Passover begins tonight, but those among you who keep kosher during the period may be surprised to find that you can still drink your gin and tonic during the week. No. 209 is one of the only kosher gins in the world (Gordon’s is also on the list) — and it’s the only spirit maker I’ve encountered that makes two versions of the same product, one kosher, and one not.
But that’s not all: Passover, I understand, has special restrictions regarding grains, so even if something is kosher for normal use, it may not be kosher for Passover. 209’s special version of its gin, however, is.
We got a chance to try them both and see how they compare, head to head.
No. 209 is based in San Francisco, having relocated here from Napa. Both gins are 92 proof.
No. 209 Gin – Distilled (five times) from corn, leaving a very neutral spirit as a base. It’s quite forward on citrus, as juniper takes a back seat. 209 doesn’t reveal its botanical list, but it adheres to a mostly straightforward infusion, including bergamot, lemon peel, juniper, cassia, cardamom, and coriander, and others. The character features aggressive lemon and orange oil, with bittersweet citrus peel finishes. Nice, pleasant evergreen character — but not clearly juniper — on the finish, which is clean and refreshing. Definitely a choice gin for the gin drinker who wants an alternative to Tanqueray. A- / $30 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
No. 209 Kosher-for-Passover Gin (pictured) – It’s hard to tell the difference between No. 209 and its kosher version, aside from the embossed medal on the front. But inside the bottle, the products are quite different. 209 Kosher is distilled from sugar cane instead of grain, again going through the still five times. Bay leaf is added to the infusions, and cardamom is removed. Other changes are kept secret. There are much stronger juniper notes here, to be sure, along with a somewhat creamier, fuller body. It also brings with it a bigger bite and a lingering finish that veers into a somewhat bitter territory. Still very good, but the original version is better. B+ / $38