It’s time to restart LGM’s War on Vodka. One of the main generals in this war on inferior spirits is the heroic and delicious gin. A new front has opened:
Ah, gin. Brisk, peppery gin. Once, it epitomized summer elegance. It was the cool-breeze component of martinis and gimlets, rickeys and slings, fizzes and Collinses. It was the soothing tonic that helped the quinine go down. It was yardarms and pastel sunsets.
Then the ground trembled and the sky darkened. Along came the devil, I mean vodka, and gin was forsaken in favor of — What? No flavor? No aroma? No character? Well, that’s vodka for you: a bland, neutral cipher. Gin’s cocktails became vodka’s cocktails, championed by those who ought to have known better, consumed by the masses who had no idea what a martini was, much less a yardarm.
These efforts have been modestly successful, though they have done nothing to slow vodka’s ascendancy. According to the Distilled Spirits Council, a trade group, sales of vodka in the United States have risen steadily to around 62 million cases in 2011, from about 39 million in 2002. Sales of gin, however, have been static, hovering around 11 million cases a year. The one area of encouraging growth has been at the highest end, in the super-premium category, which was up 24 percent in 2011 compared with in 2002.
The output of the new, small distilleries amounts to no more than a trickle. Like so many in the cocktail renaissance, many of them have rejected vodka as hopelessly square and dull while embracing gin as complex and distinctive. Perhaps, too, they have a historical appreciation for gin, just as the cocktail connoisseurs embraced the nearly forgotten rye whiskey and, in an earlier generation, craft brewers resurrected moribund styles of beer.
There probably are other theories for the decline of the United States. But the increase in vodka consumption from 39 million cases to 62 million cases a year in less than a decade is as good as any I’ve read.
I look forward to the vodka drinkers among you complaining about this. But note that you are inferior human beings.