The proof's in this gin

Proof is flavor, a respected barman once remarked to us. The higher the proof, the less water in the bottle and the more concentrated the flavors.

Wanting a gin that could hold its own in a cocktail, Roseville's Bent Brewstillery (1744 Terrace Dr., went navy strength — 114 proof as opposed to 80-90 proof — with its debut spirit, Gunner Ghost. Plus, owner/distiller Bartley Blume liked the story. "That's the minimum proof at which gunpowder is still usable when wet," he explained.

It may have been practical on the high seas a century ago, but for Blume's purposes his high-proof gin hits like a botanical cannonball. It's intense yet approachable for the gin-averse (like Blume), with juniper yielding the spotlight to a shipload of lavender and a medley of grapefruit peel, lemongrass, rose hips, Cascade hops and more.

Hoist a glass to Gunner Ghost at a 7 p.m. Thursday launch party in Eat Street Social's Torpedo Room. (18 W. 26th St., Mpls. Michael Rietmulder

Winter Beer Dabbler to the fairgrounds

For a sixth consecutive year, thousands of barleywine-seeking beer fiends will descend upon the Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival on Jan. 24. Now at the State Fairgrounds' midway, the winter Dabbler features more than 150 local and national breweries, food trucks, a silent disco, live music and, for the first time, a heated warm-up station in the Warner Coliseum. V.I.D. tickets (Very Important Dabbler, $99) include access to a separate heated tent with a handful of special brews, bottomless stew, a stocking cap and other perks. (3:30-7:30 p.m. Jan. 24. $40-$50, $10 designated driver,