There could not have been a better day chosen for the 1st Annual Ginvitational than April 21st.
Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill was swarming with sun-drenched locals and the temperature hovered around 70 degrees. Gene Shook, founder of the Seattle Gin Society and organizer of the Ginvitational, and a crew of volunteers had the field house prepped and ready with 15 gins (of which the majority were offerings from the Northwest), tonic, soda, a 3 gallon bucket of sherbet acting as a palate cleanser and beer for the thirsty crowds.
The previous afternoon a panel of ten judges consisting of industry professionals, bar owners and discerning consumers blindly tasted and scored the 13 contestants in the upstairs room at Local 360. The top winners: Martin Millers Westbourne Strength, Captive Spirit’s Big Gin, Small’s Gin from Ransom Distillery and Gun Club Gin from Sun Liquor Distillery were granted a place of honor on the entrance table at the Ginvitational. People began at the Judges Award table then carouseled around to the other contestants and offerings, sipping and scoring the gins while Big Band music wafted over the sound system to compliment the sunny mood.
The diverse crowd was pleasantly enthralled with the caliber and wide variety of flavors available within their own community. Gin aficionados already knew the distillery locations were eager to share, and made available directions and recommendations to those who were discovering the local gins for the first time.
Adding to the festivities, Steve Stone, distiller at Sounds Spirits, Big Ben (Ben Capdevielle), distiller at Captive Spirits, and Rusty Figgins from Batch 206 were there pouring, answering eager questions, and ruminating over the methods of tinkering with gin.
At 6:30pm, announcements of the winners were proclaimed, and the last drops from the shot glasses were tipped back. By 7pm, whether it was from the sun or gin, cheeks were rosy, and people trickled off, smiles on their faces to find dinner for their bellies.
You don’t have to wait until next April to revisit and expand upon your gin experience. Many distillers welcome visitors, some provide samples, and local watering holes happily stock local gin products. So as the weather becomes consistently warmer, remember, gin is there waiting for you.
1st Annual Ginvitational Awards
Best Gin: Martin Millers’ Westbourne Strength
Judge’s Award: Gun Club Gin by Sun Liquor Best Northwest Gin: Big Gin by Captive Spirits
Member’s Choice: Citadelle Gin by Citadelle
President’s Choice Washington: Sound Spirits
President’s Choice Oregon: Organic Nation
Best Washington Gin: Counter Gin by Batch 206
Best Oregon Gin: Smalls Gin by Ransom Distillery
Judge’s Honorable Mention: OOLA Gin by OOLA Distillery
Joanna Schwartzkopf is a bartender and brand ambassador in the Seattle area. She has 15 years of experience in the cocktail business, and a penchant for Chartreuse. She can be reached for brand reviews, mixology, and cocktail event coverage at [email protected]