAngelo, who grew up in Brooklyn and has the accent to prove it, could hardly have gotten more local. Early explorers of the New York area, including Giovanni da Verrazano and Henry Hudson, mentioned beach plums in their writings. Plum Island, off the North Fork of Long Island, is named after the fruit.
But the bushes, which seem to thrive in harsh conditions, are difficult to cultivate. In time, the distiller found a crop at Briermere Farms in Riverhead, N.Y., and bought all it had: 800 pounds of plums.
The idea for the liqueur wasn’t entirely new: the New York bartender Toby Cecchini has concocted a homemade beach plum gin for years.
To make Greenhook’s version, Mr. DeAngelo macerated the fruit in its signature gin, a process that took seven months, far longer than he expected. He then removed the plums, sweetened the brew with turbinado sugar and filtered the result.
The vibrant red liquid is less viscous and earthy than sloe gin and slightly more fruit-forward than damson gin. Only 1,800 bottles were produced, to be sold in New York State alone. The gin, about $49.99, is carried by Astor Wine and Spirits, Park Avenue Liquor Shop and the Brooklyn Wine Exchange, among others.
A few Brooklyn cocktail bars and restaurants (Maison Premiere, Hotel Delmano and Marlow & Sons) were given bottles for building cocktail creations.
If you’d rather take the mixing into your own hands, you could do worse than topping a measure of the liqueur with twice as much tonic water. Mr. DeAngelo, who professes to be a man of simple tastes, likes his with Champagne. The fruit is seasonal, so the liquor will likely be a once-a-year thing. “Once we run out of this,” he said, “we probably won’t have any more till next April.”

No comments: