Our father who art in Martini, juniper be thy name

by Paul Dechene


“Beloved, we join hands here to pray for gin. An aridity defiles us. Our innards thirst for the juice of juniper. Something must be done. The drought threatens to destroy us.”

That’s Wallace Thurman writing in Infants of Spring. And while his prayer to gin is part of a larger satire of the Harlem Renaissance, I invoke these words most earnestly now, during Saskatchewan’s terrible gin drought.

I’ve written routinely about the criminal paucity of juniperian choices in our Prairie liquor stores. It is a central theme of everything I’ve produced for these annual Drink! issue rituals. And I’d have given myself over to despair if Prairie Dog scribe John Cameron hadn’t introduced me to Gambit Gin by Saskatoon liquor wizards, LB Distillers. It’s smooth and refined with lively fruit notes.

The distillery’s website describes it as a “New Western Dry style” gin, a thing I’ve never heard of so I asked Cary Bowman, President of Good Times (he claims that’s his official title) what it means.

“[Our gin is] still based under the appellation of the London Dry but what we do is we pull back that juniper berry so it’s not the most dominant botanical,” says Bowman. “And juniper is that punch-you-in-the-face-with-a-pine-tree taste. It’s still there. It has to be there or it wouldn’t be gin. But we bring forward some more floral, citrus notes. So in our gin you’re going to find lots of saskatoon berry.

As far as we know we’re the only gin in the world that has saskatoon berries in it. Lots of lemon peel. Lots of camomile. It’s very floral, very citrus. Perfect for mixing in with a gin and tonic or any sort of cocktail,” he says.

LB also produces their Lucky Bastard Vodka, Knock On Wood rum and their own line of bitters (see sidebar).

As for what they have coming up, Bowman says that in September they’ll be releasing a spiced rum.

“This spiced rum will be completely different than any spiced rum you’ve had before,” says Bowman. “I can’t really mention the ingredient yet. It’ll be on the label and people will be like, ‘Oh my God, how has nobody thought of this before?’ But it’s crazy awesome.”

Everything’s Better With Bitters

When I first started seriously exploring the world of cocktails, say seven or eight years ago, bitters were not an easy thing to find. These are little herbal tinctures, a few drops of which are essential ingredients in many cocktails. Some grocery stores would carry Angostura bitters and a few barkeeps in town would mix up their own, but finding the peach or orange bitters that figured in many classic cocktail recipes was only possible through the internet.

According to Cary Bowman of LB Distillers in Saskatoon, there’s now a homegrown option available to local mixologists.

“We love cocktails and bitters are what we call the salt and pepper of cocktails,” says Bowman. “We’d order our different type of bitters online then one day we decided, well, all a bitters is high proof alcohol — which we make — a bunch of botanicals — which we have, thousands of different botanicals we have here from coming up with our gin recipe — so why don’t we come up with our own line of bitters?”

Currently, LB offers an Angostura-style bitters, an absinthe bitters and a bacon-flavoured bitters. And Bowman says they have a fourth style coming very soon.

“It’s more of a cherry bitters, so we use a carmine jewel. I think it’s aging for another month and then we’ll bottle it and package it and away we go.” /Paul Dechene