Category Archives: cocktails

I Made Gin

I Made Gin

And I can’t say this without thinking of “I’m Just Ken,” but be that as it may…


I recently received a “make your own” gin kit from my generous neighbors.


As someone who writes under the name of Ms. Barstool, it was an excellent choice. The kit included tools and things to add to the starter: a 750 mL bottle of  unflavored vodka, which I purchased. Why start with vodka if you’re making gin? The answer, according to one of my many books on cocktails and alcohol, is that when it’s first distilled, gin is “exactly like vodka, a clear, relatively tasteless alcohol.” There are some who say that gin is just flavored vodka. Are they wrong? A discussion for another day. One thing is certain: they are both clear distilled spirits made from fermented grain (with the exception of vodka made from potatoes or beets).

Photo by Ivan Evans on Unsplash

This alcohol becomes gin when infused with a variety of botanical flavorings, with juniper berries being most prominent. In fact, if there are no juniper berries, it  cannot legally be called gin. And the berries aren’t really berries– juniper is a bluish-green seed cone with lots of flesh that makes it look a lot like a berry. Historically, juniper has found several uses as a health aid. Another fun fact: the name “gin” comes from the French word for juniper–genièvre, and the Dutch genever, which the British shortened to gin. Now back to the process of  making my own genièvre!



The first step was to add the juniper berries to the bottle of vodka.

The kit’s funnel was a big help in getting those little berries into the neck of the bottle. The next step happened 24 hours later.


After 24 hours, I was ready for step 2: adding the contents of the little tin filled with a botanical blend: coriander, rosemary, lavender, rose hips, allspice, fennel seed, lemon peel, green cardamom, tellicherry black pepper, and bay leaf. A note about tellicherry black pepper: Tellicherry peppercorns are larger and more pungent than regular peppercorns, with more complex flavor and added notes of citrus.This smelled quite nice as I added it to the vodka, again using the little funnel.(Other ideas for the botanicals are caraway seeds,aniseed, orange peel, cassia bark,cinnamon,ginger,and almonds–basically, anything you want.)

Years ago, I interviewed Lauren Asta who was the tasting room supervisor at St. George Spirits in Alameda. When she spoke about Terroir, one of St. George’s gins, she described it as “a hike and Christmas in a glass.” As I wrote, “Say you’ve just been on a hike in a lovely California park. You may have run across Douglas fir, California bay laurel, coastal sage, and other aromatic botanicals. A couple of tastes of Terroir, and you would swear you’re still on the trail.” Lauren was able to rattle off the 19 botanicals that go into the making of Botanivore, one of the four St. George gins: this one contains a blend of elements that may remind you of “a meadow in bloom—herbaceous, fresh, and elegant.” What should you be sensing in that first sip? How about these: Angelica root, bay laurel, bergamot peel, black peppercorn, caraway, cardamom, cilantro, cinnamon, citra hops, coriander, dill seed, fennel seed, ginger, juniper berries, lemon peel, lime peel, orris root, Seville orange peel, and star anise. As Lauren says, anything goes when it comes to gin, as long as those juniper berries are in the mix.



After another twelve hours, it was time to thoroughly strain the infused liquid into the pair of cute little bottles that came with the kit. The color was kind of golden, which the instructions say is how unfiltered gin is supposed to look.


And finally, the fruits of my labor: a delightful gin and tonic, made with my very own gin! L’chaim!

It’s 5:00 somewhere!



From Bait Shop to Dive Bar: The Kingfish

I’ve started a new series on some classic old bars of the East Bay. Here’s the first one, published on Berkeleyside: From bait shop to beloved dive: Oakland’s Kingfish Pub and Café has a fascinating history

A few more tidbits about brunch cocktails

Once I started writing my latest article for Berkeleyside’s Nosh, I became fascinated with the colorful history of brunch and brunch cocktails. I may have gotten a little carried away, but that’s what editors are for. However, I really wanted to share a couple of things that were left on the virtual cutting room floor.Continue Reading

The Writing Year in Review: 2017

I’m copying (stealing?) this idea from a new author friend, Erika Mailman. In a year where it felt like I didn’t do much writing, it’s good to look back and see what I actually did. It felt like a rather unproductive year, writing-wise, but the evidence shows it wasn’t as unproductive as I thought. ForContinue Reading

What I Drank on My Summer Vacation

Anyone who chooses to call herself Ms Barstool will not likely post photos of tropical sunsets or local flora and/or fauna when she ventures off her barstool and out into the world. While the sun set and the surf kissed the shore and the palm trees swayed, I took photos of my luscious island cocktails.Continue Reading

Emporium of the Unusual

Sometimes, when the going gets tough, the tough drink gin. I got an invitation to attend this three-evening (Nov 4-6) event,at the Old Mint in San Francisco, sponsored by Hendrick’s gin. I elected to go last night, for one very good reason: Election Night. Our only instructions were to show up at 5th and MissionContinue Reading

You’ll be stirred–but not shaken–I hope. . .

This is an article I wrote for Berkeleyside recently. The Regional Oral History Office associated with UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library is still looking to meet their financial goal before July 11. Whether or not you’ve ever been drunk in San Francisco, as the song goes, I hope you’ll read this article and kick in aContinue Reading

Masterpiece Dinner

We were two young couples in our early twenties: husbands in grad school, wives working in the same office and becoming fast friends. The four of us bonded over cocktails and college football games. In addition to our habit of sharing Happy Hours together on Friday nights, we discovered that we all loved to cook.TheyContinue ReadingContinue Reading