Sunday, June 8

Top 5 Gin Cocktails

As my wife and I were hanging out at Chris McMillian’s new bar stage, the Renaissance Pere Marquette (more on that later), someone asked me what was my favorite gin cocktail. I paused as I had to think for a second or two. I really could not give an answer as there are so many great gin cocktails. So the person replied, "well, how about your top 5 then?"

I rattled off a few that I had recently, but looking back I now know I needed to give this a little more thought. So after a good bit of deliberation here are my top 5 gin cocktails all made with Plymouth Gin and in no particular order.

Martini (wet)
2 parts Gin
1 part Dry Vermouth
1 twist of lemon

Stir ingredients with ice for 20 seconds and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This is an obvious choice for the top 5, but I don't think I would classify it as my number one pick. The version I like is an obvious tweak from the now popular Dry Martini. I'm at nearly a 2:1 ratio for Gin to Dry Vermouth. The term "Dry" Martini is a bit confusing in that it has little to no Dry Vermouth... so what makes it dry? Good question. I'm not certain where the term started and it is probably lost in history, but the term "Dry" in reference to a Martini means it has an absence of Dry Vermouth. So when I order my Martini I ask for Wet Martini along with the ratio I prefer.

1.5 parts Gin
1.25 parts Sweet Vermouth
1 part Campari
1 twist of lemon

Build in a rocks glass over ice, stir for 20 seconds, and add lemon twist.

I fell in love with this cocktail when I started playing around with Campari. Campari has a very distinct bitter flavor that is extremely unique. It takes some getting used to at first, so don't give up on first taste. I'd suggest easing into it. The traditional Negroni recipe calls for equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and campari, but I find a slightly dialed back Campari level yields a slightly better balance. I'd suggest starting with just a few drops of Campari at first and then increase its quantity slowly until you get to a level you like best.

Gin & Tonic
2 oz Gin
0.25 oz Fresh Lime Juice
Fill Tonic Water
1 dash of bitters of choice (optional)

Build over ice in a rocks glass and stir.

This very simple yet elegant cocktail is my go to drink to relax. I'm not much of a beer person so when I'm in a place that it has become apparent that a beer or liquor and mixer are my only choices I go for a G&T. A typical G&T calls for gin, tonic and a wedge of lime on the glass. However when I'm making them at home I forgo the wedge of lime that I would normally squeeze into the drink and add it in at the bar. In addition I add one dash of bitters from my collection.

2 oz Gin
1 oz Roses Lime Juice
1 wedge of Lime

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

There is a constant debate about roses or fresh lime juice in the gimlet. As a cocktail historian I will tell you Lauchlin Rose convinced the British Navy to use his new Lime Cordial to ward off scurvy back in 1867. The Navy officers would then mix this with their ration of gin and the Gimlet was born. An officer and surgeon named Sir Thomas Gimlette is credited with making the cocktail popular between 1879 and 1913. (4)

There are many who believe a Gimlet should be made with fresh lime juice and simple syrup. Normaly I would strongly agree that cocktails should be made with fresh juices, but in the case of the a Gimlet, Roses is in order. See this article for more info on this topic.

When I make a Gimlet I do it in a traditional manner with Roses. I believe a fresh lime/simple syrup gin cocktail is actually a Gin Daiquiri.

Pegu Club
2 oz Gin
1 oz Orange Cuacao
0.25 oz Lime Juice
2 dash Angostura Bitters
2 dash Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This is a fantastic cocktail that unfortunately you generally can't order by name in just about any bar. You might be able to order this cocktail if you tell the bartender 2 parts gin, 1 part orange cuacao, a splash of lime juice, and bitters.

So there you have my top 5. There are many, many more gin cocktails that also extremely good and I had a tough time narrowing it down to these. I'm sure next week I'll probably change my mind.



Stevi Deter said...

One of my current favorites is the Montmartre: 2 parts gin, 1 part orange curacao, 1 part sweet vermouth. Stir over ice, strain into cocktail glass, homemade brandied cherry for garnish.

Anonymous said...

No orange bitters in your Martini brad?

Anonymous said...

Nice choices. I would say that your first four would be in my top 5 as well. Although I take my Martini at about 4:1, prefer a little less vermouth in my negroni, and absolutely can't stand Rose's lime. Make mine fresh, please.

I'll have to whip up a Pegu Club tonight and give it a shot too. Thanks.

barmixmaster said...

> No orange bitters in your Martini brad?

