I’m writing this on April 9, better known among aficionados as National Gin and Tonic Day. Just for the record, the international celebration of the classic drink is in October, and, no, don’t ask me why it deserves its own day here or abroad. For now, just catch up by having several.
In looking at news releases celebrating the occasion, I happened across several recipes purporting to give an old dog a new life.
One suggests starting with one-and-a-half ounces of gin in a tall glass with ice, then adding half an ounce of Suze, an especially bracing amaro. From there, dump in a quarter-ounce of lime juice and a couple dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir, then splash tonic water on top to taste. I happen to like Fever Tree’s Indian Tonic.
Another approach is to go all-in Spanish by serving your gin tonic — Spaniards omit the “and,” although they otherwise retain the drink’s English name — in a large wine glass with added botanicals such as juniper berries or rosemary sprigs, slices of citrus and the like.
In its basic form — gin, tonic, maybe a squeeze of lime — this is the simplest of two-ingredient cocktails. Scotch and soda, the classic highball, is another. But you’ve got some time on your hands, yes?
Good. We’re moving on to two-ingredient cocktails, each with a couple of boozy components I’m hoping you have on hand — or can get delivered. All other ingredients, such as bitters, simple syrups or relative trace amounts of liqueurs don’t count. They’re kind of like salt and pepper in a cooking recipe.
To start with, you gotta love a drink called the Hanky Panky. Here it is:
1½ oz. gin, such as Plymouth is good.
1½ oz. sweet vermouth, such as Dolin Rouge
2 dashes of Fernet Branca, an especially intense amaro
Directions: Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a swath of orange peel you have squeezed into the glass and rubbed along the rim. Feel free to play with other slightly less intense amaros such as Cardamaro or Cynar, especially if you’re using a light red vermouth.
According to Kara Newman in “Shake, Stir, Sip”, the Dandy Cocktail is another classic that made its initial appearance in The Savoy Cocktail Book, a classic published in London in 1930. The following is a variation that might better be called the Jim-Dandy. It’s that good.
1½ oz. rye whiskey, such as Bulleit
1½ oz sweet vermouth, such as Carpano Antica
3 dashes of orange liqueur, such as Combier
Dash of Angostura bitters
Directions: Combine in an ice-filled glass, stir to chill and dilute, strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with orange and lemon peels. Or not. Feel free to up the Angostura — especially if using Carpano, a very big, sweet red.
I’m hoping you might have sake in your pandemic pantry. It’s great just served over ice in the summertime if a goad is needed. As initially published, the Midway Fuji is the purest of two-ingredient cocktails — just gin and sake in equal parts — bam! As such, it’s a pretty naked drink. The same can be said for a martini, of course. The gin variety, naturally. Here’s the original:
1½ oz. gin (I used Nikka, a Japanese coffey-still gin, but any good London gin will do.)
1½ oz. sake (I used a junmai-ginjo from Arizona, no less, although the recipe suggests junmai-shu.)
Directions: This one is shaken — unusually, as two spirits would normally be stirred. After doing so, strain into a chilled Nick and Nora glass or a coupe. As the junmai-ginjo traditionally has a little added alcohol — the junmai-shu does not — the rice flavor is less pronounced, so my preferred proportions veered in the direction of slightly less gin and more sake. I also felt the need for a little salinity, so added just a couple drops of saline solution. But you’re the judge here. It all depends on your base ingredients. Go forth and create.
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