Gin Kicks Up Cool Summer Cocktails

There is an unmistakable fresh aroma in the mountains or an evergreen forest. You can’t help but take in the delicious scent of the trees as the sun brings out their essence on a warm day. Just the fragrance alone may give you a boost. Similar elements go into making gin one of summer’s best refreshers—namely juniper berries.

While some people may bristle at the spirit’s “pineiness,” it’s this unique characteristic that makes gin, gin. Fans of this spirit have long known the refreshing kick it gives to summer cocktails. And, with the right balance of additional botanicals plus some of the newer, “milder” gins on the market, non-gin drinkers may enjoy giving it another try.

What is gin? It starts with a neutral grain spirit (usually distilled from barley or corn), and is made by redistilling this base spirit with a number of botanicals including the essential juniper berries and ingredients such as coriander, cassia bark, lemon and orange peels, licorice and other carefully guarded secret additions. Typically a fine gin will contain six to 10 botanicals, but some gin recipes have been known to include more. Some new gins on the market have also dialed back the juniper to appeal to vodka fans.

The different styles of gin include London dry gin or British gin as well as Holland or Dutch gin and genever. London dry, which accounts for most gin on the market, refers to a style, not just a place of origin, as London dry gin can be produced around the world.

Beyond the ol’ Gin & Tonic (2 shots of gin topped up with tonic water) or the classic Martini (2 ounces of gin with ½ teaspoon of dry vermouth and an olive or lemon twist), the crisp, aromatic spirit can help you mix up a variety of refreshing cocktails this summer. Here are a few to try. Cheers!

French 75

Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 ½ ounces London dry gin
4 to 5 ounces brut Champagne

Combine lemon juice and sugar in a 12-ounce highball glass and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add gin and fill glass with cracked ice. Top off with Champagne and stir once or twice.


2 ounces gin
½ ounce maraschino liqueur
¼ ounce crème de violette or Crème Yvette
¾ ounce lemon juice
maraschino cherry, for garnish

Add all ingredients in a shaker and fill with crushed ice. Shake, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry, if desired.


1 ounce gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Campari
lemon twist, for garnish

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

Gin Daisy #3

2 ounces London dry gin
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ ounce pomegranate (grenadine) syrup
club soda, to top

Shake gin, lemon juice and syrup with ice and strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with soda.

Thirsty for more spirited ideas? Check out the Minnesota Monthly Fine Spirits Classic July 27 at Orchestra Hall. For more information, click here.

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.