Summer is nearly over and for me it is has been a summer to rediscover the refreshing delights of gin. Gin was actually the first hard liquor I ‘learned’ to drink and the gin and tonic became my drink of choice. It was my WASPy birthright I suppose and also my grandmother’s preferred mix drink if nobody was making daiquiris.. While others were experimenting with elixers designed to mask the taste of alcohol for maximum consumption, I actually enjoyed the subtleties of its infused flavors. Its preferred sidekick, tonic water, even allows the botanical flavors to come through. I’m told gin has medicinal roots and that just adds to its story for me. Somewhere along the line vodka became king and now when most people order a martini these days they are incorrectly expecting it to be made with vodka. Vodka certainly has its own merits but it has nowhere near the flavor depth of gin. (Perhaps thats why vodka takes so well to being drowned in sugary juices and syrups?) There are just as many ways to get your gin on, however. Earlier this summer I extolled the virtue of the Pimm’s Cup which is a gin based beverage. I think it was No. 1’s quinine notes that triggered this summer’s gin rediscovery.
Personally I think quinine and gin were meant for each other but if that isn’t your thing, then don’t forget that the real martini is made with gin. I am of the school that a real martini uses 4 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth, if not more vermouth. It has become trendy to make a big deal of ordering a martini “dry’, which means only a drop or two of vermouth in the mix. Vermouth has a tasty effect on the joys of gin cutting the gin just so and making the drink smooth without getting in the way of gin’s subtleties. If your guests insist on a dry martini I suggest proportioning the gin by filling your shaker with ice, adding an ounce of vermouth and strain the vermouth out of the shaker into the sink. Coating the cubes. Add gin, stir, and then strain into the martini glass.
But what does this have to do with summer? Nothing. But a nice summer variation on a gin martini (a redundant term I admit) is to use 1 part Lillet instead of dry vermouth in your 4:1 ratio. Lillet’s sweet, spiced, citrus-y taste is a nice and refeshing twist on the classic and is also surprisingly easy to sip on! (By itself Lillet makes a very refreshing cocktail for summer. That is, if you can consider a drink with one ingredient a cocktail!)
Citrus is a perfect companion to gin which brings me to my latest gin discovery and perhaps the most refreshing way to drink it yet. I have been finding it just PERFECT for these way-too-warm summer nights we are having.
The Cucumber Gin and Tonic. Many years ago I had the pleasure of tasting cucumber infused gin while in the UK. To recapture the taste somewhat I would garnish my gin and tonic with many cucumber slices floating in the glass. This makes a great presentation if you are doing a pitcher of G and T’s but who does that anymore? Then, several weeks ago, I saw a recipe for cucumber gin and tonics at onceachefalwaysachef.com and they have been the perfect summer drink for August.
Summer Cocktail Series
1 and 1/2 cucumbers. Peel one cucumber and not the half. Cut them up and put them in a blender with 2 TBS water and then liquify in blender. Pour through a sieve into a container. Cucumber juice will keep in the refrigerator for severl days in an airtight container.
Cucumber Gin and Tonic:
- 2 oz gin
- 2 oz cucumber juice
- 2 wedges lime
In a Collins glass mix the gin, cucumber juice and sqeeze the two lime wedges into the glass and leave the peels in. Fill with to the rim with ice and them pour the tonic. Garnish with lime and a slice of the remaining 1/2 cucumber you did not use in the juice.
- 2 oz. gin
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. simple syrup
- soda water
- lemon twist for garnish.
Fill a cocktail glass with ice and all the ingredients, stir, enjoy!