Photography Robert Bredvad, Food Styling Takako Kuniyuki, Prop Styling Paige Hicks
It’s easy to forget that Brooklyn is bound by the Atlantic Ocean. But here was a reminder: visiting Halftone Spirits, located in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood and finding owner and head distiller Andrew Thomas measuring two types of seaweed to add a subtle umami flavor to his SVQ Gin, named for the airport code for Seville, Spain—a country on the other side of the Atlantic.
Wild Icelandic kelp adds peppery, briny notes—“it smells to me like pure ocean,” Thomas says—while frilled purple leaves of Drillisk dulse seaweed, sourced from Ireland, are pungent, earthy, with an almost fishy exhale as I nibble a dried leaf that escapes the gin basket.
Gin’s Nautical Roots
If that sounds very different from the usual pine- or citrus-forward gins, that’s exactly what these distillers have in mind.
In recent years, gin producers have really leaned into unusual botanicals beyond the boundaries of classic London dry. But many sea-inspired gins push harder than ever, from a myriad of gins featuring kelp, sea lettuces and other seaweeds to piscatory varieties made with oysters, squid ink (England’s Dr. Squid, a colorchanging novelty gin), lobster (Homard and Lobstar Gins, both from Belgium) and pinches of sea salt (Jin Môr Sea Salt Gin, from Wales). Unfortunately, not all are available in the U.S. With all that splashing about, they’re each still considered gin.
“Gin has no rules, aside from the juniper,” observes Manya Rubinstein of The Industrious Spirit Company (ISCO), which is developing a gin infused with oysters and kelp. “There’s so much you can do with it.”