You might think you don’t like gin. Think again.

By Courtney Runn, Photos by Mackenzie Smith Kelley

If you swore off gin after a bad experience in college or have simply skimmed past it on the menu for years, Madeline Ridgway will change your mind. As the bar-program director of Arrive East Austin Hotel’s Gin Bar, Ridgway doesn’t claim gin as her favorite (“It’s like [picking] your favorite child,” she exclaims.), but the spirit intrigues her and she’s on a mission to find a gin for every Austinite. And with more than 90 varieties behind her counter, she’s well-equipped.

If you’ve been turned off of gin, most likely you’ve been sipping London dry gin. The English first invented the concoction centuries ago as an attempt to riff off their Dutch neighbors’ juniper-flavored jenever. The result was a juniper-heavy drink that missed the intended mark. The English kept at their experiment, creating old Tom gin, a sweeter version of London dry gin.

As jenever’s derivatives traveled the world, they only acquired more unique flavor profiles and regulations. Most American-produced gins are new-style gin—a loosely regulated variety with only one requirement: to include juniper—whereas Plymouth gin is highly regulated, only claiming the name if produced in Plymouth, England, with specific botanicals and water from the Dartmouth reservoir. Varied in form, gin has experienced waves of popularity, rising in the 19th century when a dryer palate reigned in the United States but losing its status after World War II introduced the country to vodka.

Today, Ridgway laments that gin never quite recovered from vodka’s splashy debut. Opened last July, Gin Bar is her juniper soapbox. And she doesn’t just want to mix cocktails but explain them and help imbibers find the right flavor profile for their individual palates.

“If you make these assumptions that you don’t like things, then you never learn what you do like,” she says. “You shut yourself off to a lot of experiences that could be awesome for you.”

Before ordering a drink or stocking the bar cart, Ridgway hopes women will visit Gin Bar and ask for samples, explore flavors and engage with her instead of opting for a go-to drink order. For Ridgway, “gin is all about education,” and her class is always in session

Gins for the Non-gin Drinker

If you like vodka, try old Tom gin.

If you like whiskey, try Ransom old Tom gin or Tom Cat Gin.

If you like tequila, try Pierde Almas mezcal-gin or Gracias a Dios agave gin.

If you like mezcal, try Letherbee Autumnal Gin.

If you like rum, try Bobby’s Schiedam Dry Gin.

If you want to shop local, try Still Austin Whiskey Coor Treaty Oak.

Madeline Ridgway Makes The Daisy - Gin Bar

Gin Pairings

charcuterie, strong cheeses, cucumber sandwiches, spicy food

Gin Mixers for Your Bar Cart

Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water flavored tonic, bitters, fortified wines

Gin Three Ways

The Aviation - Gin Bar

The Aviation

1 1/2 ounces Empress 1908 Gin
1/4 ounce Luxardo Maraschino
1/4 ounce simple syrup
3/4 ounce lemon juice

1. Shake and strain the ingredients into a cocktail glass.

2. Garnish with a cherry.

Tom Collins - Austin Woman Magazine - Gin Bar

Tom Collins

1 1/2 ounces Hayman’s Old Tom Gin
3/4 ounce simple syrup
3/4 ounce lemon juice
2 ounces soda water 

1. Build the ingredients in a Collins glass with ice and give a quick stir.

2. Garnish with an orange and a cherry.

The Daisy - Gin Bar

The Daisy

1 1/2 ounces Gracias a Dios Agave Gin
1/4 ounce yellow chartreuse
1/2 ounce agave syrup
3/4 ounce lemon juice

1. Shake all ingredients with ice then strain the cocktail into a Nick and Nora glass.

2. Garnish with a lemon peel.



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