20 best Gin cocktails
Words by Simon Difford
Photography by Dan Malpass
Gin challenges even vodka for its cocktail versatility, and as the leading spirit in vintage cocktail books there are plenty of great gin-based cocktails to choose from – we've over 800 gin cocktails here on Difford's Guide. But what are the best ones?
Some will argue a simple Gin & Tonic is not a "cocktail" but a mere "mixed drink." No matter, I consider the G&T the king of gin cocktails, above even the Dry Martini, so I'm placing it above my 20 best gin cocktails.
Gin & Tonic
With: Gin and tonic water.
We say: One of the simplest and best mixed drinks ever devised.
20 best Gin cocktails
20th Century Cocktail
With: Dry gin, white crème de cacao, Americano Bianco, and lemon juice.
We say: This version of the Twentieth Century is fabulously expressive of the gin with subtle rich chocolate notes.
With: Gin, gentian, Americano Bianco. Genepi, white crème de menthe, lemon bitters, and saline solution.
We say: An alpine-influenced riff on a White Negroni.
Aviation Cocktail (Difford's recipe)
With: Gin, maraschino liqueur, crème de violette, and lemon juice.
We say: My take on Hugo R. Ensslin's 1916 Recipes for Mixed DrinksAviation. Citrus, floral gin with a slightly sour finish.
With: Gin, crème de banana, fino sherry, lemon juice and sugar syrup.
We say: Best described as a banana and fino sherry gin sour.
Clover Club (House-Made)
With: Gin, raspberry jam, dry vermouth, lemon juice and egg white.
We say: Julie Reiner's riff on a classic. Fruity, light, well-balanced and easy drinking.
Dry Martini (5:1 ratio stirred)
With: Gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters.
We say: We have chosen this 5:1 ratio as our 'preferred' Dry Martini in deference to David Embury who wrote of this drink, "After extensive experimentation I have arrived at the ratio of 5 to 1 as the proportion most pleasing to the average palate."
Gimlet Cocktail (Difford's recipe)
With: Gin, lime cordial, genever, lime and lemon juice, and sugar syrup.
We say: Usually stirred but unless you've super strained/clarified your freshly squeezed citrus juice then even if stirred this cocktail won't be perfectly clear. So do as Harry Craddock directs in his 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book and use some elbow grease to shake and invigorate this upper decks cocktail.
Gin Basil Smash
With: Basil leaves, gin, lemon juice, and sugar syrup.
We say: Jörg Meyer's modern-day classic which, as name suggests, involves pulverising a generous handful of basil leaves to extract their flavour and colour.
Gin Fruit Cup
With: Gin, orange curaçao, sweet vermouth, aromatic bitters, ginger ale, and cola.
We say: Move over Pimm's – this is what summer's about. Refreshing, zingy, citrussy and delicately herbal.
The Last Word
With: Gin, Green Chartreuse, maraschino, and lime juice.
We say: Chartreuse devotees will love this balanced, tangy pre-Prohibition classic reincarnated in 2004 by Murray Stenson at Seattle's Zig Zag Cafe.
Left Bank Martini
With: Gin, elderflower liqueur, Chardonnay wine, and dry vermouth.
We say: An elderflower and Chablis influenced, not so dry Martini – yup, St-Germain is on the left bank of the Seine.
With: Gin, Marsala wine, dry vermouth, and amaretto.
We say: A fabulously complex and delicate little sipper.
With: Gin, Campari, and rosso vermouth.
We say: The favourite cocktail of both the Milanese and the world's bartenders. Happily, the Negroni is now appreciated and enjoyed by the masses world over.
With: Gin, grapefruit juice, Campari, and elderflower liqueur.
We say: Tart, dry and lightly bitter, but with just enough underlying sweetness to stroke the palate.
With: Gin, Bénédictine, and Dry vermouth.
We say: Subtly boozy, honeyed and herbal – a delicious aperitif or digestif.
With: Gin, palo cortado sherry, dry vermouth, rosso vermouth, and orange bitters.
We say: Find the sherry that suits your palate and this forgotten classic is sure to be a favourite.
Ramos Gin Fizz
With: Old Tom gin, lemon and lime juice, sugar syrup, orange blossom water, egg white, cream and soda.
We say: Smooth, fluffy, sweet and sour. One of the great classics.
Singapore Sling (Dale DeGroff's recipe
With: Gin, cherry brandy, Bénédictine D.O.M., triple sec, pineapple juice, lime juice, grenadine syrup, and aromatic bitters.
We say: Beautifully balanced, fruity and complex with just enough gin to add a spirituous bite.
With: Gin, lime juice, sugar syrup, mint, and soda water.
We say: A gin-based Mojito served over cracked ice meets the classic Southside. The result is refreshing and easy drinking.