With cocktail culture continuing to evolve nationwide, bartenders have go-to favorites by category, occasion, and even season. Gin is especially versatile, equally suited to festive Champagne cocktails, tropical Singapore Slings, and crisp Martinis. The category itself spans multiple styles and distillations.
That’s why we asked 10 bartenders to tell us their favorite gin cocktails. From classics to custom creations, their picks definitely don’t disappoint.
“Corpse Reviver #2. Made with gin, lemon, orange liqueur, Lillet Blanc with an absinthe rinse. Anything good enough for Hemingway is good enough for me! Plus the absinthe really brings out the botanical flavor of gin.” —Zach Welch, Bartender, Ways & Means Oyster House, Tigard, OR
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“My favorite gin cocktail right now is a 404. The combination of gin, Aperol, lemon, and elderflower is easy-drinking and delicious.” —Anna Pereda, Beverage Manager, The Adolphus, Dallas, TX
“I love the French 75. It’s the perfect blend of everything good on this earth — great Champagne, a lively gin, bright lemon, and sugar. A well-executed French 75 has an amazingly simple build with complexity provided by the quality of its base layers. It can be perfectly suited for everything from a black tie event to a homemade pitcher on a Sunday afternoon.” —Lucas England, Beverage Director, Mortar & Pestle, San Jose, CA
“A 50/50 Martini. This is literally equal parts gin and dry vermouth, stirred and served up. You can get creative and add a few drops of your favorite herbal or citrus bitters, but I always recommend garnishing it with a lemon twist.” —Annie Williams Pierce, Bartender, Curio, Columbus, OH
“Whenever I’m out at a bar I can trust, (I always ask if they have a mixing glass first), I’ll usually ask for a White Martinez or Bijou. I love these classics. The Bijou is one of my favorite drinks and stories to share with guests. Delicious herbaceous flavors, balanced by the botanical gin, sweet medicinal flavors or Chartreuse, and the earthiness of a quality red vermouth. Vermouth Royal Rouge for the win. It may not be for everyone, but it’s a cocktail that I challenge guests to enjoy.” —Ryan Autry, Bar Manager, The Blind Pig Kitchen + Bar, Santa Margarita, CA
“I love gin for its botanical, herbal goodness. My favorite gin drink is either a really balanced Gin & Tonic or an Aviation. When I’m just playing around, mango is my go-to flavor when creating new cocktails using gin. The mango balances the complexity of the gin perfectly. “ —Nathaniel Cayer, Executive Chef, I|O Godfrey, The Godfrey Hotel, Chicago, IL
“At the moment my favorite gin cocktail is the Gimlet from ‘The Savoy Cocktail Book’ made with Plymouth Gin and Rose’s lime juice. Ken Baranda from Plymouth was hosting an event at my bar and I thought he was crazy when he asked me to find a bottle of Rose’s, but turns out it makes for a pretty tasty cocktail! Just make sure to change the proportions to a larger amount of gin and less lime, as tastes tended towards sweeter at the time of the recipe’s publishing.” —Christina Russo, Lead Bartender, The BoardRoom, Los Angeles, CA
“I would have to say a classic Negroni, including gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. It is a simple yet complex drink — the three ingredients blend together so seamlessly that it’s something that is easy to sip on all night. I love that even though it has been around for 100 years, it’s still just as popular as it was back then, which I think keeps the spirit of the cocktail alive.” —Alex Zurita, Beverage Manager, Public House, Las Vegas, NV
“I’m a big fan of the Vesper, which I keep very classic. Gordon’s gin is a must, three measures’ worth. A very neutral, high-quality vodka, like Grey Goose or Tito’s (one measure), and a half-measure of Lillet Blanc. I know the classic calls for Kina Lillet, but since that’s not made anymore, we have to compromise a tiny bit here. Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a thin slice of lemon peel, and enjoy in a custom-made tuxedo. Elegant, debonair, and strong, just like James.” —Troy Smith, Beverage Director, Montage Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach, CA
“The ‘252’ Barrel Aged Negroni. The classic recipe for a Negroni calls for equal parts gin, Campari, and vermouth. While this is delicious, we have worked hard to dial in tastier ratios, and we tweak the recipe in a couple of other ways that are unique, then barrel-age it to smooth it out. I use a lightly toasted 15-liter French oak barrel, because the vanilla influence it imparts works better than American oak with the orange flavors of the drink. We use 209 gin because it has a wonderful citrus-peel aroma. The choice of vermouth here is also crucial. Bad vermouth makes… wait for it… bad drinks. I actually use 20-year-old vin doux naturel with just a little bit of Carpano Antica, because Carpano Antica by itself overwhelms the drink.” — Jim Lunchick, Mixologist, Merriman’s Restaurant, Waimea, HI