10 Cocktails to Help You Join the Gin-Crowd
Warm weather, picnics in the park, spring breezes and a hint of juniper in the air? Sounds like gin season is in full swing. We pay tribute to one of our favorite botanical-forward spirits with 10 cocktails to try your hand at, from classics like the Corpse Reviver #2, Vesper Martini and Aviation cocktails, to fun modern options like the hibiscus-spiked Acerbic Mrs. Parker and the Aqua-Y-Essence, a cocktail that incorporates gin, grapefruit and Viognier for a refreshing sipper.
Not a gin fan? Not a problem, the base spirit can be substituted for vodka in most of these recipes. However, if you think you’re not a fan of gin, we humbly implore you to give it a chance in one of these cocktails. You might find you have a different opinion, and a thirst for seconds.
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Courtesy Adam Gainer, general manager, Leon’s Oyster Shop, Charleston, SC
This gin and tonic is, indeed, a tonic for a sultry Southern afternoon. At Leon’s Oyster Shop in Charleston, South Carolina, frozen G&Ts are always at the ready inside a slushy machine, and almost resemble a snowball in a glass. This home-friendly version relies on a blender or food processor to pulverize ice and create a refreshing summer sipper.
While Leon’s uses Charleston’s own Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Classic Tonic Syrup, bittersweet variations are available all over the country. Here are four to try. Look for them in specialty shops, or order online.
Created by New York City barkeep Tom Richter, this tonic is robust and slightly herbal. Its slogan: “Life’s too short to drink crappy tonic.”
Liber & Co. Premium Tonic Syrup
This Austin-based company makes a wide range of syrups, like this citrus-forward mixer.
Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Classic Tonic Syrup
Brooks Reitz named Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. after his great grandfather. Look for hints of lemongrass and orange peel.
Small Hand Foods Yeoman Tonic Syrup
A murky brown color from the red cinchona bark, this San Francisco-made syrup is lightly bitter, with a delicate cinnamon note.
- 2 ounces gin
- ¾ ounce tonic syrup
- Cucumber slice, for garnish
Combine first two ingredients with 1 cup of ice in blender. Purée until slushy. Pour into small rocks glass. Garnish with cucumber slice.
Courtesy Allen Katz, The Shanty at New York Distilling Company, Brooklyn, NY
An easy to build, punchbowl-ready cocktail, perfect for when you’re short on time. Just like the sharp-tongued writer for whom it’s named (Dorothy Parker, of the Algonquin Round Table), this drink may appear demure, but it packs a punch.
- 16 ounces gin (Katz prefers Dorothy Parker American Gin)
- 2 ounces orange liqueur
- 4 ounces hibiscus syrup (or other floral syrup)
- 4 ounces lemon juice
- Seltzer, to top
- 8 orange wedges, for garnish
Funnel first four ingredients into an empty 1-liter bottle. When ready to serve, shake well to mix, then divide among eight glasses (or pour 3 ¼ ounces into each glass). Scoop ice into each glass, and stir to chill. Top each glass with chilled seltzer. Garnish each glass with an orange wedge. Serves 8.
When it comes to classic gin cocktails, few are as revered by bartenders as the Aviation. On the other hand, even fewer are reviled like a poorly made Aviation.
The drink is built on a delicate balance of strongly flavored ingredients, which can easily cause ruin when out of proportion. But done right, you’re guaranteed to convert anybody who claims they “don’t like gin.”
The first printed mention of the Aviation on record is in Hugo R. Ensslin’s 1917 classic compendium, Recipes for Mixed Drinks. A variation on the gin sour, the Aviation replaces simple syrup with maraschino liqueur, balances it with lemon and introduces a wildcard, Crème Yvette.
Crème Yvette is a violet herbal liqueur—a proprietary blend modeled after the more generic crème de violette that was integral to the original Aviation. It provides the Aviation’s distinctive, sky-like blue/grey hue (the source of the drink’s name) and signature floral punch.
Bartenders are often split on preference of Crème Yvette, with its addition of berry, vanilla and spices, or the less-complex but more violet-forward crème de violette. Crème Yvette did become a hot commodity after production stopped in 1969 and options for a proper Aviation became limited, causing the drink to lose the public’s interest and fall out of sight.
In 2009, after 40 years, the long-sought ingredient was revived and the once-forgotten Aviation began to find a new audience.
With Yvette’s pungent blend of aromatic ingredients, a little goes a long way. One extra dash has been known to ruin the drink (a slightly heavier hand can be used with the less-sweet violette). If you follow this recipe, though, you’ll have made one of the cocktail world’s most perfect gin creations.
