Gin-givitis

courtesy of Hendrick's
courtesy of Hendrick's

My heart just jumped like an enwombed child with a mother all hopped up on caffeine, even as my liver hung its head in anticipation of the pain to come: Beefeater has announced a new “summer” gin, to be available this June, full of a combination of flowery aromatics like hibiscus, and deeper flavors like black currant – not to mention the all-important juniper.

Brilliantly, it will be called Beefeater Summer and I intend to make my break a Beefeater summer – even though it was, for all intents and purposes, a Beefeater winter, and is shaping up to be a Beefeater spring. Well, to be less specific, a gin winter and spring. I don’t have the kind of money to devote any of my seasons exclusively to premium spirits.

But this ought not be a problem. Even a cheap gin can be put to good use and make a tasty beverage. Except Rothschild – the only cocktail that’s good for the Molotov variety.

Gin is exceptional among spirits in that it lends itself to cocktails for every season. One of my favorites is the anachronistic but ever-delicious Alexander, a blend of one part gin, one part crème de cacao, two parts milk (or half and half) and nutmeg to garnish. It is Christmas in a concentrated form, far more drinkable than that wood-glue-looking (and tasting) bastard eggnog.

A delicious summer variation on this flapper-era classic is what I like to call the Alexander Hamilton; just replace the milk in an Alexander with orange juice (yes with pulp, for Pete’s sake). It is sweet and tangy, deep and aromatic, all at the same time.

Brandy can be made to serve the summer goddess quite well too. Take the Pickett’s Charge, named after a hero of the Civil War and local hero Nathaniel Ray Pickett. Two parts each of brandy and tonic water, one part each of lemon juice, triple sec, and amaretto liqueur. Combine everything, even the tonic, in a shaker and give it a couple good ones. Said one die-hard fan, “It tastes like SweetTarts!” Only much more suited to sipping.

If you want to keep it simple, seeing as how summer is for hedonistic laziness, try a rum cranberry, or as it is more properly known, Havana Joe’s Island Style Hot Dog Party-Punch. Seriously.

Deceptively simple but honestly refreshing, all you have to do is pour one shot of spiced rum in a sour glass, and fill the glass with ice and cranberry. Proceed to forget everything that happened that day – these are remarkably easy to drink and therefore lose track of.

If you are like me, and enjoy reading and chain-smoking outdoors all summer long, you need a drink that can cut through all that smooth tobacco flavor. I always turn to Sangria.

For this, you need a young red wine – try sticking with Spanish wine, but any unoaked red will do in a pinch – and a whole bunch of your favorite delicious fruits.

Almost any combination is good, but I like mangos, pineapple, grapes, orange, and peach. Cut up all the fruit you want, add honey to taste, and let it soak in the red wine for a day or two. Never boil it – you will boil out much of the precious alcohol if you do. If you hate red wine, follow the same process, but use a young, sweet, white wine and replace the orange with lemon.

I would end with something clever, but really, all I can advise you to do is drink these things. Drink them a lot. Because they are extremely great.

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