Much has changed since Italian monks (so they say) invented gin for medicinal use in the 11th century. Much later, Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius gets credit for prescribing a juniper-based distilled spirit to his patients in the 1550s. Fast-forward several centuries, and June is unofficially Gin Month.
With the boom of craft distilling and the help of gin expert Emma Stokes (AKA Gin Monkey), the diverse spirit has generated collective enthusiasm, creativity, and craftsmanship across the globe. Beautiful and boundaryless concoctions from Four Pillars’ Christmas Pudding Gin to New York Distilling Company’s pink-hued Rose Petal Gin are plentiful. There’s even a hotel in London’s Notting Hill dedicated to the spirit entirely. So a roundup of the best gin cocktails is a no-brainer. Read on for some spectacular picks for your mother’s ruin fix this World Gin Month.
With a trip north to British Columbia, our pick for a modern iteration comes from the garden restaurant at Vancouver’s Pacific Rim Hotel, where the dining concept draws on the principles of botany, the ideal destination for gin purists. Botanist’s vibrant menus utilize the 50 different plant species grown within its indoor gardens, including green tea camellia, cardamom, ginger, and many more.
The Botanist Martini plays on a traditional version’s savory and salty flavor characteristics. Made with house-made vermouth and seaborne tincture, it uses a fragrant combination of plants and herbs from the restaurant’s garden. Central to the cocktail is Coastal Blend Gin, a proprietary combination of Longtable London Dry Gin, St George Terroir Gin, and Berry Bros & Rudd No. 3 London Dry Gin. Finally, they top it with a freshly picked oyster leaf and vegan caviar.
The original and most gratifying. No gin menu is complete without a perfectly put-together G&T. Our recipe comes from the exclusive G&T menu at New York’s Valerie. Refined yet relaxed, with stunning Art-Deco-inspired decor, Valerie’s bar is chock of gins sourced from Japan, Ireland, Normandy, Scotland, Australia, the Americas, and beyond.
For diehard gin enthusiasts, we recommend the Herbal G&T, made with Empress 1908 Gin, genepy, lavender bitters, cardamom bitters, and Thomas Henry Classic tonic. If you’re looking to take your G&T up a notch, ask your bartender for Las Californias Cítrico, a citrus gin distilled with botanicals brought to the Las Californias territory by cultures transcending borders through migration. Pairing well with Mediterranean tonic, this extraordinary gin is bright and citrusy with hints of forest flavors and a slightly golden, juicy finish.
The negroni is a ubiquitous drink with an unshakeable cool factor. At over 100 years old, the once polarizing three-ingredient cocktail has painted towns red in recent years with its instantly recognizable crimson hue. In tandem with the rising popularity of aperitivo and cocktail culture (and that viral Stanley Tucci video), the drink has now rocketed to fame to earn its own week.
For a drink that is a fashion accessory in its own right, our negroni top spot goes to the buzzy Venetian-inspired hangout, St. Theo’s in New York. The restaurant’s version of the classic champions Amázzoni Gin, an extraordinary bottling from Brazil’s first and largest exclusive gin distillery, made with exotic botanicals (some sourced from the Amazon). This multi-award-winning gin, paired with the traditional Campari and sweet vermouth, offers an authentic iteration that tastes even better alongside fresh seafood against the breezy backdrop of this coveted destination.
The chicest gin cocktail – the French 75 – is the epitome of elegance: gin, deliciously topped with Champagne and enhanced with a touch of sugar and citrus. Invented by Harry MacElhone (founder of the famous Harry’s New York Bar in Paris), it later achieved Hollywood fame as the favorite drink of Casablanca lead Rick Blaine.
Where better to sip this fine masterpiece than Cannes’ most palatial hotel? With postcard views of the Mediterranean Sea and regulars that span the A-List, Le Majestic Hotel provides a fitting backdrop for a cocktail synonymous with glitz and glamor. Its bar – Galerie du Fouquet’s – is helmed by horticulturist, beekeeper, and aroma expert Emanuele Balestra who nurtures countless herbs and plants across the hotel’s three on-property gardens. His version of the drink – the Cannes 75 – combines the locally-made 44 Gin with raspberry liqueur, fresh lemon balm, house-made lemon balm bitters, and the hotel’s own Champagne Fouquet’s.
Home to our prized gimlet of choice, New York Distilling Company in Brooklyn is an essential destination for spirits and cocktails connoisseurs. Helmed by Allen Katz, one of America’s most revered drinks luminaries, it offers a fascinating insight into the world of urban distilling. Its charming, full-service bar, The Shanty, overlooks the working distillery and serves elevated, classic cocktails inspired by New York’s golden age of cocktails, showcasing the fruits of the distillery’s labor (think sweet rye Manhattans and perfect twists on the Martinez).
Its 700 Songs Gimlet brings together fresh lime juice, cinnamon, and a dash of sweetness with its aromatic and smooth Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin. They bottle it at a bracing 57% (the historical proof that gunpowder might still fire should it be soaked by spilled spirit). New York Distilling Company’s gin portfolio includes the unmissable Dorothy Parker Straight American Gin, a versatile backbone for gin cocktails. It’s an essential distillation for fans of the London Dry Gin style – named for the formidable gin enthusiast Dorothy Parker and every bit as iconic.
The Bee’s Knees is a brightly flavored and light prohibition-era cocktail made simply with gin, lemon, and honey. For a drink that champions the humble bumble bee, there is no better gin of choice than Barr Hill, a juniper-forward bottling made with raw honey. Enjoy their signature Bee’s Knees cocktail at its Gin Lane Bar, an adjoining watering hole set amongst the greenery of its five-acre distillery, surrounded by lush forest. For this, its most famous cocktail, Barr Hill pairs its gin with house-made local raw honey syrup and fresh lemon juice.
As an ode to hardworking bees of the Northeast, Barr Hill Gin also hosts Bee’s Knees Week, an annual celebration of the cocktail that, since its inception in 2017, has grown into the largest sustainability initiative in the spirits industry. Each year during the last week of September, it brings together a passionate community of environmental stewards and cocktail enthusiasts with a series of events that work to sustain the ongoing support of bees with initiatives to establish and strengthen habitat creation for endangered pollinators.
Satisfying, smooth, and simple enough to recreate at home, the gin sour is an ideal entry point for the home bartending novice looking to shape up their skills. It is also an excellent cocktail for sampling new and esoteric gins while out and about.
Home to the iconic Portobello Road Gin – and a Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for gin lovers – London’s The Distillery serves an irresistible iteration that champions one of England’s most beloved retro candies. The Sherbet Lemon Sour combines The Distillery’s Super Citrus Gin, limoncello, lemon juice, egg white, and red sherbet. What could be sweeter? The Distillery also houses three effortlessly chic guest rooms overlooking London’s quintessential Portobello Road; two restaurants and bars, a gin school, and a gin museum.