It doesn’t take an empire to earn a five-star review


Big news for Dallas’ Jason Kosmas and his accomplices over at The 86 Company: Spirit Journal, the respected industry newsletter, has awarded 86’s newly released Ford’s Gin a stellar five out of five stars in its latest quarterly issue.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” Kosmas said. “I’m a happy boy.”

Understandable. The gin, which has already landed on the shelves of cocktail bars around town and local retail outlets such as Sigel’s, is the result of six years of planning, research and experimentation by Kosmas and his cohorts at New York-based 86, fellow bartender Dushan Zaric and renowned spirits ambassador Simon Ford.

The three set out to make a spirit that embraced the purity of simplicity, one that was workhorse versatile, manageable and free of extra botanicals or excess flavoring.

“We wanted to make a quintessential gin,” Kosmas says. “We didn’t want some flavor hook, some gimmick. We wanted to make a well-made gin that was going to behave well in cocktails.”

Judging from the review by Spirit Journal editor and publisher F. Paul Pacult, they succeeded: “Crystalline and flawlessly pure,” is how Pacult begins, later praising its “lovely, sturdy gin bouquet” and lauding it as “easily one of the best new gins I’ve reviewed over the last two years.”

That’s some intoxicating praise.

The formula was two years in the making, produced in collaboration with 8th-generation master distiller Charles Maxwell of London. What you’re drinking out of that carefully crafted bottle is the group’s 81st recipe variation, ultimately meant to highlight gin’s distinctive juniper calling card with coriander undertones to give it structure. But there’s also cassia and orris root, both common gin botanicals, with a friendly dose of grapefruit.

“Gin is one where you second-guess yourself,” Kosmas said. “One little tweak and it’s a completely different animal.”

The bottle itself, decorated in classy luggage-stamp chic, is a nod to gin’s global character, despite its British associations, from the elephant and passport stamps on the label and cap to the decree playfully splashed across its bow: “It doesn’t take an empire to make a gin.”

Ford’s Gin is just one of four base spirits The 86 Company is rolling out. Two – Cana Brava rum and Aylesbury Duck vodka – debuted earlier this year, with a tequila yet to come.

“I love it,” said bartender Brad Bowden of The People’s Last Stand, at Dallas’ Mockingbird Station. “For mixing purposes, it has a lot of utility.”

Oddly enough, the ergonomic design of the Ford’s Gin bottle itself has also drawn praise from so-called “flair” bartenders, the ones who flip and twirl bottles as they work just for show. Kosmas, though flattered, is both surprised and amused.

“I’ve never been part of that world, and I’ve never wanted to,” he says. But since the bottle was built for speed and accuracy behind the bar, it actually sort of makes sense.

“I guess it’s like streamlining a car: if you built a car that goes fast, at some point somebody’s going to drive it really fast.”

— Marc Ramirez, 12-5-12

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