For centuries, gin has been enjoyed for its complex and distinctive flavors, inspiring many gin cocktails. The history of gin originated in 17th-century Holland and played a prominent role in creating the modern cocktail scene.
Gin’s versatility lies in its ability to be made from various botanicals — its only essential flavoring is juniper. This unique characteristic makes gin especially adaptable to experimental variations, allowing bartenders and distillers to create a wide range of choices.
From the classic Gin and Tonic to the more intricate and innovative concoctions, this guide to gin features a selection of gin cocktail recipes. Whether you prefer your drinks sweet or sour, shaken or stirred, there is something for everyone when it comes to gin cocktails.
History of Gin
Although gin is the national spirit of England, like many English things, it originated somewhere else. The Dutch distilled a drink called “jenever,” made from malted grain and flavored with juniper berries. Originally created for medicinal purposes, it became a recreational beverage in the 1500s.
During England and France’s Thirty Years War (1618 – 1648), the English stopped importing French brandy. English soldiers in the Dutch army discovered jenever and brought it back to England. It soon became known as gin and was sold for its supposed curative properties. By the 18th century, gin was so popular it was causing social unrest in England. As the Gin Craze died down, the first London Dry gin was produced. This cleaner and more refined spirit is still the gold standard of gin today.
Gin found its way to the US during the colonial period, and many classic early 20th-century cocktails were made with the spirit. During prohibition, gin became increasingly popular because of its easy production and versatility. Bathtub gin, a homemade distilled concoction made in less-than-ideal conditions, became the base for many cocktail recipes that masked its harsh flavor. While it likely wasn’t made in a bathtub, it did have to be made in a small enough space that the police wouldn’t catch on.
Gin continued to be a staple in the cocktail scene after Prohibition, but it lost some of its allure. It wasn’t until the 2000s and the craft beer boom that drinkers started paying attention to the story behind what they were drinking. Gin took a bit longer to join the craft scene thanks to a 1751 British law outlawing small gin distilleries in an effort to decrease bootlegging.
In 2008, the owners of Sipsmith in London won their legal battle and the first of many craft gin distilleries opened. This and popular British historical shows like Downton Abbey and The Crown have made gin cocktails more and more popular.
Different Types of Gin
Gin is a versatile spirit with many variations. Experiment with your favorite flavor combination when picking a gin for a cocktail recipe.
London Dry – The quintessential gin is the basis for most gin cocktail recipes. Made all over the world, it’s dry, light-bodied, and very aromatic. No ingredients can be added after the distillation process.
Plymouth gin – The lighter, citrus-forward counterpart is only produced by Plymouth Coates & Co. It was the original base for the gin martini and a favorite of Winston Churchill.
Old Tom – This old-style gin is reminiscent of when sugar was added to harsh-tasting gin. It’s the perfect base for a Tom Collins cocktail.
Flavored gin – Thanks to the craft distillery revival, you can taste experimental gins that combine flavors and botanicals like rhubarb, elderflower, or even angostura bitters. Pink gin is a popular one.
A Guide To Gin Cocktails
Here are some of the most popular gin cocktail recipes to try at home. Want to see more? Explore our entire selection of gin-based drinks here.
1. Gin & Tonic
There would be no guide to gin without mentioning the classic G&T. The light and invigorating cocktail originated in 19th-century India. Scottish doctor George Cleghorn believed quinine found in tonic water could cure malaria. But because the tonic was too bitter on its own, English army officers added gin for easier drinking. For the best experience today, choose a high-quality gin and tonic water.
One of the most popular pre-prohibition gin cocktails, the Last Word dates to 1916 Detroit. The equal parts sour cocktail is made of gin, green Chartreuse, lime juice, and maraschino liqueur for a rich, citrusy sweet hit that’s inspired many other cocktail recipes.
The perfect martini is an equal blend of sweet and dry vermouth with gin. It’s a savory dinner cocktail with a sweeter undertone than the classic Martini. This recipe is a unique martini variation that builds on its gin and dual vermouth base with maraschino liqueur, and Angostura bitters.
The early 20th-century Clover Club cocktail is a frothy gin-based sour that’s tart and slightly sweet with a smooth mouth feel from the egg white. Made from gin, dry vermouth, lemon juice, egg white, and whole raspberries, its pink color is naturally occurring.
When it comes to the history of gin, few gin cocktails have withstood the test of time and inspired so many variations quite like the Negroni. This equal-part cocktail is made with Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth for an acquired bitter taste that originated in Italy one hundred years ago.
For those looking for an easier-drinking Negroni, the White Negroni has the expected boozy dry flavors on a lighter scale. It was created in 2001 when London bartender combined gin, bitter French apéritif Suze, and Lillet Blanc.
This purple pre-prohibition cocktail points to the boom in aviation in the early 20th century. Made from gin, maraschino liqueur, creme de violette, and lemon juice, its striking purple hue is enticing with a flavor much like a balanced sour.
Elegant and bone dry, the tuxedo cocktail resembles a Martini. It originated in the late 1800s or early 1900s named after the exclusive Tuxedo country club. With many variations, the classic recipe consists of gin, sherry, and orange bitters.
The original Rickey was made with bourbon in the 1880s, but the refreshing sugar-free beverage’s recipe that stuck is made with gin. It is combined with lime juice and soda water, it’s reminiscent of a Gimlet and Tom Collins while having a taste all its own.