Vodka has been the default spirit of choice for years, but that's quickly changing. "Gin is in a real boom right now," says Lacy Hawkins, award-winning New York bartender and national brand ambassador for Monkey 47, a European gin brand that's gaining a cult following in the U.S. Sure, vodka might be a relatively neutral base spirit for cocktails and mixers, but making the simple switch opens up a whole world of flavor complexities. "Drinkers are not only learning that the cocktails they have typically enjoyed with vodka are made that much better with the right kind of gin, but they're discovering a whole plethora of gins and flavor profiles that didn't exist before."
Not all gin is created equal, though. The spirit is made by distilling alcohol with a number of botanicals like juniper berries, lemon peel, and cardamom, so every offering is unique. "When making drinks with gin, you can open up notes like black pepper, cardamom, grapefruit, lavender, ginger—the list goes on," she tells us. While most premium gins have about 10 botanicals, Monkey 47 has 47 botanicals, creating a unique, complex flavor profile. Ahead, Hawkins explains the science of gin tasting and shares five foolproof gin cocktails with just three ingredients. We'll see you at the bar.
First-time taster? Hawkins recommends sipping gin neat to distinguish a mediocre spirit from an exceptional one. "A great gin can be easily distinguished by the mouthfeel," she says, recommending these questions. "If you taste it neat, does it leave your mouth dry, bitter, and burning? Or is there a silkiness and richness to the spirit?"
As you savor each sip, think about the flavor profile too. Vodka and gin are both neutral spirits, but what sets gin apart is that it's infused with botanicals and redistilled—a delicate art. "Gin quality is determined by how it's made. When tasting a gin, ask yourself: What are you tasting? Try to decipher a minimum of three notes from the spirit and then ask yourself, Does it taste good?" she says. "You'll start to determine your preference when it comes to gin, and be able to define what's mediocre or exceptional for your own palate."
2 oz. Monkey 47 Gin
¾ oz. 1:1 honey syrup*
¾ oz. lemon juice
Add all ingredients to a shaker. Shake for four to six seconds. Serve up or on the rocks. Garnish with a lemon wheel or wedge.
*1:1 honey syrup: equal parts honey and hot water, stirred to incorporate and stored in the refrigerator
2 oz. Monkey 47
1/2 oz. Triple Sec liqueur
1/2 oz. lemon juice
Shake the ingredients first without ice; then add ice cubes, and shake again before straining into a chilled cocktail glass. Cheers!
2 oz. Monkey 47
½ oz. vodka
1 tsp. Lillet Blanc
Stir all ingredients over ice, strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with a lemon twist. Prosit!
1 1/2 oz. dry gin,
1 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
Stir dry gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup on the rocks in a long drink glass, and top it up with soda water. Garnish with an orange twist, et voilà!
1 oz. Monkey 47
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. red Italian vermouth
Stir all ingredients in an old-fashioned glass with ice, and garnish with an orange zest twist. Salute.
Next up: the beginner's guide to setting up a bar cart at home.