- 2 ounces gin
- ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
- ½ ounce maraschino liqueur
- 1 bar spoon Crème Yvette (or crème de violette)
- Maraschino cherry, for garnish
Add all ingredients except garnish to cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled. Double-strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with maraschino cherry.
From Brooklyn Bartender by Carey Jones (Black Dog & Leventhal, 2016)
Viognier + Lillet Blanc + gin + grapefruit = Aqua-Y-Essence. This stirred drink combines aromatic white wine with wine-based Lillet, contributing acidity without any fresh fruit juice.
- Grapefruit peel
- 1½ ounce Dorothy Parker American gin
- 1 ounce dry Viognier (or a full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc)
- ¾ ounce Lillet Blanc
- ¼ ounce Combier Pamplemousse (grapefruit liqueur)
- 2 dashes grapefruit bitters
Twist a grapefruit peel into a coupe glass. Discard the peel and set the glass aside. Combine the remaining ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well chilled and strain into the coupe glass.
Often mistaken for a single drink, the Corpse Reviver actually describes a family of cocktails. These beverages earned their namesake by being pitched to imbibers as hangover cures as far back as the 19th century.
Mentions of the drink date back to 1861 (in an issue of London’s satirical Punch magazine) as well as an early recipe that appeared in the 1871 book The Gentleman’s Table Guide by E. Ricket and C. Thomas. However, the two most famous variations, Corpse Reviver #1 and Corpse Reviver #2, were first standardized in Harry Craddock’s 1930 bartending bible, The Savoy Cocktail Book.
The one every home bartender needs to know? The Corpse Reviver #2. It’s the pinnacle of classic-cocktail elegance: perfectly balanced, easy to remember and mixed in equal parts.
Craddock’s original recipe called for equal parts gin, lemon, Cointreau, Kina Lillet and a whisper of absinthe. Unfortunately, Lillet— a fortified aperitif wine—stopped using cinchona bark in their formula in 1986 and dropped “Kina” from their name, losing the product’s signature bitter quinine bite as a result.
Thankfully, the quality of Corpse Reviver #2s that can be found has improved in recent years as Cocchi Americano, an quinine-fortified aperitif wine, has become widely available outside of Italy and works as a great replacement for the classic Kina flavor.
- ¾ ounce gin
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- ¾ ounce Cointreau
- ¾ Cocchi Americano
- 1 dash absinthe
- Orange peel, for garnish
Combine all ingredients in shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled. Double strain (strain from shaker through additional fine mesh strainer) into chilled coupe or Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with orange peel.
Note: If a less anise-forward flavor is desired, absinthe can be used to rinse the glass (swirled until the interior is coated and then discarded), rather than shaken with the other ingredients. And if you’d like a lighter cocktail, Lillet Blanc can be substituted for Cocchi Americano.
Sure, Sonoma is best known for vineyards, but this vibrantly hued cocktail also hails from wine country.
Duke’s, which opened last June in Healdsburg, California, uses local produce in its drinks. That makes sense, as its co-founder Tara Heffernon, a botanist, grows many of the herbs and edible flowers the bar uses. She also has an orchard and vineyard that supply ingredients. The ownership team of Heffernon and mixologist Scott Beattie worked together at SpoonBar, another Healdsburg spot and a pioneer in the California cocktail scene that specialized in fresh fruit infusions.
The drink showcases and—according to the bar’s third co-founder, Laura Sanfilippo—was inspired by a local barrel-aged gin with a “creamy texture” that pairs well with carrot juice and spice. (The drink can be made with unaged gin, too.) A particularly nutty vermouth made by a local producer pulls the drink together.
“We’re obsessed with vermouth,” says Sanfilippo. “It’s our salt. It’s our bitters. It harmonizes. We pretty much feature it in all of our cocktails, even if it’s not listed.”
The Night Vision Cocktail
Courtesy Tara Heffernon and Laura Sanfilippo, co-founders, Duke’s, Healdsburg, California
- 4–5 caraway seeds
- 1½ ounces Spirit Works Barrel Gin
- 1 ounce carrot syrup (recipe below)
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- ¼ ounce Sutton Cellars Brown Label dry vermouth
- Fennel frond or carrot top with leaves, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, use a muddler to crack the caraway seeds. Add remaining ingredients (except garnish) and ice. Shake well, and double-strain into a coupe glass. Add garnishes.
- 4 ounces fresh carrot juice
- 2 ounces simple syrup (1 part water to 1 part sugar)
Stir together carrot juice and simple syrup. Use immediately. Makes enough for 6 cocktails.
