If I could only drink one spirit in a season, my choice for summer would definitely be gin. In the fall and winter I’m yearning for rye and bourbon, but summer calls for something lighter, and there’s nothing quite so refreshing as a good gin and tonic on a hot summer day. And gin’s versatility means that it plays really well with a wide variety of other ingredients, including a lot of fresh ingredients like herbs, berries and cucumbers.
We explored this versatility in my July 16 Gin Says Summer cocktail class. We started off tasting a variety of gins on their own, including a not-yet-released ultra-local gin from Ugly Dog Distillery in Chelsea, which was one of the favorites of the night. Next we mixed up a classic cocktail, the Aviation, using each of those gins, so we could see how different brands can influence the flavor of a cocktail. It was really interesting to see how dramatically different the final results were.
From there we mixed and sampled a couple more classic cocktails, the Negroni and Corpse Reviver #2, then explore gin's synergy with fresh herbs in the Basil Gimlet (see recipe below) and Summer Sage cocktails. We finished off the night by sampling three different brands of tonic water - the traditional Canada Dry, then a couple of premium tonics from Fever Tree and Q-Tonic. The Fever Tree tonic was by far the favorite of the night, so if you're looking to up your gin and tonic game, it comes highly recommended by this group of tasters!
5 leaves basil
Muddle basil leaves lightly in bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add remaining ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass (double strain through a mesh strainer to avoid basil bits) and garnish with a "spanked" basil leaf. (Spanking your basil brings out the aroma - just place a leaf in the palm of one hand and give it a hard slap with the other hand.)