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Juniper > Pumpkin Spice
New-wave gins that have us rethinking seasonal cocktails.
Despite all the usual talk of pumpkin spice, sweater weather, and root vegetables, it’s not exactly resembling autumn around here (at least around the Everyday Drinking HQ in Jersey). Though it’s already late October, I don’t believe we’ve moved beyond the confusing shorts-and-sweatshirt temperatures that once upon a time were a tween-season, transitional blip. Now it seems shorts-and-sweatshirt weather drags on until almost Thanksgiving (when you can debate climate change with your anti-vax relatives!).
Perhaps a better way to the mark the change of seasons is with cocktails. For many drinkers, October marks the annual migration from white to brown spirits. From gin-and-tonics and daiquiris to bourbon and scotch and whatnot. Negroni Week, in late September, seems to set off a sort of unofficial signal to the booze publicists to start sending me emails about their aged spirits for my “forthcoming holiday gift guide” (which is perpetually forthcoming because I’ve never published one).
In any case, since we’re literally and figuratively still in shorts and sweatshirts, I propose mirroring with a longer-than-usual Gin Season. Over the past few months, I’ve been enjoying a bevy of new and new-to-me gins, and I’m not ready to give them up just yet. So today I’m presenting several gin cocktails to take us into cooler and colder weather, should it ever arrive.
So, what exactly is a “cold-weather gin cocktail”? This is a good question. It’s rather subjective. I’m guessing many bartenders would suggest simply adding green Chartreuse and some bitters to the gin. This is not a bad suggestion, and I do include the Bijou Cocktail (gin + Charteuse + vermouth + bitters) below, perhaps my favorite cocktail of this genre.
Yet if there’s one common thread to the cocktails I’ve been enjoying lately, it’s Cynar—the bitter Italian amaro made from artichoke, along with a dozen other herbs and botanicals. To be honest, I’ve been riding pretty hard for Team Cynar this fall, as you’ll see in the cocktails below.
But before we get to the cocktails, let’s talk about the gins. I’ve been very happy with three gins I’ve been fooling around with since the summer. I’ve made a lot of G+Ts and Negronis and martinis with them, but I’ve really fallen in love with them this fall. In no particular order, here they are (along with links where you can order them):
Amazing small-batch gin that appeared last year seemingly out of nowhere. Made in a barn in the Catskills, Isolation Proof is both classic and totally fresh at the same time. A spicy, floral, heady mix of juniper, coriander, cassia bark, angelica root, licorice root, and orange peel, it adds in the wildcard of cubeb, an Indonesian spice in the pepper family. I absolutely love this gin and it has become a staple in my martinis and Negronis. In fact, it’s one of my overall favorite spirits discoveries of the past few years.
Bimini Gin, from Round Turn Distilling in Maine, was introduced this summer, and I’ve been blown away by its sophisticated, energetic, and bracing style. This is a new generation of American gin, with bright and zest grapefruit peel, coriander, chamomile, pepper, and even a hoppy edge. Bimini promotes itself as having a “softer” juniper profile, but don’t let that fool you. At 94 proof, there’s a bold undercurrent of juniper to satisfy serious gin aficionados.
What surprised even more was Bimini Coconut. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not go in for fake flavors, especially tropical fruit flavors. For instance, I loathe Malibu coconut rum. This is not that. Bimini Coconut is outrageously good, and shockingly adaptable in a wide range of cocktails. The coconut flavor isn’t shouting, “I’m want to be a piña colada!” Instead—made with organic Fair Trade coconut oil—it brings a fascinating and attractive hint of tropical awesomeness to the existing gin botanicals. It’s unbelievable how well this gin plays with bitters, vermouth, amaro, Fernet, etc.
Hailing from Bristol, England, and just introduced to the US market in late 2020, 6 O’Clock Gin is a fresh take on a London Dry. It’s meant to be a classic G+T gin, and with its slightly lower 86 proof, it works well in long drinks. But I think it stands up to much
At 100 proof, with bold, spicy notes of cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, and Indonesian cubeb pepper (am I sensing a trend?), this is the more muscular sibling of the original 6 O’Clock London Dry. Perfect for a full-throated martini and any of the winter cocktails below.
The original recipe, created by Isolation Proof’s Jake Sherry, calls for the Italian amaro Braulio, and that works just fine. But after some experimentation, Cynar gives this the vibe we’re looking for.
4 fresh sage leaves
2 ounces Isolation Proof gin
3/4 ounce Cynar
1/4 ounce egg white
1/4 ounce simple syrup
Lightly muddle the sage in a cocktail shaker. Add all ingredients except ice to shaker and dry shake for 15 seconds. Add ice and shake again until well-chilled. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a sage leaf.
Coconut Hanky Panky
The original recipe here calls for Fernet Branca, but I found the Fernet flavor profile take over the drink (as it so often does). So I substituted…Cynar! “Splitting the sweet vermouth with dry creates a little breathing room for the more delicate notes of Bimini’s signature botanical blend,” say the folks at Bimini. I concur.
2 ounces Bimini Coconut
1/2 ounce Cynar
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel, expressing the oil over the drink.
To be clear, this is not the classic recipe for a Breakfast Martini, which normally calls for triple sec (or more specifically Cointreau) and lemon juice. This version calls for Benedictine and lime juice, for a tarter, more herbal rendition. Any of the gins listed work well in this cocktail.
2 ounces 6 O’Clock London Dry, Isolation Proof, or Bimini gins
1/2 ounce Benedictine
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1-2 bar spoons orange marmalade
2-3 dashes grapefruit bitters
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake well, then strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel, expressing the oil over the drink.
1 ounce green Chartreuse
1 ounce 6 O’clock Brunel or Isolation Proof gins
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1-2 dashes orange bitters
Maraschino cherry, for garnish
Twist of lemon peel, for garnish
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and garnish with cherry and lemon peel, expressing the oil over the drink and letting the cherry sink to the bottom, like a jewel.