Gin prompts hesitation among many drinkers (isn’t that what Grandpa drank?). But Laura Johnson of You & Yours Distilling Co. wants to dispel the myths and mystique around this polarizing spirit and empower even the most gin-shy drinker. She works to remove the gin’s stigmas by educating customers and, more importantly, making really good gin.
“Gin can be something we snuck out of the liquor cabinet too early in life, and having a less-than-stellar experience can jade people,” Johnson says. “Also, the juniper flavor isn’t something our palates encounter on a daily basis, which makes it an acquired taste.”
Yet even the most skeptical drinkers will have a hard time resisting the playful, flavorful spirits of You & Yours.
Take the distillery’s flagship Sunday Gin: it’s bright, juicy, and floral, an easy entry into the world of gin.
“I affectionately refer to this as our gateway gin,” says Johnson.
During cooler months, there’s the Winter Gin, a bolder and spicier take on the Sunday. With botanicals like blood orange peel, clove, and pink peppercorns, this is what Johnson describes as “your Friday evening, martini by the fire drink.”
Below, Johnson guides shares her favorite tips for drinking and buying gin in San Diego.
Advice for New Gin Drinkers
When someone walks into the tasting room, we always recommend starting with a flight so that they can get to know our spirits in their truest form, and taste what they like and what they don’t like.
A lot of people shy away from gin because what they really don't like the taste of is tonic. To start, choose a mellow American or Western style of gin (these will be less juniper-forward) and enjoy it as you would your favorite vodka (with soda or soda and a splash of your favorite juice, or even as a mule with ginger beer) instead of tonic. Once you've found something you like, you can graduate to a martini or other, more direct-style of cocktail so you can really savor the gin's flavor profile.
Techniques for Sipping and Tasting
When you’re tasting spirits, start with the lightest and move toward the most full-bodied.
Take the glass in your hand and give it a nice swirl to help the nose come up to the top of the glass. Don’t stick your whole nose in there—pretend you’re back in chemistry class and give it a gentle waft.
Blow the air out of your mouth as you take a small sip, because the less oxygen in your mouth, the more you’ll be able to taste the flavor profile.
How to Shop for Gin
Do your research! Find out what flavors you like and don't like. I'm not a big fan of anise, so I stay away from anise-heavy styles. I love citrussy gins, so I tend to gravitate more towards those.
The biggest thing I like to teach people is that gin is a spectrum, not any one hard and fast flavor profile. There's a whole world of gins out there and I think there truly is one for everyone, gin lover or not.
As a distiller, of course I want you to go to your local distillery. Take a tour, spend some time there, hang out and get to know your distiller.
The transparency and the education you find at an actual distillery versus a bottle shop or liquor store is night and day. I want you to go to the source and educate yourself and see what you like and what you don’t like.
What to Say if Someone's Still Hesitant
That gin is just a flavored vodka. The original flavored vodka in fact! Gin is really just a juniper-flavored vodka when you break it down... they're made essentially the same way. Once you can grasp that, I find people are a little more inclined to try gin. Also, start slow. Don't go for a big, bold juniper bomb. Opt for something more mellow and citrussy.
Where Johnson Goes for Cocktail Hour
If we're just venturing around our neighborhood—Vino Carta, Pali, Herb & Wood, Kettner Exchange, and Campfire or The Pony Room, if we head up north. I also love Trust in Hillcrest. If you haven’t been, you have to go—their whole team is phenomenal. I love drinking there, I love eating there. I would go there once a week.
When I’m out, I’m either drinking gin or wine. If the establishment happens to carry our spirits, a Sunday Gin and soda with a splash of tonic. If they don't, whichever gin cocktail looks best on their menu (I like to opt for something savory and/or direct), or a Tanqueray 10 or Hendricks and soda.
What Johnson Loves Most About Gin
Gin is a blank canvas for creativity! There are so many opportunities along the distillation process to make your mark on the spirit and create something truly unique, truly my own.
Go Taste for Yourself at You & Yours Distilling Co.
1495 G Street, East Village, San Diego