Book review – The Bartender’s GIN Compendium by Gaz Regan

Like gin? Buy this book. That’s all you need to know…. If you want to know why read on, if you trust me implicitly scroll down, click the link and get your credit card out.the bartender's GIN compendium

You know about gin right? Bubonic Plague, Juniper, Holland, genever, bathtubs, Hogarth, Tippling Act, prohibition and the Queen Mum. It’s bartender basics, is the base of our knowledge.

Why on earth do we need to buy and read a book telling us what we already know? ‘the bartender’s GIN compendium’ is about as useful a book as ‘the politician’s LYING compendium’ correct?

Well Gaz Regan is here to prove you wrong. His latest book is an absolute must for any drink lover’s bookcase. Anyone who has had the good fortune to have a drink or six with Gaz will tell you his humour, passion and knowledge are beyond reproach.

The bartender’s GIN compendium brings those attributes to the printed word.

Rarely has a ‘spirit’ book been such a joy to read, from the outset Gaz’s personality jumps off the page.

The book is split into 3 basic parts – the first is a potted history of everyone’s favourite junipered spirit, next up is a more detailed look at the various styles with a write up on the brands that fall into each category and finally Gaz’s favourite gin cocktails from around the world. Sounds okay right? Nothing ground breaking. Another spirit’s book!

What the bartender’s GIN compendium has to separate it from the crowd should be easily understandable to all bartenders. Like a well made G&T or Aviation, the ingredients may be the same but how they are put together makes the world of difference.

This book is filled with quotes, musings and memories from various gin experts who Gaz has befriended over his years travelling the world, bar by bar and distillery by distillery.

More than that though it contains Gaz’s own memories and stories of a spirit that has been with him since his very first cocktail (a Gin Gimlet), through his early years of tending bar in New York where he ‘tended under the influence for the first time and invented sex (apparently) through to making his own gin at the Plymouth distillery after a dawn-ish return from a casino.

The stories are what set’s this book aside from the pack and give a real insight into the life of the man in charge. The middle sector could easily become a boring rewriting of brands press releases as each brand is given a page or three on their history, distilling techniques, botanicals etc however this is interspersed with Gaz’s personal memories and tales.

Tales which are refreshingly self-deprecating in a world where all too many bartenders seem to be over concerned with their ‘cool’ factor.

Due to the constantly changing gin landscape at the moment some of the more recent brands don’t make it into the book unfortunately (the likes of Sipsmith, Chase and Edinburgh Gin are all missing) but hopefully this will be rectified once the second print run is ordered.

The book is published by Gaz himself and can be ordered online here or through Amazon. Here as a special treat is a little extract for you and one of my favourite recipes from the book:

gaz regan
The man himself

Thought’s from a Gin Mill

Gin’s a spirit unto herself. She’s a loner. Gin can gnaw on the back of your neck till she nigh-on draws blood, and she can just as easily kiss you softly behind each ear, stroke the back of your shivering hand, and make you know that everything’s going to be okay. And it will, you know. It really will.

Gin can be sort of sneaky, too. Many a Ramos Gin Fizz has been served to a supposed gin hater, for instance, and the glass has been refilled more than twice before they discovered what was being poured. And who the hell would have thought that gin would walk out quite so well with chocolate?

But if you’ve ever had a Twentieth Century Cocktail – gin, crème de cacao, Lillet Blanc, and lemon juice – you know for yourself that these two make quite a lovely couple, especially when Lillet and lemon juice tag along as chaperones.

Gin is for thinkers and doers alike, but she won’t be seen dead with a loud, brash braggart down the end of the bar. Gin likes a little foreplay before she commits to going all the way. Tease gin with elderflower cordial, for instance, and she’ll flirt for a while before she takes her blouse off.

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the blouse is coming off, but Gin takes her own good time.

Gin makes her own statement, too. She doesn’t need a sleek black dress and screw-me pumps to make her presence known at the party. She can just sit quietly at the end of the bar, faded jeans and a plain white T-shirt, secure in the knowledge that only the guys and gals who know exactly what they want, how they want it, and how they’re gonna go about getting it, will ever approach her. And when they sidle over to her side, they know that they’d better treat her with some respect, too. Don’t mess around with gin. She’s been known to take off her earrings…

Ruby Sunday
Adapted from a recipe by Gary Regan, Ardent Spirits, NY, 2008
Rhubarb was a 1969 movie, written and directed by British comedian, Eric Sykes, in which “rhubarb” was the only word spoken, and every character’s last name was Rhubarb. There was also a 1951 movie called Rhubarb, and this one was about an eccentric rich guy who left his money, and a baseball team, to his beloved cat, Rhubarb. Rhubarb, Rhubarb, released in 1980, was a remake of the 1969 Rhubarb movie, and again, “rhubarb” was the only word spoken throughout the picture. Oh yes, in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a little rhubarb in this drink, too.

  • 60 ml (2 oz) Bombay Sapphire gin
  • 30 ml (1 oz) Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
  • 30 ml (1 oz) Rhubarb Simple Syrup*
  • 15 ml (.5 oz) fresh lemon juice
  • 6 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 lemon twist, as garnish

Add everything, mint leaves and all, to a shaker full of ice. Shake over ice and strain into a chilled champagne flute. Add the garnish.

*Rhubarb Simple Syrup: Take 4 cups rhubarb that’s been cut into 1-inch lengths, cover with water (about 2 cups or 475 ml), add ½ cup (100 g) sugar, bring to the boil and simmer for just a couple of minutes until the rhubarb is tender. Strain the water from the rhubarb – that’s your simple syrup. Use the rhubarb in a yummy dessert. Gary made this kind of cobbler thing. Well, it wasn’t really a cobbler as such, but…….