Food & Drink

3-Ingredient Cocktails to Elevate Your Gin Game

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

The sophisticated drinker’s vodka, gin carries an air of high society with it. While vodka is meant to be neutral in flavor, gin is enhanced with an often secret blend of botanicals like juniper, citrus zest, and cardamom to give it flavor -- for those who prefer to delight in the taste of spirits and not just their intoxicating effect. Gin has a history of being made surreptitiously in people’s homes, and the optional quality-control standards of ‘bathtub gin’ often made for spirits that were dangerous and sometimes downright poisonous. Despite its sordid past as a venomous hooch, it has emerged as a classy spirit of choice.

While there has been a consistent line up of solid gin brands such as Beefeater and Plymouth, the recent renaissance of craft distilling means an even wider selection of small-batch quality gins on the market that offer different flavor profiles to suit your palate. Here's a lineup of three-ingredient gin cocktails, some classics and a few curveballs, that pretty much anyone can feel classy making, serving, and drinking:

Gin & tonic

This classic cocktail has been remixed by mixologists everywhere from Barcelona to Reykjavik, gussied up with everything from Sichuan peppercorns to garnishes that resemble a trip to a salad bar, but is best when staying true to its origin of simplicity. Just use a high-quality craft tonic like Fever-Tree and Q Tonic -- or, hell, the cheap bodega kind such as Seagrams Extra Dry. It’s really hard to mess this up.

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3-4 ounces tonic

Pour gin and lime juice in a glass over ice, top with tonic, stir briefly, quaff.

Gimlet

A gimlet is a gin sour, which is an appropriate go-to for any occasion. Keep the minimal gimlet ingredients on hand for a safe-bet tipple anytime.  

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ounce lime juice

Combine all ingredients over ice in a shaker, shake until cold and frosty, and strain into a glass.

Martini

Martinis consist of gin with a splash of vermouth and are garnished with an olive for a hint of something briny and savory to offset all that hard alcohol. They also happen to be James Bonds's favorite drink. They're pretty boozy, so take it easy on them. Feel free to swap the olive out for a pickle and have yourself a pickle martini.

  • 2 ½ ounces gin
  • ½ ounce dry vermouth
  • Olives for garnish

Add liquid ingredients to a glass with ice, stir until frosty and chilled. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with as many olives as you want.

Hanky Panky

The Hanky Panky is a punchy take on a sweet gin martini that is the brainchild of British bartending legend Ada “Coley” Coleman. Created in 1903, it’s said to be one of the top-selling 50 cocktails of all time, with Sir Charles Hawtrey himself calling it a taste of mixologist witchcraft. The secret ingredient? Herbaceous Fernet Branca for a little extra bite.

  • 1 ½ ounces gin
  • 1 ½ ounces sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Fernet Branca

Stir all ingredients well in a mixing glass with ice; strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with an orange peel twist.

Gin Rickey

This drink replaces tonic water with club soda for a less-sweet, quinine-free drink. Quinine is the chemical that gives tonic water its minerally and bitter flavor. Although the amount of quinine in tonic these days is minimal, it’s enough for those who are allergic to it to have a reaction, making this drink as close to a G&T as they can get. It also happens to be delicious, thanks to the addition of soda that adds the crisp, bubbly texture.

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3-4 ounces club soda

Pour gin and lime juice in a glass over ice, top with club soda, stir briefly.

Cucumber gin cooler

This is the perfect summer drink if you're a fan of gin. The botanicals in gin make it a natural complement to cucumber; just remember that while this tastes like the best mineral water you’ve ever had, it’s actually pretty powerful, so pace yourself.

  • 2-5 cucumber slices
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 3 ounces club soda

Muddle the cucumber in the bottom of a glass, top with ice, gin, and club soda.

Gin & grapefruit

A twist on the classic gin and juice, which will make you feel less like 1992 Snoop and more like Snoop as Huggy Bear. Perfect for hot nights, when the urge to drop it becomes unbearable.

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1 ounces lime juice
  • 3 ounces grapefruit soda

Add all ingredients to a glass with ice, stir gently.

Pink Gin Fizz

Make room on your bar cart for the increasingly popular pink gin. It's bright, Instagram-worthy color comes from infusing the gin with grapefruit, red berries, or currants for a spirit that’s still mostly dry but bursting with flavor. This fruity twist on the Gin Fizz gets its effervescence from prosecco -- perfect as a poolside sip or for celebrating on New Years.

  • 1 ½ ounces Italian pink gin (try: MALFY Rosa)
  • 3 ounces processo
  • Fresh lemon juice

Mix pink gin with prosecco in a flute or highball, then garnish with a grapefruit twist.

Gin mint spritzer

If the mojito had a straight-laced cousin from England it would be this drink. Rather than just gin and soda, the addition of mint makes it seem like a thoughtfully crafted drink, which makes you a mixologist. Congratulations!

  • 1 plentiful mint sprig
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 3 ounces club soda

Muddle the mint in the bottom of a glass, top with ice, gin, and club soda.

The Bee’s Knees

This Prohibition cocktail gets its name from the honey used to sweeten it back when covering up the taste of bathtub gin was essential. It's also a slang term for being the best (thanks, grandma!). Here, the floral undertones of the honey add more complexity than plain sugar, making for an easy-drinking cocktail that brings out the softer side of gin.

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounces honey syrup (honey + water)
  • 3/4 ounces lemon juice

Combine all ingredients over ice in a shaker, shake until cold and frosty, and strain into a glass.

Negroni

The negroni might be the most perfect cocktail. Aside from being stylish and tasty, it is both an aperitif (appetite enhancer) and digestif (digestive aid), and available at any self-respecting bar. To top it all off, it’s pure booze stirred into a sexy red libation. It’s hard not to feel like someone out of a James Bond flick with one of these in your hand.

  • 1 ½ ounces gin
  • 1 ½ ounces Campari
  • 1 ½ ounces sweet vermouth

Because a negroni is all liquor, you'll want to stir it. Combine all the ingredients with ice, give it a good stir, and strain it into a glass.

Tom Collins

Okay, so it’s technically four ingredients, but this drink dates back to 1876 and gets grandfathered into our list (club soda barely counts as an ingredient anyway!). The Tom Collins is a classic, simply refreshing cocktail from across the pond; it’s like a light gin lemonade with a touch of sweetness and carbonation. It stands up to the times and remains popular on bar menus today, and they even sell Collins store-bought mixes now -- but it’s just as easy to shake up from scratch with ingredients on-hand.

  • 1 ½ ounces gin
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ ounces simple syrup (1 part water, 1 part sugar)
  • Splash of club soda

Shake gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice in a cocktail shaker; strain into its namesake Collins glass over fresh ice and top with club soda. Garnish with a lemon wheel and cherry.

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Tess Rose Lampert is a Manhattan-based philosopher-turned-drink expert who spends her nights grappling with tough decisions like what to pair with Thai takeout and Netflix binges. It's often mezcal. Follow her to south-of-the-border pilgrimages: @TessRose211.

Brooke Sager is a contributing writer for Thrillist who is probably on the naughty list, but hopes that people gift her with everything mentioned here anyway. Follow her winey adventures on Instagram and Twitter.