Winterize Your Gin Cocktail

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The martini knows no season, but your brain is very aware of them, and right now your brain is probably craving festive, holiday-themed treats and libations. Cocktail-wise, this usually means hot toddies, dark spirits lots of spice, egg nog, or the inclusion of candy canes.

As a gin drinker, it’s a lightly challenging time. The beauty of gin lies in its delicate juniper- and botanical-heavy flavor profile, and that profile can easily be obscured or obliterated with spices, heat, and candy. Luckily, there are many ways a gin enthusiast can enjoy their favorite spirit without sacrificing the holiday spirit.

Just really lean into cranberries

Cranberries look like the holidays. They’re a vivid crimson, with a bauble-like appearance that makes them look at home strung up on a Christmas tree. The easiest way to capitalize on their festive appearance is to freeze them, then stab a few onto a toothpick and plunk ‘em in your martini glass. If you want your crans to bring substance as well as style, you can pickle them for a wintery dirty martini, or ferment them in honey and use the ruby-hued liquid to make a simple toddy (more on gin toddies in a moment).

You can also use cranberry sauce to make a simple spritz (1 1/2 ounces gin, 1 tablespoon cranberry sauce, 3 ounces sparkling wine), or add gin to sparkling cranberry juice (such as Martinelli’s) and call it a cocktail.

Celebrate citrus season

I used to think it was odd that such a bright, vibrant fruit was in season in the dead of winter, but that’s when we need citrus fruits (and their vitamin C) the most. Explore the wide world of tangerines, tangelos, satsumas, pink lemons, and all the hybrids by making a French 75. Switch out or supplement the lemon juice with one or more of these in-season gems, and garnish with Beth’s orangette if you hate wasting the peels.

Make a (gentle, respectful) toddy

Gin toddies are slightly tricky. A little heat can open up the gin, letting its botanicals waft up to your nose so that you may experience them more fully, but it can obliterate more delicate floral notes. To make sure you can still taste your gin, pick something with a lot of juniper and/or fair amount of spruce (Tanqueray is never a bad choice), and avoid anything super floral, which can turn tannic with heat. Making a gin toddy is very easy. We’ve covered it before, but just to re-cap:

Combine 1 1/2-2 ounces of good quality dry gin with 3/4 ounce lemon juice (use Meyer lemons if you have them), 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 2 ounces of hot water, or your favorite tea.

Add some darkness to your martini

Smoke and spice don’t scream “Christmas,” but they do feel wintry, and that’s close enough for most people. For a martini, you can smoke the glass with a little piece of wood, or cinnamon bark, or star anise pod; or you can rinse the glass with smoky scotch (both are great options).

Amaro and bitters are another way you can add cold-weather depth. Keep it classic and add a couple of dashes of Angostura or orange bitters to your martini (or other favorite gin cocktail), or pick a “festive” bitter like pecan or cinnamon. You can also switch out dry vermouth for something dark and sweet, or sub in an amaro with lots of baking spices.

You can also just make a regular martini; gin kind of tastes like a Christmas tree anyway.

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