Food & Drink

3-Ingredient Cocktails to Elevate Your Gin Game

Published On 08/23/2016 Published On 08/23/2016
Pegu Club, New York City | Cole Saladino/Thrillist

The sophisticated man and woman’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 that cost many Americans their health and lives due to bootleg production during Prohibition, 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 are the essential three-ingredient gin cocktails that pretty much anyone can feel classy making, serving, and drinking.

Pegu Club, New York City | Cole Saladino/Thrillist

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. You don’t need to use a rare tropical fruit foam to be a baller, despite the flamboyant versions that are popular all over Spain: 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 make this undelicious.

  • 2oz gin
  • 1oz fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3-4oz 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.  

  • 2oz gin
  • 1oz simple syrup
  • 1oz lime juice

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

Martini

Martinis -- for for the unknowing/unBritish -- consist of gin with a splash of vermouth to make it seem classy, and are garnished with an olive for a hint of something briny and savory to offset all that booze. Take it easy on them, lest you become shaken and stirred.

  • 2.5oz gin
  • .5oz 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.

Pegu Club, New York City | Cole Saladino/Thrillist

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 it’s minerally and bitter flavor. On its own, quinine is used to treat malaria, as well as leg cramps... and although the amount of qunine 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 should get. Oh, and it's delicious. And good for leg cramps, too. Or at least forgetting them. Because the soda just adds the crisp bubbly texture with no flavor, it's also great for those who favor the flavor of spirits rather than sugary mixers will enjoy this clean concoction.

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

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

Cucumber gin cooler

If summer had a boozy flavor it would be cucumber with 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
  • 2oz gin
  • 3oz 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.

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

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

Pegu Club, New York City | Cole Saladino/Thrillist

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
  • 2oz gin
  • 3oz 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 for not vomiting, and 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 brings out the softer side of gin, making it a good choice for those just starting to experiment with this spirit.

  • 2oz gin
  • 3/4oz honey syrup (honey + water)
  • 3/4oz 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.

  • 1.5oz gin
  • 1.5oz Campari
  • 1.5oz sweet vermouth

Combine all ingredients in a glass with ice, stir until chilled and combined.

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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.

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