By Kathy Stephenson, The Salt Lake Tribune -- For several years, Utah distillers have produced award-winning whiskey, vodka and an herbal liqueur.
Now, the state can stir gin into the mix.
Jack Rabbit Gin, produced by the 6-month-old Beehive Distilling in Salt Lake City, is believed to be the state’s first legally made gin in more than a century.
While whiskey and vodka are the most popular spirits in the liquor cabinet, gin has a storied history and "a cult following," says Chris Barlow, Beehive’s distiller.
It is the signature spirit in martinis, gimlets and Tom Collinses, and it has been romanticized by many authors: Tennessee Williams frequently enjoyed a Ramos Gin Fizz, F. Scott Fitzgerald mentioned the Gin Rickey in "The Great Gatsby" and Ian Fleming’s iconic character, James Bond, drinks a Vesper Martini, with gin and vodka.
Barlow and co-owners Matt Aller and Erik Ostling are creative types, too. They worked in advertising, design and photography — and shared a passion for a good cocktail — before deciding to launch their gin business, one of three new distilleries to receive licenses in Utah in the past six months.
Jack Rabbit Gin is made in small batches — about 28 gallons each — using a corn-based ethanol steeped with juniper berries, coriander seeds, grains of paradise (a spice in the ginger family) and oris (iris) root. Barlow also adds sage, lemon peel and rose petals during the distilling process to lend a unique character to the Utah spirit.
Experimenting with a limitless mix of herbs and spices is what attracted the trio of longtime friends to the business. "There’s a lot of creativity with gin," Barlow said.
No two premium gins are alike. The famed Hendrick’s Gin from Scotland is infused with rose and cucumber; Aviation American Gin has lavender, cardamom and sarsaparilla; and Bombay Sapphire is steeped with almonds and liquorice.
5 Utah spirit makers
Utah has distilleries that make whiskey, vodka, gin and herbal liqueurs. Here is where to find these spirits:
Beehive Distilling: Makers of Jack Rabbit Gin, $27.99 for a 750-ml bottle. Available in most Utah liquor and wine stores. A grand opening party is Aug. 2 at 8 p.m. at the State Room, 638 S. State, Salt Lake City. Gin cocktails and a performance by Charles Ellsworth & The Blue Bourbon Orchestra. Tickets available at the stateroom.com
Elevation Distilling: Makers of Salt City Vodka. Coming soon.
High West Distillery: Makers of rye whiskey and vodka. Prices vary. Available in liquor and wine stores and the distillery, open daily, at 703 Park Ave, Park City; 435-649-8300.
Ogden’s Own: Makers of Five Wives Vodka and Underground Herbal Spirit. Prices vary. Available in liquor and wine stores and the distillery, 3075 Grant Ave, Ogden, 801-458-1995. Open Monday-Friday, noon to 5 p.m.
Sugar House Distillery: Makers of Sugar House Vodka, $19.99 for a 750-ml bottle. Available at the distillery, 2212 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City; 801-726-0403. Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Also available soon in select Utah liquor stores.