A Brief Beginner’s Guide to Gin

– By Michelle Ess –


A prominent Mixologist once told me that gin was the bartender’s spirit of choice. This liquor comes in many different flavors, can be mixed in many different cocktails and embodies a rich history. The creation of gin dates back to as early as 17th century in Holland, where it was used as medicine to treat stomach issues, gallstones and gout. At the time its taste was hardly appealing, so juniper was added for flavor along with its antibacterial properties. Juniper is a coniferous plant that grows berries with a distinct evergreen flavor, which is the prime characteristic of most gins. During the 30 years war from 1618-1648, Dutch soldiers drank gin to remedy the cold temperature and to calm their nerves. For this reason, the spirit was nicknamed “Dutch Courage,” a title that stuck around even after the war. From the 1700s to the mid 1800s, gin became widespread in London, England as distilleries such as Gordon’s, Booth’s and the internationally renown Beefeater Gin emerged. The Golden Age of gin cocktails emerged in the 1920s.

The styles of gin vary by location, aroma and the ingredients used in the re-distillation process. London dry gin is considered a masculine style due to its distinct smell and flavor of juniper. The ingredients include neutral grain spirits, juniper berries (the dominant botanical), lemon, orange and coriander. Primary brands include Beefeater, Tanqueray and Gordon’s. Feminine styles of gin embody a softer juniper aroma mixed with delicate floral flavors. Key botanicals include juniper berries, coriander, cucumber and rose petals. These ingredients are used in New Age gin, which includes Hendrick’s, Bombay Sapphire and Martin Miller’s. With the variety of taste and fragrances, bartenders have a vast menu of cocktails to create. But let’s start with the basics – here are the top 4 classic gin cocktails.


GnT2Gin & Tonic

A GnT is the most common and easy-to-make gin cocktail. However, the ratio of ingredients is key! Pouring in too much tonic or not including enough ice can make or break this classic drink. Many people believe they dislike gin due to a poorly made GnT. However, if you build this cocktail with perfectly measured parts you’re in for a refreshing treat.

1 oz. London Dry Gin

3-4 oz. Tonic Water

Squeeze of Lime

Lime Wedge

Fill a rocks glass with ice to just over the rim. Pour in gin, top with tonic water and squeeze in juice from lime. Garnish with a lime wedge.



Tom CollinsTom Collins

“Have you seen Tom Collins?” This hoax of 1874 had bar patrons searching for a non-existent Tom who, they had been told jokingly, was seemingly speaking ill of them. Naturally they were encouraged to find him, but he was never found and the “Tom foolery” was revealed! Jerry Thomas (the father of American mixology) named this classic gin cocktail after the well-known joke.

1½ oz. London Dry Gin

2 oz. Bar Lime

2 oz. Club Soda

Lime Wheel

Fill a highball glass with ice to just over the rim. Add gin and bar lime. Cover glass with shaker tin and shake vigorously. Pour back into highball glass and top with soda. Garnish with lime wheel.


In 1919, this Italian apértif was first stirred up in Florence by a bartender serving Count Camillo Negroni. The count requested a stronger Americano, replacing the soda in the cocktail with gin – and the rest is history.

1 oz. London Dry Gin

1 oz. Rosso Sweet Vermouth

1 oz. Campari

Orange Slice or Peel

Fill a rocks glass with ice to just over the rim. Pour in gin, vermouth and Campari. Stir. Garnish with orange slice or peel.GinMartini


Dry Gin Martini

Although James Bond opts for a Vesper (shaken, not stirred), a dry gin martini is the classic go-to! For the best garnish go for an olive skewer, however a lemon twist can be used as well.

2½ oz. New Age Gin

½ oz. Dry Vermouth

Rinsed olives on a skewer

Chill the martini glass. Add ice to just under the rim of a mixing glass. Add gin and vermouth, stir. Julep strain into chilled martini glass. Add olives to garnish.

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