NOTE: Prices on liquor can vary, wildly, depending on location (laws, taxes, availability, etc). That’s why the prices listed below have the “ish” moniker after them.
Spring is here, and summer is coming. While there are many cocktails, liquors, and beers that work well in the warmer weather, I would argue none are more refreshing than gin. Light bodied, floral and citrus, this spirit feels tailor made for the sunshine.
Gin, a botanical spirit, is often used as a base for some delicious cocktails; the negroni, the martini, and of course, the gin & tonic. There are excellent gins to use to build a superior cocktail.
On the flipside, there are indeed gins best enjoyed on the rocks, or even neat. These are, of course, a bit more expensive, but work well as a gift or a special treat for a summer holiday or special occasion. Read on to check out my picks for gins to seek out, and how to enjoy them.
The Straight Drinkers
These picks are worthy of a direct pour into your high-ball glass. Drink neat or with two cubes, and you’re in for a treat.
Monkey 47 – $80ish
This one, oh my. The average gin uses five or six botanicals for flavoring. Monkey 47 uses, yep, you guessed it, 47. The end result is a superior spirit: impossibly smooth and deeply complex, offering floral, citrus, and spice notes in a beautiful harmony. At around $80, it’s more than I would usually spend on a gin, but is excellent for a summer celebration of sorts like a wedding anniversary or birthday.
Empress 1908 – $40ish
If ever there was a gin to use as a conversation piece, this is it. Because… this gin is blue. I want to tell you it’s blue because it’s Canadian, but that’s a lie. The color stems from the use of butterfly pea blossoms steeped into the gin post-distillation. Very cool. I tasted citrus- specifically grapefruit and orange- and juniper. A classic, but higher level tasting gin in a non-classic hue.
The Botanist Islay – $35ish
This was the first “top shelf” gin I ever had, and the difference was immediately apparent. The Botanist uses 22 botanicals from its native Islay for flavor. To my taste, this gin leans toward citrus and mint, reminiscent of a mint lemonade. It is exceptionally refreshing. I love it over ice, with just a quick squeeze from a lime wedge, with a book in hand on the patio.
The Mid-Shelf Mixers
Opt for these if you want a go-to gin to stash on your bar cart for making a martini or gin & tonic to refresh after a long, hot day. These gins will still stand out in unique flavor in a cocktail.
Aviation Gin – $27ish
It seems every celebrity has his or her own booze, but Aviation Gin was established well before it’s new owner Ryan Reynolds took helm. A spice-forward American made gin, this works well in an extra dry martini or with a quality tonic water. Drinkers will notice the spicier-than-average flavor come through. Unique.
Hendrick’s – $40ish
In contrast to the Aviation Gin, I find Hendrick’s to offer a sweeter touch, but not like The Botanist above. This one is like biting into a flower. Very floral, with a refreshing cucumber taste. Hendrick’s must add cucumber in some form to their distillation process, because the flavor is quite apparent. Choose Hendrick’s, and you’ll get both a solid neat-drinking gin AND a superior mixer. As such, it is a bit pricier than the other choices in this category, and borders on top shelf (for gin), at about $45.
Bluecoat – $30ish
An American made, London dry gin. They call it an American dry gin, but it evokes the style of the London dry gin. Clever branding and a beautiful bottle makes this a great addition to the shelf if for no other reason. Thankfully, it’s a quality gin for a great price. It can be found at about $30.
If you’ve had gin, you’ve probably had Tanqueray. A stalwart in bars across the world for overpriced gin & tonics, Tanqueray is to gin as Buffalo Trace Straight Bourbon is to bourbon. That is, an always available reliable choice. BUT, this version adds Rangpur limes for an amped-up fruitiness. If you’re seeking a fruit-forward cocktail, this is the gin I’d grab.
The Economy Picks: Beefeater – $16ish & New Amsterdam – $12ish
If you’re throwing a BBQ, or just having a small get together, and want an option for gin drinkers – go with one of these. Delicious gins without breaking the bank, these options work best in cocktails. To be honest, I don’t taste anything unique about these, and wouldn’t drink them on their own. On the flipside, there’s nothing bad about them. The Beefeater is a traditional London dry gin, while the New Amsterdam does much of the same at almost half the cost. I once bought a 1.5L bottle of New Amsterdam for $20 and proceeded to make gin & tonics for approximately 6 months. It’s called an economy pick for a reason.
About the Author: Jason P. is a Dappered devotee, having curated the majority of his wardrobe through the site. He is an enthusiast of wool sweaters, chino pants, and affordable automatic watches. In his free time, you can find him at his boxing gym or antiquing with his wife.