Maine's Best Gin
On a hot summer day, there’s not much that beats a cool, crisp gin and tonic with a splash of lime. There is just something so satisfying about the tanginess of the gin and the bubbly fizz of the tonic. Bombay or Tanqueray might line your shelves, ready to report for duty for cocktail hours to come. But tell them to move over. There’s a new gin in town, well, Union, to be specific, which will give you a gin and tonic like no other you’ve sipped before.
It’s called Back River Gin. And you can find it at Sweetgrass Winery (347 Carroll Road, 207-785-3024), a quaint, family-run farm perched in the pastoral hills of Union (ironically once a prohibition hotbed). The gin is named after the river in Boothbay where Constance Bodine, the co-owner with her husband Keith Bodine, grew up.
Step inside the picturesque building, and I guarantee you will be amazed.
Why? You won’t just find wine (which, by the way, tastes delicious — you'd never guess that blueberry wine could be not the least bit syrupy or too sweet). You’ll also find delicious gin, rum, brandy, ports, and vermouth — all made right there with the expertise and passion of Keith and Constance. (Check out Keith’s background to help understand why everything they make is so darn good.)
I recommend doing a tasting of all the goods. The Apple Wine will surprise you with its tart, crisp, flavor. The Cranberry Apple Wine will evoke thoughts of the perfect wine spritzer. The Three Crow Rum is decadent, infused with vanilla and butterscotch undertones. But the gin…the Back River Gin will blow your mind. A few people have discovered it, (see the article in Mainecoastnow.com and Slashfood) and have given it rave reviews, but not enough in my opinion. Its spiciness and powerful fragrance elevates it to the level of an experience in flavor, not just a thirst-quencher or mixed drink component. The notes of coriander, ginger, juniper, and other spices and fruits combine to create a dynamic explosion in your mouth. To do it justice you must sip it over ice — just once if you’re not a straight liquor kind of guy or gal. After that, make the best gin and tonic you’ll ever have, or follow one of the recipes below. Whatever you do, get a bottle of it. Give it as a gift with their vermouth to martini fans. Taste it as an experience in flavor. Indulge in its richness and depth. On top of it all, support a hardworking Maine family giving the fruits of the land back to the people in a dozen different and delicious ways.
Here’s a recipe from Chip, a fantastic bartender at Francine in Camden:
Muddle three Maine strawberries with some San Pellegrino Limonada (an Italian lemonade available at specialty food stores) in the bottom of highball glass. Add ice to fill the glass. Add equal parts Back River Gin and Pimms Cup No. 1. Top it off with Limonada and garnish with a strawberry.
If, like me, you have difficulty finding Pimms, try this slight alteration. It’s perfect for an afternoon spent outdoors barbecuing or sunbathing:
Muddle three Maine strawberries and two basil leaves (torn into pieces) with some San Pellegrino Limonada in the bottom of highball glass. Add ice to fill the glass. Add gin (to taste) and top off with Limonada. Garnish with a strawberry.
If alcohol isn’t your thing, and even if it is, don’t miss the homemade vanilla at Sweetgrass!