John Wabeck, the beverage director at Spoon, is obsessed with gin. He stocks 28 brands at Spoon's bar and has over a dozen in his collection at home. Wabeck loves gin so much that he decided to create his very own.
He and wine and spirits compadre Jared Slipp toyed with the idea of creating a custom gin while they were working together in Washington, D.C., but both moved on to other jobs before they could finish the project. When the owners of Quakertown, Pa., distillers Midnight Madness recently approached Spoon owner Rick Stein about creating a custom blend, Wabeck took the project on.
He had one caveat: "I didn't want to make generic gin and then slap a label on it."
Wabeck says that Common Decency — named for an obscure Mighty Mighty Bosstones song — has "everything I'd ever ask for in a gin: It's heavy juniper, it's floral and it's very dry."
Common Decency is a straightforward London Dry gin. While it's popular in today's craft-distilling world to toy with the classic gin style by bringing forward different botanicals, that's not a game Wabeck wants to play. "Everyone is running away from London Dry," he says, "but there's a reason it's classic. It's delicious. It's versatile."
And although he's working in the classic style, Common Decency is far from generic. If you still think of gin and tonic as a "let's drink a ton of these and get hammered" order, Wabeck's label may make you revisit the noble combination. A gin and tonic made with Common Decency and Schweppes finishes like a pocket of bitter, botanical air.
Wabeck and the Midnight Madness distillers are working through distribution legalities, so for now, your best chance of sipping Common Decency is at Spoon (134 S. Highland Ave., East Liberty; 412-361-6001 or spoonpgh.com).
You can try it in a number of cocktails, but I'll be having another round of Common Decency and tonic. As Wabeck knows, sometimes it's satisfying to stick to the classics.