If you're a fan of those mouthwateringly complex spirits distilled with juniper berries — and what serious drinker is not? — you're in for a treat this weekend: The largest gin festival in the whole damn country is happening Saturday in the city's Tower Grove neighborhood.
And if you can't wait til Saturday to whet your appetites, well, the news gets even better: Gin Fest will be preceded by Gin Week, with 50 bars and restaurants participating across the metro area, as well as numerous brands from across the nation.
Gin Week and Gin Fest are the brainchildren of Natasha Bahrami, perhaps better known these days as the Gin Girl. Bahrami operates the Gin Room (3200 South Grand Blvd.), which will serve as a base for many of the festivities.
But Bahrami wants to make it clear that this isn't about the Gin Room, nor is it about the Gin Girl. Instead, it's about St. Louis bartenders, restaurateurs and bar flies coming together to celebrate community — and learn about the good stuff.
Oh, and drink a whole bunch of it, too.
"There's nothing of this magnitude anywhere in the country," Bahrami says. "The largest gin festival in the U.S., going on in dinky little St. Louis, Missouri." She adds, "This is what should be happening in New York right now, but isn't."
To participate in Gin Week, all you have to do is visit one of the many participating bars and order the gin cocktail they're offering in celebration of the week. But if you want to double-down on that commitment, there are plenty of other options (most of them at the Gin Room) before next Saturday. Among other events, check out the kick-off party and cocktail competition Monday, May 16; an Italian apertif workshop on Tuesday, May 17; and a "Gin-Barreled Beer Launch Patio Party" featuring 4 Hands Beer brewed in gin barrels on Friday. (See the official schedule for more details.)
As for Gin Fest 2016 ...
The Saturday festivities aren't all educational sessions, though they will be a big part of it. There will also be music (Tommy Halloran of Guerrilla Swing) and a fun street party. Wyoming will be closed at South Grand so the party can spill out from the Gin Room into the sunlight.
And there will be gin. Sample after sample of gin.
That doesn't mean you have to love the stuff to attend. "I full acknowledge that the whole world is not in love with gin," Bahrami says. "I have to come to terms with that. Maybe three percent of the people who attend will have any massive interest in gin — and the rest are just curious."
And that's fine.
"It's a party," she says. "These aren't stuffy seminars. This is meant to be something for people who have no interest in gin — we want to see if we can change that, in a really fun way."
For tickets, see the festival's website.
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