When summer hits, we turn to clear spirits for our cocktails. And of all clear spirits, gin is king. Complex, slightly bitter, and refreshing, gin is made for summer. There’s nothing we crave more on a hot day than an effervescent gin and tonic or delightfully astringent Negroni. We’ve rounded up our favorite summery gin cocktail recipes.
Few cocktails are as easy and refreshing as the gin and tonic. At its most basic, this highball is nothing more than aromatic gin and bubbly, quinine-flavored tonic water with a lime garnish. From there, it’s easy to create variations on the drink. Try adding a little vermouth or a healthy dose of Angostura bitters. If you’re feeling ambitious, try making homemade tonic water—you’ll need citric acid, cinchona bark, and flavorings of your choosing.
Another classic gin drink is the Negroni, a sweet-and-bitter mix of equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. Like the gin and tonic, the basic recipe lends itself to experimentation. For a brighter drink, replace the vermouth with Lillet Blanc and add lemon juice. The Contessa is another step removed from the Negroni, swapping the Campari for Aperol and the sweet vermouth for dry.
Bitter gin pairs naturally with sweet summer fruit. In the Merchant’s Wife, watermelon juice is tamed by gin and Aperol. For a variation on the gin fizz, a mixture of gin and seltzer, add juicy plums and fresh basil. Our Plymouth Gin Tonic pairs the spirit with sweet strawberries, but also spicy peppercorns for extra depth.
Find all of these drinks and more in our collection of summer gin cocktail recipes.
99 Problems But An Herb Ain’t One
Gin, lemongrass, ginger, and kaffir lime combine in this savory cocktail from Alex Straus of LA’s E.P. & L.P., who created it to complement the restaurant’s spicier dishes.
Vermouth adds character to this Stateside riff on the elaborate Spanish-style gin tonic, while a tonic water flavored with bitter lemon balances the aromatized wine’s sweetness. Navy-strength gin stands up to them both. Get the recipe for Los Gintonic »
Queen Victoria Tonic
This highball uses a homemade tonic infused with raspberry-flavored orris root and peppery, flowery grains of paradise to complement the specific flavor profile of Bombay Sapphire gin.
This classic cocktail couldn’t be simpler—it’s simply even parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth.
The Contessa, a modern creation of John Gertsen, a bartender at Boston’s Drink, replaces two of the Negroni’s three ingredients: Campari is swapped for the lighter and more orangey Aperol and dry vermouth substitutes for sweet. It’s more like the Negroni’s third cousin than a direct descendant.
Dill Gin and Tonic
Navy strength gin adds explosion potency to drinks like this riff on the gin and tonic, which is spiked with dill pickle juice and garnished with citrusy verbena leaves.
Bar Code Tonic
Tonic water derives its bitterness from quinine, a purified substance derived from the bark of the cinchona tree. Paired with gin, tonic water makes for one of summer’s most refreshing cocktails. At Bar Code in Bellevue, Washington, the gin and tonic is made in a unique manner: The gin itself is infused with cinchona bark, citrus, and other aromatics. Then, rather than tonic, soda water is added to make the drink.
A refreshing marriage between a Tom Collins and a Dark n’ Stormy, this lime and ginger beer-spiked gin cocktail has an intriguing herbal undertone thanks to Amaro Abano, a zesty Italian digestif with notes of bitter orange, cardamom, and white pepper. Get the recipe for Cool Confusion »
Fresh celery and lemon juices, Lillet, celery bitters, and gin combine for a clean and vegetal cocktail with a bright green hue.
Indian thandai, literally translated as ‘something that cools’, is a sweet, creamy milk drink flavored with nuts and mixed with spices such as cardamom, fennel, rose petals, and poppy seeds. On Holi, the Indian festival of colors, the refreshment is traditionally served with the addition of bhaang (a derivative of marijuana). Here we’ve substituted gin instead, which accentuates the nutty, warmly-spiced, floral flavors in thandai perfectly.
Kansas City’s Rye restaurant pours this classic, a honey-sweetened gin potion, which gets its effervescence from a splash of rosé champagne.
The Charleston Fizz
The floral flavor of gin is a natural match for bright grapefruit and elderflower liqueur in a refreshing cocktail. Fresh tarragon adds an aromatic, peppery anise note.
Vodka is the traditional spirit for this bright, briny cooler, but gin adds a wonderful, aromatic dimension.
Jalapeño and chile-infused bitters add a spicy kick to a fruity cocktail made with muddled strawberries and blueberries.
Light, orangey Lillet Blanc and fresh lemon juice brighten a springlike twist on the Negroni. Tarragon and tart, hibiscus-based Burlesque Bitters from Bittermens add floral, herbaceous notes. Get the recipe for Pink Negroni »
The Pretty Tony
With a drink as clear and straightforward as a traditional gin and tonic, the addition of bitters can transform the appearance, flavor, and aroma in delightful ways. Here, 10 dashes of Angostura bitters add bright spice to a version from Wingtip in San Francisco.