Spirit drinkers tend to fall into two categories: those who like gin and those who don’t. Changing the minds of the latter group seems near impossible, even though the spirit is made the exact same way as vodka, and flavor infusions have quite a range, from natural botanicals like the traditional juniper berry to coriander, citrus and cinnamon. Fortunately, creative bartenders nationwide are mixing things up when creating gin cocktails, forcing some of us to reconsider the inescapable clear spirit. Think you don’t like gin? Think again.
This bright cocktail gets its color from carrots, but the sweet veggie juice combined with cardamom and Aperol, not to mention an edible flower garnish, almost makes it too pretty to drink. The addition of gin is barely a thought in this well-balanced creation of beverage director Gaby Mlynarczyk.
Consider this a fitting substitute for a spicy Margarita—except made with a gin base (in this case The Botanist gin) and all the heat. Created by Carlos Abeyta, the cocktail is infused with bell pepper juice (made with bell peppers and Firebirds chile), along with lemon juice, simple syrup, black pepper tincture and Thai chili oil garnish.
(image: Melissa Hom)
At popular cocktail spot The Townsend, Justin Elliott, who heads up the bar program, came up with the frothy, citrusy Flagpole, which pleases most palates. Made with Fords gin, Galliano, both orange and lime juice, turbinado syrup and egg white, it’s topped with grated nutmeg.
(image: Eat Your Heart Out Photography)
“We believe people who don’t like gin have been drinking the wrong cocktails made by the wrong bartenders,” says Kent Westmoreland, the head bartender at Cocktail Bar at New Orleans’ Windsor Court hotel. “We don’t let that happen.” Speaking from experience, Westmoreland came up with the cocktail Vacay in Bombay, one of the more popular drinks offered. Made with Bombay Sapphire East gin, ginger liqueur, lemon, sugar and a Champagne topper, it’s a no-brainer. “If this doesn't convert someone to gin, then they're just never going to like it,” says Westmoreland.
Mixing gin with tequila is often left to amateurs. But in the case of the Ginza, a creation of William Haigh of Blue Ribbon Brasserie, the combination of blanco tequila, gin, cucumber juice and honey syrup just works. “Here, the floral character and relative softness of Hendrick’s tempers the hardest edges of the tequila,” says Sam Ehrlich, Blue Ribbon’s wine director. “The tequila and the cucumber, in turn, create a flavor that resembles watermelon more than anything. For anyone who swore off gin or tequila after freshman year of college, maybe it’s time to try again.”
Capitalizing on the current matcha craze, bartender Brian Callahan created the Lotus Sour, infusing Bombay Sapphire East gin with matcha and combining it with apricot, egg white and lemon. “We chose Bombay Sapphire East to pair with matcha green tea powder as we were intrigued by the combination of lemongrass, black pepper and citrus notes of BSE gin and the flavor and texture of the matcha green tea powder,” says beverage director Charles Coykendall. “Vodka would not be as ideal as a gin for this cocktail as the drink would lose much of its character and complexity, and I feel the matcha and apricot flavors would not co-mingle as cohesively.”
(image: Mike Diskin)
When head bartender Aaron Alcala-Mosley was tasked with developing a cocktail menu for Luana, he says that the Basil Shmasil was born from a desire to create an approachable herbaceous cocktail. He managed to win over vodka drinkers and notes that the citrus and floral notes of The Botanist gin he uses in the cocktail play very well with the herbs and spices of the cocktail, also made with John D. Taylor’s Velvet falernum lime, simple syrup, basil leaves and Angostura bitters. It’s a favorite of his.
(image: Pacific Dream Photography)
The Plum Tuckered, made with Dorothy Parker gin, Connemara peated Irish whiskey, umeshu sake, Aperol, cucumber, cane syrup and lemon, is an aperitif featuring, but not starring, gin. Gin is more of a “supporting cast member,” says Slowly Shirley owner-mixologist Jim Kearns. The drink is shaken with cubes, topped with soda and served in a highball glass rimmed with plum salt.
(image: Mirella Cheeseman)
Adam Nystrom, one of E.P. & L.P.’s head bartenders, was inspired to come up with a lychee cocktail but with an updated, more modern presentation. The Black Thai Optional is a riff on the Gin Sour and made with The Botanist gin, lychee, Amaro Montenegro, egg white, lemon and a coconut charcoal garnish, with the flavors of Southeast Asia in a coupé glass.
Chad Phillips, the head bartender at Pennyroyal, was inspired by the Spanish take on the classic Gin and Tonic and later back home, he created a specific tonic for each gin based on the botanicals in them for his cocktails at Pennyroyal. One result combines Copperworks gin, house-made tonic, club soda and a garnish of star anise and orange. “The Spanish style takes the time to understand each gin and each tonic and the best way to introduce them in a glass,” says Phillips. “I have wanted to do that in my own way for a while, and I went for it.”
(image: Tia White)