I know the original Martini had orange bitters in it along with a sweeter variety of Gin. So when I feel like going old school I go with what I call the Golden Age Martini.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

The story as I have heard it is that the martini originally was made with sweet vermouth, and when folks started making it with dry vermouth they referred to this as a "dry martini." As sweet vermouth was forgotten as a martini ingredient over the years, a "dry martini" came to mean a martini with a high gin:vermouth ratio.

Michael (who after trying many variations likes his martinis with Beefeater, about 6:1, and shaken until ice cold, despite what the experts say).

PS. I was the guy sitting next to you at the Pere Marquette last weekend, hope to see you there again in the near future.

Steven said...

The origin of the term "dry" is as an indication that the drink has proportionately less water in it than the standard version of the same drink. (By analogy with normal use; a dry lake or river is one with no water in it.)

So a dry vermouth has less water (and more alcohol) than a non-dry vermouth. Similarly, a dry gin has less water (and more alcohol) than a non-dry gin; a dry sherry is lower in water than other types of sherry; and so on.

Wet, of course, is the opposite of dry, and indicates a higher water content and a lower alcohol content.

Now, even dry vermouth, as a fortified wine, has more water in it than a distilled spirit, even if it's a relatively wet spirit. So the more dry vermouth in a spirit-and-vermouth cocktail, the less dry the cocktail as a whole is, because the more water is in it.

(As a secondary meaning, dry has taken on the connotation being less sweet. This is because the more sugar that has been converted to alcohol by fermentation, the higher the proportion of alcohol to water in the drink, and thus the drier it is.)

peter said...

Hello fellows of the beautiful drinking!

Speaking of Gin, I was thinking of this: In summer, Gin creates magic...wonders...

In one of those warm nights I love to take a frozen tumbler, make a salty rim [3:1 pepper:salt]; pour the Divine liquid over ice; add a couple of drops of favourite bitter, and perhaps a splash of ice cold soda water.

Garnish by pressing "play" on William Orbit's "Pieces..." and take position in a chaisse-long.
Feeling the summer night will not be such experience without the Juniperus spirit.

Anonymous said...

Negroni is already in by top 5 Campari cocktails, so here's mine.

1. Pegu Club
2. Tom Collins
3. White Lady (lemon juice, Cointreau, Gin)
4. South Side (gin, lemon juice, sugar, mint, gin, soda)
5.Aviation (gin, lemon juice, maraschino, creme de violette)

Honorable mention:
1. Gimlet (what I usually order at a bar-roses lime)
2. French 75

cm said...

I have a question about the .25 oz of lime juice. I like to use a tool that squeezes the juice from half a lime in a round, vice-like manner. So mostly when I make cocktails, i use the juice of half a lime. Or if I don't squeeze too hard, maybe 1/4 of a lime.

I made the pagu club with the juice of half of a small lime. It had an overpowering lime flavor. I think I could taste mostly the lime, some of the bitters for sure, but not the gin. Is this correct? or should I try to squeeze less juice out when I am making cocktails? How many oz of juice do you think is in half a lime?

Thanks for your fantastic web resource!

barmixmaster said...

Generally I get about 1 oz per lime. You can get more or less depending on the ripeness, temperature as well.

You'll get the most juice out of a room temperature, ripe, firm, but squishy lime.

Also if you roll the lime between your hands it will break up the lime membranes before you cut it.


Merlin said...

I wish these guys would stop trolling all the interesting threads.

Meanwhile... great thread. I have similarly been thinking about the most important/influential gin cocktails recently and too am coming up with no "short" lists, only long ones!
I've narrowed it down currently to:
Martinez : Dry Martini : Clover Club and Leaf : Southside : Gin & Tonic : Bramble : Gimlet : Rickey
Negroni : Pegu Club : Last Word
White Lady : Aviation/Casino/Blue Moon

Shaken vs Stirred? The perennial debate. Honest answer to the "What makes a perfect martini?" question... However the person PAYING for it LIKES it! :-)

But if they don't specify I have to confess to being a stirrer. More because of the texture, ice chips and milky aeration in the first minute after pouring - the most important minute of a Dry martini's life.

Great blog, keep it up. Thanks!

Mikkel Ridley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Gimlet! Roses Lime? Really? that just killed me! Roses lime man

barmixmaster said...

Yes. In this case the drink is traditionally made with Rose's. See this post...

alpha_ori said...

Steven: Your comment about the origin of the word "dry" with regard to alcohols simply isn't true. "Dry" being the opposite of sweet, e.g. in wine, predates the existence of cocktails entirely and by a considerable margin, with existing uses in French dating back to the 1200s. There is no indication that these uses emerged as a secondary meaning to related to the amount of water in a beverage.