CHICAGO According to Jun Hirst, senior brand manager for Hendrick's Gin at William Grant & Sons, Hendrick's is “the most unusual gin in the world.” Handmade in Scotland, infused with rose petals and cucumbers, and stored in a dark, stout apothecary bottle, the product first became available in the United States 10 years ago. Though the brand was “a very different and peculiar proposition in the gin and spirits world” at the time, it has since “been enjoying extraordinarily successful growth,” Hirst said. “One of the most important reasons for Hendrick's success is the fact that bartenders across the land embraced our most unusual gin from the start.”
To thank its cocktail-mixing clientele, the brand is staging a multi-city bartenders' croquet tournament this summer and fall. The event, which landed at Chicago's Soldier Field on July 16 and wraps up in Austin on November 8, is intended to “bring to life the world of Henrdrick's Gin,” Hirst said. She added that the world in question is—naturally—“most unusual.”
Out-of-the-ordinary details started with the location and concept of the event. “In the spirit of all things unusual,” Hirst said, “we felt that asking bartenders to put down their shakers and jiggers, and taking them away from their normal habitat—the bar—to pick up a mallet for a spot of competitive croquet would be a marvelously different way to sip Hendrick's Gin cocktails.”
On Soldier Field's Stadium Green, guests sipped mixed drinks and flowery gin punch from teacups and hollowed-out cucumbers. Around them, croquet competitors used branded mallets and vied for the Hendrick's trophy, which was topped with a large cucumber.
Also rather uncommon was the dress code on the invitation, which urged guests to “don your best railroad tycoon, Upton-Sinclair inspired, Baroque, Rococo, Victorian, or Edwardian garb.” Mixologists from venues such as Gilt Bar, Sable, and the Drawing Room came dressed in fittingly eclectic gear—everything from aviator caps to parasols dotted the crowd—while event staffers wore top hats, coattails, and frilly bloomers.