Oh, gin. You complex, exotic, yet entirely misunderstood spirit. Gin has been the foundation of the spirit world before cocktails were fashionable. As a base, gin can be mixed with just about anything—bitters, sweeteners, citrus, you name it—as its distinct, juniper flavors mingle with, and even enhance, nearly every flavor profile you throw at it.
For the uninitiated, however, gin can be an overwhelming, daunting spirit that’s often overshadowed by other approach spirits such as vodka and tequila. And while a recent renaissance in classic cocktails has rendered a more educated drinking public, gin cocktails are still often overlooked.
To introduce you to this botanical spirit, consider five classic cocktails that will undoubtedly make you reconsider gin.
Need an introduction to gin-based libations? The Last Word is the ideal candidate. Boasting incredible depth and complexity, this sweet and sharp drink is attractive and downright drinkable—despite its potency.
Equal parts gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and fresh lime juice, this prohibition-era cocktail feels decidedly modern. Originally developed at the Detroit Athletic Club in the 1920s, the drink fell out of style sometime around World Ward II, but has enjoyed renewed popularity thanks to Murray Stenson, who revived the cocktail at Seattle’s Zig Zag Café.
Served straight up and boasting an enticing pale green color—partially due to the Chartreuse—the wonderfully balanced cocktail is a little sour, a little sweet, and a little pungent. In other words, it’s the perfect sipper, no matter the season or your mood.
- 3⁄4 gin
- 3⁄4 green Chartreuse
- 3⁄4 maraschino liqueur
- 3⁄4 fresh lime juice
- Twist of lime for garnish
Never heard of the inimitable French 75? This just may be the cocktail you’ve missed your whole life. And you wouldn’t be in bad company, either. The drink was a favorite of the Lost Generation.
The French 75, or simply Soixante Quinze (75) in French, was first created in 1915 at New York Bar in Paris by Harry MacElhone. Named after the 75-millimeter M1897, a vicious but compact gun favored by the French field artillery in World War I, the potent cocktail was said to resemble the feeling of being shelled with the gun when consumed.
Appropriately so, this little drink packs a hell of a punch. Featuring a sturdy base of gin, a smattering of sugar and lemon, and a healthy top-off of bubbly, you’ll be surprised how well the French 75 hides its liquor. Refreshing and intoxicating, the cocktail is a classic that every bartender should know and every drinker should admire.
- .5 oz Lemon juice
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 2 oz London dry gin or cognac
- Champagne, chilled
- Glass: Collins
Ramos Gin Fizz
If we want to get technical, fizzes encompass a number of sour-based cocktails that incorporate spirits, club soda, and lemon juice. And rightfully so, gin was the earliest spirit used in a fizz. Light, drinkable, and approachable, the first printed reference to “fizz” was in the 1887 edition of Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide, which included six variations.
One of the most iconic interpretations, the Ramos gin fizz, was born in 1888. As legend has it, bartender Henry C. Ramos of the Imperial Cabinent Saloon on Gravier Street in New Orleans called for a 12-minute mixing time, requiring the bar to staff as many as 32 employees during the carnival of 1915 just to shake the drink.
You probably won’t get the marathon shaking time these days, but the Ramos gin fizz is still a balanced silky spectacle, thanks to its egg white and cream base, and citrus and aromatic notes, courtesy of lemon, lime, and orange flower water.
- 1 1/2 oz. gin
- 1 Tbsp. simple syrup
- 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
- 1 fresh egg white
- 1 oz. heavy cream
- 3 drops orange flower water
- 1 oz. club soda, chilled
- Glass: highball
Classic? The Martinez goes beyond that. It’s a precursor of many a classic cocktail. In fact, it’s often considered the evolutionary missing link between the Manhattan and the Martini. Booze-forward and complex, the modern Martinez drinks like a Manhattan, but forgoes the oaky, vanilla notes of whiskey for the aromatics of gin.
Ever the unequivocal black sheep of the cocktail world, the Martinez has a hazy past. First mentioned in O.H. Byron’s seminal The Modern Bartender in 1884, the original drink is vaguely described as “same as Manhattan, only you substitute the gin for whisky.” Byron continues with two versions of the Manhattan—both a dry and sweet variation—and no further suggestion of the Martinez. To further complicate matters, since the 1880s, no two recipes have agreed on the ratio of gin to vermouth. And several recipes printed in the early-to-mid 20th century even call for equal parts gin and dry vermouth.
Suffice it to say, this uncertainty has created a legion of devotees. While you’re apt to get riffs on an ancient, ambiguous recipe, these days, you’ll most likely be served a fairly even amount of sweet vermouth and gin, a splash of maraschino liqueur or Curaçao, and a dash or two of bitters. You’ll be drinking a piece of history that boasts an unbeatably complex, balanced taste—no matter how you mix it.
INGREDIENTS (Original Recipe):
- 30ml Old Tom Gin
- 30ml Sweet Vermouth
- 2 dashes of Angostura biters
- 2 dashes of Curaçao
- Glass: coupe
INGREDIENTS (Modern Recipe):
- 2 ounces gin
- 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
- Dash of Angostura bitters
- Lemon twist for garnish
- Glass: coupe
While the Negroni’s true origins are unknown, we like to go with the legend of Count Camillo Negroni, circa 1919. As the story goes, the count invented it when he asked Fosco Scarselli, bartender at Caffè Casoni in Florence, Italy, to strengthen his favorite drink, the Americano, by replacing soda with gin. While the story’s legitimacy is hotly contested, drink historian David Wondrich has confirmed the existence of Camillo Negroni; and while his status as royalty is certainly questionable, his grandfather was, indeed, a count.
As with most lore, at the end of the day, the Negroni’s true origins are nothing more than cocktail conversation. But as an actual libation, it’s one hell of a conversation starter. Slightly bitter and slightly sweet, the drink consists of equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin. Deceptively easy to perfect, yet always of a dashing, deep-red hue, the Negroni is a drink that’s truly worth of royalty status.
- 1 oz gin
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz sweet red vermouth
- Glass: old fashioned