“A dry martini. One. In a deep champagne goblet. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.” —James Bond, Casino Royale
While Bond’s signature drink, by his instructions, could technically qualify as a double, we’ve toned this classic down to more reasonable standards. Also, while Kina Lillet was discontinued in 1986, Lillet Blanc is an appropriate substitute, though many prefer Cocchi Americano as it still contains quinine, the key ingredient that has since been removed from the Ian Fleming-era Lillet. Likewise, Gordon’s Gin has been reformulated to a lower proof in some markets, causing many cocktail traditionalists to insist on using an alternative 94-proof London dry gin, such as Broker’s or Tanqueray.
- 2 ounces gin (94 proof)
- ⅔ ounce vodka
- ⅓ Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano
Combine all ingredients into a shaker. Fill with ice and shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a large, thin lemon lemon peel.
Courtesy Jackson Cannon, Greydon House, Nantucket, Massachusetts
A beachside getaway on the quaint island of Nantucket off of Cape Cod seems idyllic when the mercury starts to climb, and this refreshing sipper is just right to watch the boats glide by.
Jackson Cannon, best known for his work with Boston bars The Hawthorne, Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar, created this crisp cocktail as part of the drink menu for Greydon House, a boutique hotel on Nantucket that opened in October.
Plymouth Gin has a relatively neutral flavor profile and won’t fight with the other ingredients in this drink. Save the more pronounced juniper notes of London dry gin for gin and tonics and martinis.
The six-cocktail menu at the clubby bar nods to Nantucket’s maritime heritage. The Little Grey Lady is a classic reference to how the island looks from the ocean when it’s wrapped in a delicate fog.
At the bar, this drink is served in a custom-made “glug jug,” a ceramic vessel usually that looks like a fish. However, this drink, like similar equal-parts cocktails that include the Corpse Reviver #2 and the Sunflower, is equally at home in a coupe, which showcases its delicate pink blush.
- ¾ ounce Plymouth Gin
- ¾ ounce Cocchi Americano
- ¾ ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- 1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well, and strain into coupe or Nick and Nora glass.
Recipe courtesy Domi Robert, bar manager, Sujeo, Madison, WI
Daikon radish, celebrated by some for its antioxidant properties, has another, highly unusual characteristic: it turns water a purplish-blue color. The hue is intensified when sugar and heat are added to make a daikon simple syrup. Then, lime juice is introduced to this drink to induce a shocking mood-ring effect, quickly morphing from blue to bright pink.
- 2 ounces gin
- ¾ ounce of purple daikon simple syrup (see below)
- ¾ ounce lime juice
- Ice water
- Purple daikon radishes (not white)
- ½ cup sugar
In a cocktail shaker, combine gin and daikon simple syrup and fill with ice. Shake well, and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Slowly pour lime juice into the coupe, which will cause the bright blue cocktail to turn light pink.
Infuse purple daikon radishes in ice water by soaking overnight, or up to 24 hours. The water will become very light purple. Strain and reserve the ice water.
Pour 2 cups of the infused water into a saucepan. Simmer 15-20 minutes until the water reduces to about ½ cup and its color turns deep blue,
Measure ½ cup of the infused water, and discard any remaining water. Add ½ cup sugar into saucepan with the water, and stir until it dissolves.
Remove from heat. Transfer into a airtight container and store in the refrigerator.
Courtesy Camille Razo, head bartender, The Patterson House, Nashville
At The Patterson House, this Sloe Gin Fizz-like drink comes with a small carafe of Gruet, a sparkling wine made in New Mexico. The name is a reference to the television show Seinfeld, as the bar team struggled to find a name for this drink.
- 2 strawberries
- 1 ounce grapefruit juice
- ¾ ounce Hayman’s Sloe Gin
- ¾ ounce Byrrh
- ¾ ounce gin, preferably Plymouth
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- ¾ ounce simple syrup
- 5 drops orange blossom water
- sparkling wine (about 3 ounces)
In bottom of cocktail shaker, crush 1 strawberry with muddler or back of spoon. Add remaining ingredients (except sparkling wine) and ice. Shake well, and strain into Collins glass over fresh ice cubes. Top with sparkling wine to taste. Garnish with remaining strawberry.
- 1Frozen Gin & Tonics are Your New Cure for Summer
- 2The Acerbic Mrs. Parker Cocktail
- 3The Original Aviation Cocktail
- 4Aqua-Y-Essence, a Viognier Cocktail
- 5Corpse Reviver #2 Classic Cocktail Recipe
- 6Grin & Carrot, A Savory Cocktail Recipe
- 7Vesper Martini
- 8The Little Grey Lady Cocktail
- 9Color-Changing Daikon Radish Gimlet
- 10No Learning, No Hugging