Words by: Simon Difford
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 650 gin cocktails here on Difford’s Guide. But what are the best ones? Well, these are our favourites...
1. 20th Century Cocktail
When, as originally, this cocktail is made with Rutte Celery Gin, then celery notes are very obvious in the final cocktail - perhaps more so than in the gin itself. Whatever gin you favour, this version of the Twentieth Century is fabulously expressive of the gin with subtle rich chocolate notes.
Our adaptation of Hugo R. Ensslin's Aviation Cocktail in his 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks. Citrus, floral gin with a slightly sour finish.
3. Breakfast Martini
Salvatore Calabrese's contemporary classic. The success or failure of this tangy drink is partly reliant on the quality of marmalade used.
4. Casino #1
Basically, an Aviation dried and made more complex with a dash of orange bitters. Recipe adapted from Harry Craddock's 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book.
5. Chanticleer Cocktail
Wonderfully aromatic orange with a complex balance of gin and vermouth. Recipe adapted from A.S. Crockett's 1935 The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book.
6. Clover Club (House-Made)
Fruity, light, well-balanced and easy-drinking. Julie Reiner's riff on a classic.
7. Dry Martini (5:1 ratio)
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."
8. English Marmalade
The addition of Campari and aromatic bitters to the classic recipe from the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, lifts the Marmalade Cocktail to a new level of bittersweet complexity.
9. Fruit Cup
Move over Pimm's - this is what summer's about. Refreshing, zingy, citrussy and delicately herbal.
The Gimlet is 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.
11. Gin Basil Smash
Jörg Meyer's modern-day classic with as name suggests involves pulverising a generous handful of basil leaves to extract their flavour and colour.
12. Left Bank Martini
A elderflower and Chablis influenced not so dry Martini - yes St Germain is on the left bank of the Seine.
13. Marsala Martini
Another fabulously complex delicate little sipper by Tony Conigliaro.
14. Negroni Cocktail
The favourite cocktail of both the Milanese and the world's bartender's - and not just because it's so easy and quick to make - the Negroni is now appreciated and enjoyed by the masses.
15. Poet's Dream
Created by Matt Gee at Milk & Honey, New York City
16. Ramos Gin Fizz
Adapted from an original recipe in the 1949 edition of Esquire's Handbook for Hosts, this is subtle, honeyed and herbal.
17. Red Snapper
Looks like a Bloody Mary, and tastes a lot like a Bloody Mary, but features gin's aromatic botanicals.
18. Southside Rickey
A gin based Mojito served over cracked ice meets the classic Southside. The result is refreshing and easy drinking.
19. The Last Word
Chartreuse devotees will love this balanced, tangy pre-Prohibition classic reincarnated in 2004 by Murray Stenson at Seattle's Zig Zag Cafe.
20. The Puritan
An often overlooked classic which is thought to have originated at the end of the 19th century.
Over 650 moregin cocktails.