The gin and tonic is the classic hot weather cocktail. The herbaceous punch of gin, tart lime and barely bittersweet tonic combine -- like Voltron or any other giant robot created out of construction equipment, dinosaurs or mechanized ninjas -- into something far greater than the sum of its parts. But even the greatest of cocktails’ welcome can wear out if that’s the only option. Luckily, gin is far more versatile than most people realize and there’s an entire world of gin cocktails just perfect for when the mercury climbs into the stratosphere.
Gin has been around since the 17th century, but didn’t gain its reputation as a hot weather cure-all until the English used it to mask the bitter flavor of quinine – the only effective anti-malaria “drug” the empire had access to as it expanded across several tropical climates. The quinine was dissolved in carbonated water, giving rise not only to the gin and tonic, but also to the realization that a good dry gin in combination with the right ingredients is bracingly refreshing stuff.
Bartenders and mixologists had a field day with gin starting in the 19th century, developing some of the most recognized classic warm weather drinks around. Many are delicious examples of American ingenuity and are often ridiculously easy to make. So why not mix up a match for a rooftop party or barbecue?
The Tom Collins – First mixed up by the legendary American bartender Jerry Thomas in 1876, the Tom Collins is a tasty mix of gin, lemon juice, soda and simple syrup. It’s light and has a bright sweetness that’s perfectly balanced by the juniper and herbs of the dry gin and the mouth-puckering citrus. In other words, it puts Mike’s Hard Lemonade to shame six ways to Sunday.
• 2 ounces London dry gin (Plymouth is about as good as it gets here, though if you want a little more herbal punch Bulldog will do nicely)
• ½-1 ounce simple syrup (depending on how sweet you’re looking to go)
• 1/2 ounce lemon juice
• club soda
Fill a tall Collins glass most of the way with ice and add the gin, simple syrup and lemon. Stir vigorously and top it off with the club soda. Give the mixture a solid stir, kick back on someone’s patio and enjoy. Or do a little multiplication and make a pitcher full of happiness for some guests.
The Gimlet – A slight variation in ingredients can produce a wildly different effect in many cases. The Gimlet is one of those cases. Substituting lime for lemon and leaving club soda out of the mix, the Gimlet mixes up the Tom Collins formula to some seriously good effect. The cocktail’s origins are cloudy at best, but it has been around since the early 20th century, at least, and is commonly made with Rose’s Lime juice, though the best versions drop the sweetened lime juice for fresh lime and simple syrup. It’s tangy and refreshingly bitter, with the herbal gin coming through far more loudly and clearly without any carbonation in the way. And without that club soda diluting the alcohol, the Gimlet tends to be a bit more pointed argument, so to speak, for a designated driver.
• 2 ounces gin (a lighter gin is best here, since the juniper and herbs can be over powering otherwise – Broker’s Dry Gin brings great balance to the table)
• 1/2 ounce lime juice
• 1/4 to 1/2 ounce simple syrup
Fill a shaker with ice and drop all the ingredients in. Give it a heavy duty shaking until either your arms give out or the shaker is too cold to hold and strain it into a lowball glass full of ice. Garnish it with a lime twist to look that much more sophisticated. After all, ladies love a man who knows his way around citrus.
The Salty Dog – The dog days of summer are right around the corner, and how better to get through them than a little citrus, juniper and salt? The Salty Dog is the kissing cousin of the Greyhound. The latter combines gin and grapefruit juice, with the former adding a salted rim to make it salty. Regardless of how it gets there, this is an intriguing cocktail that relies heavily on its ingredients to determine how it comes out. The sweetness level in the grapefruit plays an especially large role. Either way, it’s somewhat margarita-like, with the citrus providing a solid counterpoint for the heavy dose of booze – the tangy bite of the grapefruit playing off of the green notes in the gin and providing a unique one-two punch that floats along on a briny undercurrent courtesy of the salt rim.
• 2 ounces gin (again, a slightly more low-key gin works best. Brokers works fine as in the Gimlet, but Tanqueray No. 10’s built-in citrus notes allow it to play nicely with the grapefruit)
• 4 ounces grapefruit juice (Ruby Red gives a nice sweetness, but play around with types and brands to find your favorite)
Run a lime or lemon wedge along the rim of a tall Collins glass and rub it in a bowl of salt to set the salt rim. Fill the glass with ice cubes and then pour in the ingredients and give them a good stir. The Salty Dog makes an especially tasty brunch drink, so it can be an effective answer to the usual hair of the dog Bloody Mary.
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