Served Neat: Meet the King of All Gins

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first installment of Served Neat, a monthly dive into the wild-and-wondrous world of fine spirits. Our subject for May is a cult classic—Distiller’s Gin No. 11, by North Shore Distillery—and our first taste begged an important question: Could a mom-and-pop distillery really give birth to the best darn gin, period?

By my estimation, there are two types of gin: The kind you don’t want to taste (fodder for G&T’s), and the kind you can’t get enough of. Distiller’s Gin No. 11 is the latter.

This small-batch liquor is the product of North Shore Distillery, an Illinois-based operation run by Derek Kassebaum (the distiller) and his wife Sonja (the salesman). The duo is known for a diverse lineup of spirits, ranging from absinthe and aquavit to a very fine vodka, but gins are their crowning achievement, and No. 11 is the jewel in said crown.

Designed as an homage to London dry gin, this example has much less bite—and much more complexity—than your run-of-the-mill fare. The key to its success is balance: North Shore taps a unique blend of botanicals for the distilling process, which evens out the heavy notes of juniper that can overpower lesser gins. This makes the finished product far more elaborate, and an absolute joy to sip. Spicy notes of peppercorn add a touch of heat, while hand-grated lemon peel produces prominent notes of citrus: A fitting complement to the lime and lemon often featured in gin-based cocktails.

The result, quite frankly, is a quintessential spirit—a stunning example of what gin should have been from the start. If you’re partial to gin on the rocks, this is the one for the job, though it’s equally capable in any classic cocktail, from a dry martini to a Negroni. If your interest is piqued, you can buy it here.

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