Abba Napa On Bank Bar, Her Gin Obsession, and More
It was perhaps 10 years ago, when I was helping my family open up a small bar, that I first stumbled upon a bottle of Hendrick’s. Although I don’t drink it that often these days, that blue bottle opened up my mind to the depth and range of the spirit, and pushed forward the idea of how a gin could advance a flavor profile. Well-rounded, confident, and well-mannered, gin is neither stiff nor serious, thereby loads of fun. Who wouldn’t want to spend the evening surrounded by that?
I love gin’s versatility. Depending on what the occasion calls for, it has the ability to lead the parade and make its unique presence felt, or it can equally be a good member of an ensemble cast and support the overall flavor direction of the drink at hand. I usually let the individual bottle determine how I enjoy it. Some gins are nice on the rocks, and as I enjoy my gin cold, I’ll often leave a bottle in the freezer because it takes on a different texture that is quite nice for martinis—and you get the added bonus of not having to stir.
When making a cocktail, I find I favor vermouth over tonic. There are, however, these balloon-serve glasses specially made for gin that I’ve been eyeing, and if I get my hands on a few of them I’ll happily give G&Ts another chance. Unless it’s a G&T made by Colin Mackay—then I’ll happily enjoy them now, even if I have to drink them out of a paper cup.
Gin concoctions: Martini, negroni, and a gin & tonic
Every cocktail, I find, has its own time and place. Martinis are great after a long day, whatever the hour that day may end. A gin sour is a good sidekick that doesn’t feel the need to take over the conversation, and is for times when you are looking for the “carefree ditziness” that a martini or negroni won’t give you, because those drinks demand your full attention.
Negronis are a favorite, and nowadays I feel that they are solely for dusk drinking and pre-dinner tipples. The very first time I recall having a proper one was right after climbing my first and only mountain, in Sri Lanka. I think I have become quite fond of them because I associate them with triumph. After the climb, I came upon a converted tea plantation and a negroni was the only thing available at the bar. I will always remember the brightness of the red Campari, the fleeting love-hate affair with the bracing bitterness of the vermouth, the punchy notes of the gin, the bright orange peel floating in the glass and the low-hanging, slow-twirling fan that just made it all seem oh so romantic. But more than anything, I will remember that particular negroni for how it whetted my appetite and set me up thoroughly for our little curry feast thereafter. Half the fun of drinking a negroni now is how enjoyable my meal will be afterward. Somehow your taste buds are just more jovial and accommodating after a negroni, allowing you to enjoy the act of eating that much more.
No matter what fancy gins or vermouths are used to make the negronis I’ve had since that day, they will never measure up, and that will always be the best one I have ever had. Nostalgia is hard to beat. Having said that, aren’t all memories with gin lovely? Either that or gin is so bewitching that I have forgotten any memories that are best laid to rest while imbibing it.
The shelves at Bank Bar are weighted heavily towards gin, in large part because we have an affinity for the spirit. We’ve stocked it with some of our favorite bottles, and over time, as we get to know each one more intimately, we will most likely find new ways to enjoy and serve them. As I’ve been spending quite some time there these days, I find that sticking to a single spirit is the smartest thing to do when babysitting a bar. Gin is great because it can carry me through the whole night. I’ll start with a negroni, of course, because it is great for relaxed conversation. Then sometime in the middle of the night, I’ll move on to a Nutter Club, a pistachio-lemon gin sour. Right about midnight, when the space takes on a slightly clubbier lounge vibe that is more energetic, I’ll try to find the martini trolley amidst the crowd and happily make myself a nice, dry one… or two.