Spring awakening: Gin cocktails to put the 'spring' in your step

Of bigger brands, Plymouth is my favorite. I also like Gordon’s London Dry gin, which at $15 for a liter is a bargain and surprisingly good. Among craft distillers, which tend to produce gins of higher quality and distinct styles, I prefer Bluecoat American Dry Gin, made by Philadelphia Distilling. I also like Farmer’s Botanical Small Batch Organic gin, though it can be hard to find.


Here are some recipes I think will change your mind about gin. They come from my book about organic cocktails, Organic Shaken & Stirred (Harvard Common Press), though you need not make them with organic ingredients to enjoy them.


Voluptuous (pictured above)



This is an arousing play of texture and taste. Egg white gives curvaceous structure to a drink that indulges so many desires – the lushness of strawberries, the passion of lemon, the exotic whimsy of anise (okay, I’m reaching here, but taste it -- you’ll see). If you’re really ambitious, dust the slice of strawberry with a pinch of fennel pollen for garnish. It adds a touch of heady, honey-like sweetness. Oh, and it sounds cool to tell guests.


1 strawberry, hulled (which just means lop the leafy top off)


1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice


1 1/2 ounces gin


Dash (really more like a few drops) of absinthe


1 medium-size egg white


1/2 ounce agave nectar


1 slice of strawberry


In a cocktail shaker, muddle the hulled strawberry and lemon juice until the berry is mashed. Add the gin, absinthe, egg white and agave nectar, and fill the shaker with ice cubes. Shake vigorously for at least 15 seconds, then strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass. Float the strawberry slice on top of the drink.


[image-1]Purple Basil Gimlet


Besides being more intensely flavorful than its emerald-hued relative, purple basil also provides an enticingly faint lilac hue in a drink you’ll enjoy looking at almost as much as you’ll love drinking. Note: if you can’t find purple basil, don’t panic. Regular old basil works just fine.


2 ounces gin


1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice


1/2 ounce agave nectar


5 purple basil leaves


Combine gin, lime juice, agave nectar and four of the basil leaves (reserve the smallest one for garnish) in an ice-cube filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously, then strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass. Float the remaining basil leaf on top of the drink.



Snap-Pea-Irinha


I admit I did a double-take when I read Chicago mixologist Adam Seger's recipe for a cocktail made with organic whole snap peas and freshly ground black pepper. I suspected he was punking me. Or at very best the drink would taste like alcoholic dirt. Then I made one and tried it. I was really surprised by how well the sweetness of the snap peas played off the zip of the pepper, botanicals in the gin (I used Philly-made Bluecoat American Gin) and tartness of lime juice. Bizarrely tasty and refreshing, and chock full of vitamins -- at least that's what I remind myself after I've had five or six.


[image-2]1/4 cup snap peas, ends trimmed


1 lime, cut into eight wedges


1 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, dissolved)


1 1/2 ounces gin


Coarsely ground black pepper


In a shaker or tall glass, combine the snap peas, lime wedges and simple syrup and muddle thoroughly. Add the gin and a handful of crushed ice and stir, then pour the mixture, unstrained, into a rocks glass. Garnish lightly with pepper (one crank of the pepper mill is plenty).


Photos: Jerry Errico

Ah, spring. The time of rebirth and of new romance.

For me, spring also screams gin! That’s because when the mercury starts climbing, I hanker for the starched, thirst-quenching taste of this curiously unsung spirit.

Now before you say you don’t drink gin “because it makes me act crazy,” or you, “can’t stand the taste,” let me just say that’s nuts. I already know you’re one of those people who “loves” vodka.

Right, well gin is basically vodka distilled with botanicals. And I bet I could change your mind if I gave you a good gin drink. Consider that I recently served a gin and tonic by accident to a neighbor friend who’d asked for a vodka and tonic. Did she notice? Nope. And she loved it! Best gin and tonic ever, she gushed. Why? Because I used good gin and good tonic.

Now gin has come a long way from the bathtub and kitchen sink, where Prohibition-era partiers used to cook up batches of in. Inspired by gin’s recent renaissance, producers big and small are cranking out gins.

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