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Once dismissed as old-fashioned, gin is now a favorite hipster tipple


IN A SMALL, bottle-lined room tucked above the Portobello Star, a 19th-century pub in London’s Notting Hill, I take my first sip of the gin I have just concocted out of 11 carefully chosen flavors. It lingers on the palate, the dominant juniper notes offset by the dryness of licorice root, the savory taste of celery seed, the citrus tang of orange and pink grapefruit, and a hint of warmth from black and pink peppers.

Yet, even as I savor the drink, it is clear that it needs something to counterbalance these powerful flavors. If my gin is an orchestra, all the instruments are being played as loud as they can be played, and all at the same time. Derek Jones, my instructor at the Ginstitute—a bar-cum-museum that opened in late 2011 and offers a three-hour experience that includes designing and bottling your own creation—knows exactly what to do: “a touch of lemongrass.” I follow his recommendation, and he adds a few drops of alcoholic distilled-lemongrass essence. It works, the undertone of sweetness balancing the spirit’s astringency.

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