Summer is upon us! Finally the sun is here and Portland is buzzing with smiling faces, picnic blankets, and barbecues. The change from cool, dark days to long summer nights is so exciting for me as a bartender because this also means herbs, flowers and fruit are ripening. Summer is one of my favorite seasons to make cocktails because everything is so fresh and even the simplest cocktails taste amazing.
I’ve designed menus up and down the west coast and this time of year I shift my menus away from dark, aged spirits and pull my favorite clear spirit to the front of my cabinet. Say hello to New Deal Gin No. 1. This citrus-forward gin is ideal for bright and refreshing cocktails just begging to be paired with seasonal ingredients.
While this gin still holds a delicate bouquet of juniper, it also has a generous citrus profile which makes this gin smell so clean and fresh that you’ll want to sip on Gin No. 1 cocktails all night. Head distiller Tom Burkleaux refers to Gin No. 1 as a “garden style gin” and I couldn’t agree more. His proprietary distillation method extracts more oils from the botanicals, resulting in a buttery, herbaceous gin thats perfect for savory, summery garden cocktails.
Just like mint in a mojito, fresh herbs like oregano or even a leafy green like arugula can provide a playful and complementary note to the citrus notes of this gin. Mixed with fresh lemon juice and a little soda water you’ve got yourself a cocktail that is so seasonal, delicious, and easy that you’ll beg summer to stay forever.
I encourage you to pluck a few sprigs from your garden or local produce stand and try incorporating them into a cocktail for an elevated take on a tom collins. Simply take 4 or 5 leaves of an herb of your choice (I like Oregano— it’s both resinous and cooling), some fresh lemon juice, a touch of something sweet, and finish with soda water for a long, bright, summer sipper. Here’s my recipe for the Gin Garden Smash. And here is a pro tip: When using herbs, muddle very gently. You’ll want to extract all of the delicious gentle notes and muddling too hard can cause things to taste more bitter.