Gin — Not Just For Summer Cocktails Anymore


When people think about consuming gin, they generally think about it in one of three contexts: first and most prominently, the martini (which should be made with gin, not vodka, because vodka is a spirit that is supposed to taste like nothing, which is ridiculous); second, the gin and tonic; and third, a variety of refreshing cocktails primarily (though not exclusively) associated with the summer, such as the Gimlet, Gin Rickey, French 75, Aviation, Gin Fizz, and Tom Collins.

So if your favorite spirit is gin, and it’s no longer summer, what are you supposed to drink? Martinis and G&T’s are great, but at some point you want something new. Do not be afraid. Until global warming makes winter cocktails irrelevant, here are four gin-forward cocktails that you can drink with confidence until you consume your first Southside (kind of like the mojito of the gin world) of the year when it gets warm again.

Sweet Liberty

This is a cocktail I got from a new distillery on the edge of Philadelphia (in Manayunk) called W.P. Palmer Distilling Company. Liberty Gin is their flagship spirit, and I highly recommend trying it, as I discuss below. It works well for this cocktail in particular. The recipe here is slightly modified from their original, and I’ll note the modification.

Ingredient List

2½ Oz. Apple cider
1½ Oz. Gin
½ Oz. Lemon juice
1 Tsp Cinnamon-infused simple syrup (see below)
1-2 Dashes Peychaud’s bitters

First you need to make cinnamon simple syrup. Measure equal parts sugar and water by weight (a handy trick, one liter of water weighs 1 kilogram), bring the water to a boil in a saucepan with a cinnamon stick or two, whisk to incorporate the sugar, then lower the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Once your cinnamon simple syrup is cooled, build ingredients in a shaker tin. Shake, then double strain into a highball glass filled with ice, and add 1–2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters. Garnish with an orange peel.

This drink is refreshing and tastes like fall. (note that the original recipe from W.P. Palmer Distilling Company is 1 Oz. gin to 3 Oz. apple cider, and doesn’t include lemon juice, but the citrus flavor in this is really nice and I recommend including the lemon juice). Why is this not a summer cocktail? The apple cider is driving the train here and definitely makes this a cocktail for fall and beyond.

Grey Garden

My first foray into this cocktail was a vodka-based version served at Cindy’s Rooftop Bar at the Chicago Athletic Club. I took it upon myself to quickly Google up/create a gin-driven version.

Ingredient List

2¼ Oz. Gin
2 Oz. Jasmine Green Pearl Tea or Jasmine Green Tea
½ Oz. Simple syrup or Honey syrup (equal parts honey and water brought to a boil)
½ Oz. Lemon juice
¼ Oz. Crème de violette

First, brew a pot of Jasmine Green Pearl Tea (honestly, you can use any jasmine tea, but black tea ends up looking different) and toss it in the freezer to cool down. Once it cools, chill a cocktail glass, build all ingredients in a shaker tin, shake over ice for 10–15 seconds, and double strain into your waiting cocktail glass. At Cindy’s, they serve it with an edible orchid. (h/t to Kindred Cocktails for inspiration on proportions).

Why is this not a summer cocktail? Simple — the tea. This way you get the “tea” your mother always thinks you should have on a cold winter day — and a great gin cocktail.

Pearman’s Toddy

The hot toddy is a quintessential winter cocktail, and not one often made with gin. But where there is a will, there is a delicious way.

Ingredient List

2 Oz. Gin
2 Oz. Water
½ Oz. Cinnamon-infused simple syrup
½ Oz. Lemon juice
2 Dashes Angostura bitters

For this, heat your standard simple syrup and toss in a couple of cinnamon sticks (or just use your cinnamon simple syrup from before). Bring the water to a boil in a teakettle or saucepan. Once the water is boiling, build all other ingredients in a warmed mug. Add boiling water and stir to incorporate. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Why is this not a summer cocktail? It’s a toddy. End of story.

Cranberry “Southside”

This final cocktail is built on the back of a gimlet, but with a twist. The original Southside is served up, and is named after either a neighborhood in Chicago or a sporting club in Long Island (or something else entirely).

Ingredient List

2½ Oz. Gin
1½ Oz. Cranberry juice
½ Oz. Lime juice
¼ Oz. Simple syrup
4–6 Leaves fresh basil for muddling

Build all ingredients in a shaker tin and muddle the basil. Shake over ice and double strain into a waiting highball glass. Add ice and top with club soda.

You may need to play around with these proportions a bit depending on the sweetness of your cranberry juice and how sweet you like your cocktails. If you like a sweeter drink, for example, you may want to dial back the gin and dial up the cranberry.

It’s good. I promise. Why is this not a summer cocktail? Cranberry juice, that’s why.

Now, on to one last important question. What gin should you be drinking? Here in the United States, we are the beneficiaries of a veritable modern-day golden age in distilling that is producing all sorts of fantastic gins to drink. Nothing wrong with classics such as Bombay Sapphire, Plymouth, Tanqueray, etc., but here are some American-made gins I highly recommend trying:

Bluecoat: This is the flagship gin of the Philadelphia Distilling Company. They are growing quickly and for good reason. Very smooth gin. I tried this for the first time several years ago when they were tiny and doing tastings in PLCB stores in Philadelphia. I was instantly hooked.

Dry Fly: From Washington State, Dry Fly Distilling knows what it is doing. It is unique, in a really great way. Regular botanicals, but then also mint and a tiny bit of hops. You can put it in almost any gin drink.

Liberty: This is the new gin I mentioned above from P. Palmer Distilling Company. It’s also made in Philadelphia, and also worth trying — though they are so new that it is harder to find. You may have to drive out to the distillery in Manayunk to buy a bottle, or purchase one at the handful of PCLB stores that carry it in the Philadelphia area.

Aviation: Not the cocktail, (though an Aviation is delicious, and a good way to vet a bartender), but the gin. Like the others on this list, it is also American-made by House Spirits Distillery in Portland, Oregon. As befits the name, it works really well as the base gin in an aviation (or really any gin-forward, but mixed, cocktail).

Gin may be the “Big Bad Wolf” of spirits, but it is now something that you can enjoy year-round (even if you don’t need it as a remedy for gallstones and gout), and outside the confines of the familiar martini or gin & tonic. So don’t be afraid to surprise your bourbon-loving friends this winter with an outstanding gin cocktail. If they have taste buds, they’ll thank you.


When he’s not working on his cocktail game, Michael C. Horowitz is an associate professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of the new book, Why Leaders Fight. Follow him on Twitter @mchorowitz.


Photo credit: Kyle Flood