Fresh Twists on Gin & Tonic

Watermelon & Cucumber Tonic from First Look Then Cook

Watermelon & Cucumber Tonic from First Look Then Cook

A Gin & Tonic is the easiest, most customizable cocktail there is. There are a lot of ways to turn this basic drink into something fresh and fancy. Here’s to gussying up America’s favorite highball!

Cucumber Rosemary Gin & Tonic ~ A weensy bit of chopping and muddling gives you a very sophisticated new drink with a unique flavor combo that complements gin’s botanicals.

Mamani Gin & Tonic ~ Jalapeño and Cilantro (or basil, for you cilantro haters) are fun additions to the classic, with cucumber, celery, and tomato as optional additions to make it even more garden-y than before.

Peach Infused Gin & Tonic ~ This one takes a little advanced planning, but it makes for an easy drink that tastes super-fancy … once you do the initial work of infusing gin with peaches.

Watermelon & Cucumber Tonic ~ As you can probably tell by now, cucumbers and gin are good buddies. But add a little watermelon and then you really have something special.

Rhubarb Gin & Tonic ~ Another one where a little advance work can mean quick cocktails to come … rhubarb syrup is a great addition to any bar, and it can turn a basic G&T into a delicious treat.

Dark and Stormy

The Dark and Stormy belongs to same quick-and-tasty category of cocktails as the Moscow Mule. They taste great, but all you have to do is pour a couple of ingredients and add a squeeze of lime.

Gosling’s Black Seal Rum is the classic rum choice (the company would call it a mandatory choice, since they’ve trademarked the cocktail name). However, if you want to substitute your favorite dark and funky rum, ain’t nobody stopping you! I’m sure you won’t end up in court. I like to use spiced rum sometimes. My ginger beer recommendations are Fentiman’s, Bundaberg, or Reed’s ginger beer, but as long as it’s ginger beer and not ginger ale, you’ll be in good shape. (You can go DIY and make your own spiced rum and your own ginger beer.)

Dark and Stormy

2 ounce dark rum
3 ounces ginger beer
1/2 ounce lime juice

In a Collins glass filled with ice, combine the rum, ginger beer, and lime juice. Stir and sample. Adjust to your liking. Enjoy!

Photo by Liam Boylan

Highballs for All

I love elaborate cocktails. But if you tracked my at-home cocktail consumption, you’d find that it’s mostly highballs—like a Gin and Tonic or Moscow Mule. Getting out the shaker often signals WORK to me, since I have to develop and test recipes a lot and document the results. When I’m relaxing, I like to put some ice in a tall glass and then just pour some stuff in and grab a straw. No exact measurements or complicated techniques. But that doesn’t mean these are boring drinks, oh no it does not.

I like to make my own variation on a Gin and Tonic. So, of course, it has gin and tonic. Then I squeeze in some fresh grapefruit and top it off with a few dashes of homemade rhubarb bitters. Fan-cy! Sometimes I’ll mix tequila and soda with some tangerine and a splash of agave syrup. Or rum, seltzer, homemade grenadine, and some lime. What are your favorite ad hoc highballs? Here are a few to try out if you’re looking for ideas.

Dark ‘n’ Stormy ~ You can make your own ginger beer or opt for store-bought, but this simple cocktail of rum, ginger beer, and lime tastes more complicated than it actually is.

Paloma ~ Tequila, grapefruit soda, and a little lime makes this drink taste like a lighter, sparkling margarita. Extras like a pinch of salt and some bitters add complexity.

Cucumber-Rosemary Gin and Tonic ~ Cucumber and gin go together really well, and amping up the botanicals in the gin with a little rosemary is another simple yet elegant twist on the classic.

Crimean Cocktail ~ White wine, Cointreau, lemon, and soda. I’m refreshed just thinking about it.

Tom Collins ~ Gin, lemon, and a little simple syrup. That’s all you need for a good time. I like to use the sweeter Meyer lemon.

Moscow Mule

Sometimes all I want is a simple, refreshing drink with two or three ingredients—no shaker required. This one is easy to make yet has a unique flavor, thanks to ginger beer. The Moscow Mule was created by the Cock n Bull Pub in Hollywood in the late ’40s as an attempt to popularize vodka, which hadn’t exactly caught on with the American drinking crowd yet. By the early ’60s, it was a popular drink and vodka started to find its way into more bars. (The product placement with Roger Sterling and his vodka on “Mad Men” is also historically accurate, since clear and odorless vodka was a hit with the hard-drinking office crowd.) The traditional way to serve it is in a chilled copper mug, but unless you’re obsessed with barware, any tall glass will do.

When it’s 90 degrees out and I want a little refreshment, this drink will do the job and do it well! I used Cock n Bull ginger beer, but I also like Fentiman’s, Bundaberg, and Reed’s. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even make your own ginger beer. I used FAIR quinoa vodka, which I have to say really floats my boat. I like a lot of lime in my Moscow Mule, so I go with a shot of vodka and 4 ounces of ginger beer. But you can adjust that to taste.

Moscow Mule
1 1/2 – 2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 1/2 a lime)
4 – 6 ounces ginger beer

Squeeze in the lime juice into a Collins glass (or chilled copper mug) and put the spent hull in the glass. Add ice cubes, then pour in the vodka and ginger beer.

Black Rose

Spring is here! And blackberries and rosemary are the perfection combination to celebrate the season. Oh, yeah … with some vodka added into the mix, that is. The Black Rose uses a flavored syrup tastes great in this twist on a Vodka & Tonic. Try it without vodka for a non-alcoholic treat.

Black Rose

4 ounces vodka
2 ounces blackberry-rosemary soda water*

Pour vodka over ice in a highball glass. Then add soda and stir.

*Blackberry-Rosemary Soda Water

1 part club soda
1 part blackberry-rosemary syrup

To make the syrup: Bring 3/4 cup blackberries, 1/4 cup rosemary, 1 cup sugar and 1cup water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain into a sealed glass container and refrigerate.

To make the soda water: Combine the syrup and club soda. Adjust the syrup quantity to suit your taste.

Photo by Jackson Stakeman

Enjoy this sneak preview from DIY Cocktails! And then … get your copy from Amazon today!