Talking Gin With The Pines’ John Poiarkoff and Greenhook Ginsmiths’ Steve DeAngelo

If the Kentucky Derby marks the official start of gin-drinking season, then it’s fully underway at this point. We’ve got gin and tonics, mint juleps, martinis, negronis; the list, like the road, goes ever on and on and we can’t wait to imbibe them all (in moderation, of course).

No one understands that more than chef John Poiarkoff and Greenhook Ginsmiths founder Steve DeAngelo, who will host a gin-themed dinner (Ginner?) this Sunday at Poiarkoff’s Gowanus eatery, The Pines. We caught up with the duo ahead of their collaboration and discussed the relative merits of drinking and cooking with one of our favorite summer spirits.

Let’s start this off the right way: what are your favorite gin cocktails?

John:  Classic gin and tonic with a twist of lemon is one of my all-time favorite warm weather cocktails. I love negronis as well. They’ve become somewhat of an industry standard among NYC restaurant folk. We’ve created a few great ones, including the Fizzy Lifter, which combines gin with fresh rhubarb juice and is topped with an egg white foam, and the Air and Sea, which is a play on an aviation with dulse seaweed-infused gin. The latter is very savory and a perfect pairing with seafood.

Steve: I’m a gin and tonic nut! There’s nothing crazy about it, but I think for a two-ingredient cocktail, it’s really great. Any riff on a gin and tonic is great as well. Gin is a great liquor because it’s very complex, but it’s also very refreshing. Traditionally, a lot of gin drinks are very refreshing cocktails. But it’s a great spirit because it is very complex with all the herbs and spices it uses. It’s a lot more complex than most other spirits.

John, what inspired you to create this “Meet The Producers” project and to feature Steve?

John: Our “Meet the Producers” series gives us a chance to collaborate with artisans whose products we love. We’ve carried Greenhook gin since we opened and have created many cocktails with it. Steve became somewhat of a regular at The Pines, eating dinner at the bar once every couple months. When we decided to start the dinner series, he was an obvious choice for us.

And during the dinner, you’ll be cooking with Greenhook Ginsmiths gin. What makes the spirit so great for cooking and how’d you put together the menu? 

John: Steve’s gin, in particular, is great to cook with. It’s very balanced. It’s not just a juniper bomb, you can taste each ingredient he uses. The citrus and galangal notes steered me toward fish. I decided to cure local Long Island fluke with gin and pair it with cucumber and ginger. When thinking of a meat dish, I focused on the spices that Steve uses, such as juniper and coriander. Classically, both of these are paired with either game or lamb. We cured lamb breast with these flavors and will serve a braised slice over freekeh (toasted spelt wheat; New York State wheat is the grain used as the base of Greenhook gin) with fava beans and ramps. For dessert, we went back to the citrus and floral components of the gin and made a gin sorbet over a steamed lemon pudding.

In addition to gin-laced food, the dinner will feature gin cocktails, which sounds delicious to us, but not to everyone. What are the biggest misconceptions about gin? 

Steve: I do installations all the time at retail and so many people when I ask them if they want to taste my gin, some people say, “I can’t drink gin, I had a bad experience in high school.” So many people say that. That many people couldn’t have possibly had a bad experience! But I think the biggest misunderstood thing is that some of those people say that gin makes them crazy, but that’s not even possible. Other than the natural herbs and spices they use to flavor it, the chemical composition of gin is no different than vodka. So, it wouldn’t make sense that gin can make them crazy. I can’t imagine that juniper berries have any property that makes people crazy!

Got any big projects coming up to change people’s minds? 

In September, we’re launching a line extension. It’s our Old Tom gin (a slightly sweet form of the spirit), which will be released on September 15.

The “Meet The Producers” dinner at The Pines will take place on May 18 at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here

Follow Nikita Richardson on Twitter @nikitarbk

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