Gin is a spirit born to be mixed—a sipper it is not—and the varieties out there run the gamut from big batch to boutique, just begging for the right tonic and/or mixers to pair it with. The possibilities with gin are seemingly endless, and if you ask gin expert and spirits-maker Simon Ford, the first step is finding the right one for you. Of course, the best bartenders know that a quality cocktail starts with the the most fitting gin to ensure a well-balanced result. These are 11 gin cocktails in bars nationwide made just for those who appreciate the juniper spirit.
At beloved Silver Lake mainstay Cafe Stella, Michael Blum has created the the Mulholland Eastsider using (appropriately) Mulholland New World gin. The refreshing cocktail combines the local gin with cold-pressed cucumber juice, lime juice, Liquid Alchemist orgeat syrup and mint. Shaken—but not muddled—it’s strained into a Nick & Nora glass and garnished with a Persian cucumber slice and mint or basil leaf.
A creation of Cody Goldstein for Arthouse @ NYLO, an Upper West Side hotel with an artsy bent (including hosting silent movie screenings), the Muse is a cocktail inspired by Factory Girl. Served in a Campbell’s soup in a nod to Andy Warhol, the drink is made with Four Pillars Rare Dry gin, orange and grapefruit juice, elderflower liqueur and cinnamon syrup and served over ice with an orange slice in said Pop Art can.
At the New Orleans Windsor Court Hotel, head bartender Kent Westmoreland came up with the gin-forward Ilsa’s Blue Dress, a riff on the French 75, inspired by a line in Casablanca, which has proven to be a favorite of guests at the Cocktail Bar.
Made with Hendrick's gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and Rothman & Winter crème de violette and topped with Champagne and three blueberries, there’s a story behind the drink: In the film, Ilsa Lund says, “I put that dress away. When the Germans march out, I’ll wear it again.” The drink’s color reflects the blue dress (using crème de violette, made from violets grown in the Swiss Alps), and the three blueberries represent the love triangle between Ilsa, Rick Blaine and Victor Laslow.
Miami Beach’s still-new gin lounge, Gin + Collins, is the place for those who love G&Ts, and the variations run the gamut. Once such creation that head bartender Nikos Mantzaridis came up with is the Vilanova, named for the fishing village in Catalonia where Gin Mare is made. Here, he pairs the Spanish gin with layers of orange: orange marmalade, bitters and peel. The result is perfectly balanced, herbaceous and refreshing.
At the very new Lobby Bar at The Adolphus hotel in Dallas, bartender Anna Pereda dedicated a cocktail to a ghost. Named for the jilted bride whose spirit reportedly haunts the 19th floor of the hotel, Lilly’s Tonic is a spooky libation made with London dry gin and house-made tonic (either traditional or pomegranate) and garnished with pomegranate seeds. The hotel recently underwent the greatest change and renovations since Adolphus Busch, the co-founder of Anheuser-Busch, first erected the Beaux Arts hotel in 1912.
Head bartender Andy Bixby came up with this slightly more complex version of a Gimlet at this D.C. cocktail bar, best known for its whiskey offerings. She opted for aromatic Nolet’s Silver gin—infused with peach, Turkish rose and raspberry (among other botanicals) but also has apple and spice notes—for the Johnny on the Spot, made with Amaro Montenegro, lime, Angostura bitters and The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter bitters.
At Nashville’s grown-up playground Pinewood Social, its gin cocktail An Endless Rotation may refer to its easy-to-drink nature, or perhaps it’s another nod to Music City. Either way, this creation by Branson Summers is made with Broker’s gin, lemon, blanche Armagnac, vanilla, Yellow Chartreuse and ginger ale, making it at once exotic and all too familiar.
Bartender Gaby Mlynarczyk’s riff on the Ramos Gin Fizz is nothing short of inventive. It’s made with gin, strawberry, black rose, LaCroix coconut-flavored sparkling water and pink peppercorn, and Mlynarczyk also incorporates Taiwanese flavors into her take on the classic. At Accomplice, where it’s served, patrons can order from the Taiwanese restaurant next door, Little Fatty, and the cocktails were created to pair with the food.
“The jumping-off point for this Ramos riff was using rosewater instead of the traditional orange flower/blossom water,” says Mlynarczyk. “From there, I played the association game with it, incorporating some of my favorite flavor combinations, Rosewater and strawberries pair together beautifully, strawberries and peppercorn play well, and strawberries and toasted coconut are great partners. For a bit of color, I added strawberry bursting boba, and to keep the drink from being too sweet, there’s a bit of nutty manzanilla sherry."
At the iconic Beijing restaurant Mr. Chow, beverage director Michael Loomis came up with the aptly named Green Velvet, referring to the flavors not the color of the cocktail, which is made with Broker’s gin, Leopold Bros. New York sour apple liqueur, fresh lemon juice, honey water, a barspoon of John D. Taylor's velvet falernum and fresh muddled basil. The sweet and spicy flavors of velvet falernum—lime, almond, vanilla, clove and ginger—work well to round out the citrus and sour components.
Bartender Laura Bellucci was inspired by a psychedelic jazz poem by Ken Nordine about Chartreuse, which makes animals go wild and change colors when consumed. In liquid form, the Parakeet Nordine, served at SoBou in New Orleans, is made with Seagram’s gin, Giffard Crème de Pamplemousse Rose liqueur, Chartreuse and lime. As exotic and trippy as the poem that evoked it, the cocktail is, not surprisingly, a popular favorite of Bellucci’s guests.
At Oakland’s bar, restaurant and music venue Starline Social Club, bartender Chris Morgan created a cocktail named for the former inhabitants of the space, which was once a hall for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The space also functioned as a saloon, and the drink, made with Fords gin, Bonal Gentiane Quina apéritif, pineapple gomme syrup, lime, absinthe and Angostura bitters, may well have fit in back when the social members occupied the historic building.