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Gin is arguably the king of cocktail liquors. Its distinct effervescent flavor complements a surprising array of mixers, and, of course, tastes fantastic with just a dash of vermouth in a classic martini. In short, every bartender, mixologist and casual cocktail lover should know how to use the stuff.
Gin has seen a resurgence lately, becoming one of the trendiest alcohols on the shelf. The botanical liquor is distilled from juniper berries, giving it that sharp (albeit very divisive) flavor. For this reason, it’s not often that you see people drinking gin straight — but it’s also what makes gin so incredible for cocktails.
From gin & tonics to negronis to gimlets, there are a ton of gin-based cocktails out there. And with the rise of mixology, there are also some less popular cocktails you might not know about. If you want to learn more about how to enjoy this special liquor, read on. We’ve rounded up eight of our favorite gin cocktails, including classics and under-the-radar hits, with recipes and suggestions for which bottle to use.
1. Gin Martini
First and foremost, the king of gin cocktails: the gin martini. It’s (usually) made with only gin and dry vermouth, but some opt for their gin martini “dirty,” meaning the recipe includes a dash of cocktail olive juice for some saltiness. Martinis also vary in degree of dryness, which depends on the amount of vermouth (dry meaning less vermouth). Because the gin is so prominent in a martini, high-quality stuff is essential. That’s why we suggest the premium Nolet’s Dutch gin linked below.
MAKE IT: Pour two and a half ounces of gin and half an ounce of dry vermouth (and 1/4 ounce of olive juice to make it dirty) in a mixing glass with ice. Stir for 30 seconds (best not shaken, sorry Mr. Bond), strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with stuffed olives or a lemon twist.
The negroni is a personal favorite at SPY. The Italian recipe is very simple, but the cocktail offers a totally unique bitter flavor. Because the Campari and sweet vermouth are bold, you can use any gin, but a quality bottle will still catch the attention of your taste buds.
MAKE IT: Fill a mixer glass with ice and equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth (or about an ounce each). Shake well, strain into a tumbler with ice and garnish with an orange peel.
3. The Bee’s Knees
During prohibition, drinkers used honey to sweeten the harsh gin they had available. The result is this cocktail: the bee’s knees. The floral undertones in honey offer an upgrade over normal sugar when paired with gin, while a little lemon juice cuts the alcohol for an easy-drinking recipe that most people don’t know about.
MAKE IT: First, mix your own honey syrup by heating half a cup of honey and half a cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Put that in the fridge for a month’s supply.
For the cocktail, put two ounces of gin, 3/4 ounces of lemon juice and 1/2 ounce of honey syrup in a shaker. Shake it all up for 30 seconds, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
4. Corpse Reviver No. 2
This cocktail got its name as an effective hair-of-the-dog hangover treatment, but it’s just as delicious when you’re chasing a hangover as when you’re treating one. Instead of cognac, the No. 2 uses premium gin for a lighter taste. Plus you get the chance to use absinthe, which doesn’t happen often.
MAKE IT: Add one ounce of gin, one ounce of Cocchi Americano or Lillet Blanc, one ounce of Cointreau, one ounce of fresh lemon juice, and a dash absinthe to a shaker. Shake it all up, strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe and garnish with an orange peel.
The Southside is essentially a gin remix of the mojito. However, it’s a little more refined than a mojito, but just as enjoyable on a hot summer day — whether you’re literally on the south side or not. Because it uses some sweet ingredients, we recommend getting a little adventurous with the extra-strength navy gin linked below. It’ll add some extra kick, and ensure that the night gets going quickly.
MAKE IT: Gently muddle five mint leaves and an ounce of fresh lemon juice in the bottom of a shaker. Then add two ounces of gin, an ounce of simple syrup and ice, and shake. Then strain in a martini glass and garnish with a mint sprig.
The gimlet is another fantastically simple gin recipe that works great as a summer alternative to martinis. It’s just gin and lime cordial, which go together like coffee and cream.
MAKE IT: Add two ounces of gin and 3/4 ounces of lime cordial to a mixing glass with ice. Stir well, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wedge.
7. Cucumber Gin Cooler
Cucumber and gin are another match made it heaven thanks to the botanicals in gin. It’s another summertime staple that makes for easy drinking… so be careful; They can go down faster than intended. We recommend Plymouth Gin with this recipe because it’s slightly sweeter, pairing well with the cucumber.
MAKE IT: add a slice of lime, an ounce and a half of gin and six mint leaves to a shaker. Muddle the ingredients, then add ice and five cucumber slices. Shake vigorously, pour into a glass with ice and top with tonic or soda water. Then stir and enjoy.
8. Tom Collins
The Tom Collins is one of the most classic cocktail around, dating back to 1876 in England. It was first memorialized by Jerry Thomas, who carries the title of “The father of American mixology.” So yeah, the Tom Collins is worth knowing by heart — and worth enjoying at least a few times a year. Because it’s such a durable cocktail, we recommend experimenting with some unique gin, such as the Japanese Roku linked below.
MAKE IT: Combine two ounces of gin, 3/4 ounce of lemon juice and 1/2 ounce of simple syrup in a shaker. Shake it up and strain into a Collins glass with ice. Then top with club soda and a lemon wedge.