As a general rule, dry gin is for making cocktails and the more complex, botanical gins are for sipping. Of course, all gin contains botanicals – it’s essentially neutral spirit plus plants – but botanical gins can run the spectrum from a few plant-based additives to a few dozen, as in the case of Monkey 47. Basically, botanical gins can be used to make cocktails with extra layers of complexity and depth of flavor. We asked Julia McLish and Brenna Murphy at Barkeep Supply, 1121 N Walker in Midtown, to help us put together two cocktails that are easy to make at home.
Before she got started, Barkeep owner McLish said that the goal is to make a cocktail with great balance, not to let the spirit get lost in a swirl of ingredients. “You want the gin to shine through, not get covered up,” she says. “We picked ingredients that complement, not cover.”
If you are the adventurous type and want to make your own variations, McLish advised starting with equal parts acid (fresh lemon or lime juice) and sugar (agave nectar or simple syrup), and then adjust according to your preference.
The bartenders used Zephyr Gin for this classic spring/summer sipper. The abundance of elderberry in the botanical mix leads to a refreshing, almost sweet gin. For a cooler with even more punch, opt for the Zephyr Black; it still has plenty of elderberry, but the botanicals are more complex.
1.5 oz Zephyr Gin
.5 oz yellow chartreuse
.5 oz simple syrup
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
Wet shake and strain over rocks in a Collins glass. Top with Topo Chico and garnish with fresh basil leaf.
The Botanist is a great introduction to more complex, botanical gins, because it’s easy to sip, and the mix of ingredients don’t weigh down the palate or introduce odd, geeky notes. Still, it can be challenging to mix a cocktail with, so the bartenders chose an ingredient that’s equally intense: rose cordial.
1.5 oz The Botanist gin
.75 oz El Guapo rose cordial
.5 oz Lillet Blanc
.5 oz fresh lemon juice
Wet shake and strain over rocks in a Collins glass. Top with Topo Chico and garnish with fresh or dried rose petals.
If you are more the sipping gin type, Letherbee Vernal Gin, Monkey 47 and Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin all make for excellent neat pours, and the sheer volume of botanicals in all of them provides a fascinating experience of how different ingredients add to the layers and complexity of good gin.