Erik Holzherr surprises me with an invitation to his Gin Club launch-party at Wisdom, one of his popular Washington D.C. establishments. I think it is an outstanding idea to create a club dedicated to the prosperity of juniper juice—with specials, rewards, and an incredible selection—all for the average gin-lover. I make arrangements and head down from Philadelphia to stay with my old friend Katie from Quaker boarding school. I enter, and the bar, which I last left in a dream state, is now packed. Another dream.
Characters line the walls and the wooden bar. Two DC suits talk politics in the corner over spilt gin; a smiling thirty-something man darts through the crowd procuring his lady a cocktail; three women sitting towards the back listen to a rep from a distillery; and all the space-fillers fill their spaces. It is bursting.
I suddenly see Erik, whose warm smile makes me ready for the night. I gift him a bottle of Monkey 47, one of my favorite gins, and he thanks me and stashes it behind the bar. Katie has come along and I, looking around the room, begin to fear that she doesn’t know what she’s in for—room-temperature gin! But I am wrong. She moves through the stations beside me with grace as we taste Nolet’s, Green Hat, Leopold’s, and Bluecoat, all at room temperature—the worst way to enjoy gin. We listen as each distillery’s delegate explains the processes involved in crafting their spirits. At the end of the tasting route I head to order us gin & (house-made) tonics. Up my straw it goes as I turn back from the bar, and my taste buds remember with immediacy that real tonic is an entirely different story, earthy and pleasantly medicinal. I have come a long way from the soda-gun tonics in cheap bars of my disappearing past. The taste is bitter and deep and I know if I give it a moment I will prefer the sophistication. By the time I return Katie is knee-deep in DC political debate, standing her ground before those two gentlemen in dark suits. Have gin and politics gone arm-in-arm for all of history? They seem like the guys running the country—at least wishfully trying to from far off. I approach and hand Katie her murky g&t. With the first sip her face bunches a bit at the surprisingly authentic tonic. I turn to the two men—can I contribute anything? Close up, one is smart and the other not so much. The not-smart one rocked a lot and kept sticking his ear-buds in, interjecting occasionally. A bunch of ideas about educational progress and the worries about it never happening were being thrown around. The means and direction to make it happen. I want to help. I cannot.
Looking off into the pulsating bar, it becomes clear—I have come a long way from my generic martini orders of the past. Gin really is alive. It is explosive and I am inside; rather I am finding my way inside. I am happy this has come to me, and as I stand here I realize that collecting knowledge is almost as important as creating it. All that is done is lost in the end without a pen—I hope I’m recording it. I hope I’m doing it justice.