Whistling Andy Distilling, Bigfork

Story & photography by Lido Vizzutti

n 1935, exuberant politician Huey P. Long brought bartender Sam Guarino from the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans to the New Yorker Hotel in New York City to educate the Northern populace on how to properly construct a Ramos gin fizz.

As governor of Louisiana, the self-proclaimed Kingfish famously spent time in the Roosevelt’s bar drinking the frothy cocktail. In New York, Long, now a U.S. senator, and Guarino shook up and passed around mixers of the drink while also shaking up the crowd and attacking President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Also known as the New Orleans fizz, the Ramos was invented in the late 19th century by New Orleans restaurateur Henry Ramos and contains egg whites, cream and orange flower water.

The Ramos is possibly the most popular of the fizzes, but the traditional gin fizz is the true classic.

A fizz — with a first printed reference in Jerry Thomas’ 1887 Bartender’s Guide — is nothing more than a variation on the sour made possible by the arrival of charged, or carbonated, water in the mid 1800s.

An original recipe would include the sour component — typically lemon juice — as well as a sweet component like sugar, honey or simple syrup, and a spirit, shaken, poured and topped with soda water.

Today, Whistling Andy Distilling’s co-owner and head distiller Brian Anderson adds a modern Montana twist to this definitive concoction by using huckleberry and his Pink Peppercorn Pear Gin.

“When I started making the huckleberry gin fizz, people would say, ‘Oh no, we don’t do egg whites in cocktails,’” Anderson said. “And I’d have to say, ‘No, this is a traditional fizz.’”

Anderson’s spin on the fizz is simple, colorful, fun and delicious. His Pink Peppercorn Pear Gin, infused with 15 botanicals and steeped with ripe pears and pink peppercorns for 24 hours before being re-distilled, is intriguing and intricate.

It took over two-and-a-half years of trial recipes to find the subtle balance of pear on the nose and green spiciness to the finish. The understated fruitiness and heat are there if you look for them.

“I’m a really big fan of balance in spirits — it is really tricky to pull off,” Anderson said. “And I love subtlety. It is difficult to do, but when it’s done right, it’s a beautiful thing.”

Mixed with a spoonful of local huckleberry jam, the cocktail is beautiful in both its color and flavor.

“The huckleberries play with the Pink Peppercorn Pear Gin,” he said. “It is a really a floral gin, kind of fruity and vibrant. And the berries play well with that.”

Unlike the Ramos fizz, a traditional gin fizz is an accessible cocktail for any level of experience and can easily complement a home recipe list.

“It’s a gorgeous, fun and easy cocktail,” Anderson said. “It’s nice and light, not overly sweet, and not overly heavy. It’s something you can sit out in the sun and drink way too many of.”

Recipes

Huckleberry Gin Fizz
1 oz. Whistling Andy’s Pink Peppercorn Pear Gin
1 bar spoonful huckleberry jam
1.2 oz. fresh lemon juice
Soda water
Shake all ingredients, except soda, in cocktail shaker until metal frosts. Strain into a Collins glass over ice. Top with soda water and garnish with a lemon slice.

Traditional Gin Fizz
1 1/2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 oz. simple syrup (or 1 tsp. superfine sugar)
Soda water
Shake gin, lemon juice and syrup. Strain into an 8-10 oz. capacity highball glass with ice. Fill with club soda.

Fun Facts

The original recipe for the Ramos gin fizz, which calls for egg whites unlike a traditional fizz, dictated that it should be shaken for at least 12 minutes. Modern recipes call for a shake time of at least 2-3 minutes.

World Gin Day is held every second Saturday in June—making the next June 9, 2018—and allowing a Sunday to recover.

Gin was invented in Holland and introduced to Britain when dutch-born William of Orange took the English throne in 1688.

Sloe gin—for the sloe gin fizz—is actually made from sloes. Sloes are little berries, about the size of a dime, that grow in wild hedgerows in England.