(Not your average gin-and-tonic)

I drink gin. A lot.

Funny thing is, I used to really hate gin. I suppose it's because I hadn't ever had truly good gin, and I went for years and years without having any gin cocktails at all. In early 2000 I became a born-again cocktail aficionado and began doing lots of studying and research about cocktails and their history. There were many cocktail recipes -- very old and very new -- that looked intriguing but contained gin. Feh, I thought. I don't like gin.

I then decided that I needed to give gin a chance, at least once. I did a little reading, and it seemed that the general concensus was that Bombay Sapphire was a really nice "gateway gin." It didn't rely completely on the flavor of juniper berries (which I don't particularly care for), but had 10 other botanicals and herbs to flavor the liquor. This had promise. I wasn't going to dive straight into making a Martini with it, but I thought a gin and tonic might be the trick.

I thought Bombay Sapphire make an absolutely lovely gin and tonic. I enjoyed the drink so much that I was ready to mix it more simply, without diluting it with so much mixer, but then I thought about how I could improve the gin and tonic. I'd read about how one aficionado of the drink added the juice of a lime, and a couple of drops of Angostura bitters. Being a New Orleanian and an aficionado of things local -- including my favorite cocktail, the Sazerac -- I decided to change this to Peychaud's bitters, and to add a few healthy shakes of it.

The resultant drink was magnificent, another order of magnitude above a standard gin and tonic, even though the change was fairly subtle. I could drink lots of these, on a hot summer's day, reading a good book ...

Over the ensuing years, though, as I became more and more of a born-again gin aficionado, Bombay Sapphire didn't do it for me anymore. I wanted a more full-flavored gin, and nowadays I'm really loving Tanqueray or Beefeater in these. I also found a recent entry into the tonic water scene that makes Schweppes and Canada Dry seem like pond water, and that's Fever Tree. You can get it at Beverages and More, and it's popping up elsewhere around the country. Get it if you can, it's phenomenal. Q Tonic and Stirrings Tonic Water are also excellent choices.

This is a more elegant gin and tonic, so I named it after one of the most elegant avenues in the city of New Orleans. Remember, though -- you can make this with cheap gin, and you can substitute Angostura bitters for the Peychaud's ... but what would be the point? That would be just another common gin and tonic.

Place the lime peel in a highball glass and add the gin. Muddle the lime peel gently, to help press out some of the lime oil. If you're patient, let it sit in there for a few minutes. Then fill the glass almost to the top with cracked ice cubes. Add the lime juice. Fill with the tonic water, then add the bitters (don't be shy). Rub the lime wedge around the rim of the glass, then add it as a garnish. Swizzle, then serve the drink with the swizzle stick. Accept the compliments graciously.

You can drink these at your house, at our house, and if you happen to be in Asheville, North Carolina, you can drink them at The Lobster Trap, a lovely seafood restaurant and oyster bar. (Thanks a million to Billy Klingel for adding it to the drink menu!)

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Chuck Taggart   (e-mail chuck)