A descendent of the Dutch malt barley wine genever, gin has evolved over the centuries into a sleeker spirit, shedding a good deal of genever’s funk — but not its juniper. When deciding what to mix with gin, therefore, one rule stands above all: must play well with juniper.
That said, these days there are numerous styles of gin, from London Dry to “New Western Dry,” with flavor profiles that run the gamut from traditional to floral to savory. Not every gin will pair perfectly with every mixer, so the best thing to do is to taste your gin straight and get a sense of its flavor profiles — or read our gin reviews — to decide for yourself which of the mixers below will match best with the flavor profiles of your favorite gin.
What To Mix With Gin
The marriage of gin and dry vermouth in the Martini goes back at least a hundred years, but dry vermouths are far from interchangeable. These days, there is almost as much variety in dry vermouths as there is in gin. For example, Dolin’s light floral nose and subtle palate support a bolder gin like Sipsmith, while Martini & Rossi’s (relative) sweetness brings out the juniper in a textbook London Dry like Tanqueray.
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Gin and Tonic is about as iconic a drinks pairing as there is, dating back to British colonial rule in India, when anti-malarial quinine tonics were mixed with gin to go down easier. Tonic’s bitter quinine backbone and touch of sweetener is the perfect foil for gin’s floral and spicy notes. These days, there is a range of tonics on the market to choose from, be they artisanal or mass-market. Check out our ranking of the best tonic waters.
As one VinePair staffer put it, “Soda is better than tonic and that’s just facts.” A debatable point, but there’s no denying the clean, faintly mineral fizz of soda allows a particularly flavorful gin to shine without overpowering it the way a tonic might. Go simple with some gin, a squeeze of lemon, and soda (a lighter take on the classic Tom Collins). Or, for those who take their Martinis bone-dry, get fancy with a savory gin (our picks: Gin Mare or Reisetbauer Blue Gin), and a sparkling mineral water with a high total dissolved solids content, like Gerolsteiner or Vichy Catalan.
Once again, we have the ingenuity of the historically gin-soaked British navy to thank for this pairing. The backbone of a Gimlet and a Gin Rickey, limes have been a natural companion to gin ever since the days of scurvy. Whenever possible, be sure to use fresh-squeezed lime juice for mixing, and remember that a little usually goes a long way — most cocktails use a 2:1 or even 3:1 gin-to-lime ratio, often with some simple syrup or liqueur for sweetness. For a truly nautical experience, choose a navy-strength gin for your next cocktail — the increase in ABV brings with it an intense flavor that can match even the sourest of limes. Just go easy on those strong cocktails, sailor.
Grapefruit’s intensely concentrated acidity, and its faint bitterness, will pair especially well with any Western Dry Gin that already has grapefruit among its botanical notes. Try using Amass in a Salty Dog, the classic combination of 2 oz. gin, 1-2 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, and a salted rim. (The salt helps tone down the grapefruit’s inherent bitterness, while boosting our perception of its sweetness.) For an even more advanced citrus pairing, one VinePair staffer recommends swapping grapefruit for yuzu juice — if you can find it. (The yuzu plant is banned in the United States, but most Asian groceries carry yuzu juice.)
Sweet, acidic, and slightly funky, pineapple isn’t just for tiki drinks. A complex gin like Jaisalmer can stand up to, and complement, the fruit’s tropical flavors, while a splash of pineapple juice can liven up a simple gin and soda.
Gin and Juice, with a spritz? Now we’re talking. Grapefruit- and lemon-flavored seltzers are obvious go-tos, but experimenting with others can yield great results. Blackberry seltzer, for example, provides the perfect balance of sweetness and tannic complexity to show off a good gin’s flavor range, while Aviation gin and watermelon White Claw seems destined to become a garden party staple.
One of the two main botanicals in Hendrick’s Gin, this simple garden plant adds a hint of grassy sweetness that doesn’t cloy like some other fruit juices might. (Yes, cucumber is a fruit.) Cucumber is also a natural hydrator, which makes it a welcome addition to any long drink. Muddle a few slices in a (gin-based) Pimm’s Cup or a G&T for a refreshing hot-weather classic, or even just peel a long ribbon of cucumber and use it to garnish a Hendrick’s and soda.