Craft your own

Soon, Gate 11 guests will also have the opportunity to play chemist and craft their own botanical blend when the distillery launches its gin classes, covering the spirit’s history and the botanicals that can be used to create a uniquely flavored gin. “There are so many different ways you can go, opportunities for individual expression,” Bill Lee says.

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The Bumblebee Sting, a drink made with gin, honey simple syrup, lavender-chamomile simple syrup, elderflower, sparkling water, lemon juice and garnished with a candied lemon peel, is seen at the Gate 11 Distillery, inside the Chattanooga Choo Choo, on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The drink is made with Gate 11's gin and photographed with some of the botanicals used to distill the gin.

With the February opening of Gate 11 Distillery at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, gin is finding favor locally among the microdistillery's growing customer base. But founder and head distiller Bill Lee says that's not relegated to his on-site distilled and bottled gin (and vodka).

Gin is "having a moment in the industry," he says.

Bill and his wife Wanda worked on their gin recipe for several years in their pilot plant in Soddy-Daisy. The distillery launched with one of Wanda's blends, which beat out the others for its subtle flavor. "It doesn't smack you in the face with juniper," she says of the piney botanical typically associated with gin. "I dialed it back so the rest of the botanicals come through."

Among those is orris, or iris root — a nod to Tennessee, where the iris is the state flower. Wanda feels gin needs some sort of citrus flavor, but she opted against the usual lemon or orange peel in favor of the more subtle lemon verbena. Angelica root, cinnamon, coriander, anise, grains of paradise and cubeb compose the remainder of the recipe, resulting in a smooth and subtle flavor that makes the gin an ideal base for craft cocktails.

Gate 11 focuses on producing a wide range of high-quality primary spirits (e.g., no flavored products) and providing an experience for guests — from taking in-depth tours of the distillery, to enjoying innovative and classic cocktails in a historic setting where you often actually see the spirits being made. You may even see distiller Whitney Belden mixing botanicals for the distillery's small-batch gin as you sip.

Gate 11's refreshing Bumblebee Sting combines gin with the flavors of honey, lavender-chamomile tea, elderflower and fresh-squeezed lemon juice (the sting). "It's kind of like a honey gin lemonade with floral notes," says Olivia Henninger, the Gate 11 bartender who created the drink, adding that the drink's floral notes complement the lemon verbena flavor of the gin really well.

What you need:

  • 1 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce honey syrup (Gate 11 makes its own by mixing honey with hot water until it's an easily pourable consistency)
  • 1/2 ounce lavender-chamomile syrup (also made in-house, using loose herbs pressed into tea with a French press)
  • 1/4 ounce elderflower (Gate 11 uses Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower Cordial, available locally at Fresh Market)
  • Sparkling water
  • Lemon juice
  • Candied lemon peel

What you do:

Combine first four ingredients in a highball glass with ice. Top off with sparkling water and lemon juice. Stir. Garnish with candied lemon peel.