Virtually tiptoe through the tulips, lavender fields, rose-covered pergolas or lilac bushes with these fragrant spirits–no matter how low the mercury dips outside.
Unless you live in a locale blessed with warmth and sunshine all year round (we’re looking at you, California, Florida and Arizona), you’d be hard-pressed to find any blossoming flowers right now. Unless you look in your glass, that is. Floral-inspired gins are trending, giving juniper permission to take a backseat in favor of petal power from varieties like iris, violet and hibiscus.
Hendrick’s Gin, which launched in 1999, was the first major commercial brand to use flowers in the botanical blend, adding the essence of cucumbers and Bulgarian rose petals to the distilled spirit. Since then, other brands have cropped with floral gins being particularly popular among British distillers. “The explosion of gin growth in the U.S. has come from the lighter, floral and citrus style gins…a contemporary break from the traditional heavy juniper-style gins,” explains Deidre Bohane, master distiller for West Cork Distillers which produces Garnish Island Gin.
No need to wait for summer to whip up a garden-to-glass cocktail with one of these five perfumed bottles:
Beefeater London Garden Gin
SRP $30 Beefeater Garden Gin 21st Century Celery Collins
The inspiration for this expression from the iconic London producer came from the Chelsea Physic Garden, located near the Beefeater Distillery in the Kennington district, which was created to teach apothecaries and pharmacists about the medicinal properties of plants. In addition to the nine botanicals included in the brand’s classic London Dry Gin (juniper, Seville orange and lemon peels, coriander seed, angelica root and seeds, thyme, lemon peel and licorice root), master distiller Desmond Payne introduced lemon verbena and thyme. He says the latter two lend an herbal and fresh dimension that along with its floral character make the spirit perfect for savory cocktails like the Red Snapper–a gin version of a Bloody Mary–or a riff on the Collins with muddled celery.
21st Century Celery Collins
1 ½ oz. Beefeater London Garden Gin
⅔ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
2 2-inch chunks of celery
Thin stick of celery, for garnish
Add the chunks of celery, lemon juice, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker and muddle to release the celery juice. Add the gin and ice and shake until well-chilled. Double strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice and garnish with the thin stick of celery.
Tamworth Garden Barrel Reserve Flora Gin
SRP $55 Tamworth Flora Gin
For this gin from New Hampshire, local botanicals are blended into a drinkable form in order to capture the wild, hazy, soft, ethereal floral aromas you might find wafting in the air on a hot summer day in Tamworth, according to botanical chemist and distiller Matt Power. Juniper, angelica, and coriander give the backbone of a classic London Dry Style, complemented by elderflower, red clover, lavender, chamomile, lemon verbena, hops, and orris, which are infused prior to distillation rather than vapor-distilled for a light and drinkable spirit; labdanum resin and geranium are added post-distillation, and the spirit is finished for more than a year in barrels previously used for wheat whiskey. (The distiller also makes an unaged version.) The result is a gin that transforms freshly-cut flowers into tropical blooms, with notes of candied violet and citrus leaf, whiffs of pine and lavender on top with underlying coconut. A complex sipper on its own, it also works well in a Bee’s Knees, White Negroni or French 75.
The Garden Gimlet
1 ½ oz. Tamworth Garden Barrel Reserve Flora Gin
¾ oz. lime juice
¼ oz. simple syrup
2 thin slices of cucumber
2 rosemary sprigs, 1 reserved for garnish
Add the cucumber slices and 1 rosemary sprig to a cocktail shaker and muddle gently. Add the gin, lime juice, and simple syrup, add ice and shake until well-chilled. Double-strain into a chilled cocktail or Nick and Nora glass and garnish with the rosemary sprig.
Garnish Island Gin
SRP $25.99 Garnish Island Gin
The inspiration for this Irish Gin is its namesake island in Bantry Bay, West Cork, a place that’s well-renowned for its gardens. John Annan Bryce, who worked as a merchant in India, bought Garnish Island in 1910 and commissioned botanist Harold Ainsworth Peto to plant tropical flowers and walled Italian gardens; in 1953 it was bequeathed to the Irish people. The gin captures the ingenious flora with 16 botanicals including juniper, rose, strawberry, angelica, licorice, hibiscus flower, bitter orange, cardamom, rosemary, thyme, coriander, lavender, and cocoa nibs, cold-infused overnight to release their essential oils before being slowly pot-distilled in small batches. The spirit is elegant, exotic, full-bodied, and aromatic, with bright floral notes of iris, rose and hibiscus along with herbaceousness, followed by bright citrus and a dark chocolate-tinged finish. “The floral aromas and notes mentally transport the drinker to the lush Italian gardens of Garnish Island,” muses master distiller Deirdre Bohane.
2 oz. Garnish Island Gin
4-5 oz. premium tonic (Fever Tree, Q or similar)
Slice of strawberry and lime peel, for garnish
Add ice to a Collins or tall glass. Add the gin and tonic, stir to combine, and garnish with the strawberry slice and lime peel.
Black Button Distilling Lilac Gin
SRP $31.99 Black Button Lilac gin & cocktail
Every spring, the New York craft distiller pays homage to its home of Rochester, a place with a rich floral history dating back to 1898 and a nickname of “Flower City,” with this modern gin that also gives a nod to the city’s world-famous lilac festival and its Highland Park, known for one of North America’s largest collection of the purple fragrant blooms. Master distillers Jason Barrett and Jeff Fairbrother start with lilac, lavender, rose and hibiscus petals, which are steeped, distilled and recombined along with juniper, coriander, rosemary, lemon peel, angelica root, and peach for a spirit that’s a heady, delicate and fresh take on the category. Barrett, also the founder and president, calls it a natural extension of their commitment to local agriculture. It’s gorgeous in cocktails with soda water or sparkling wine to deliver the aromatics, or in tipples with other floral or herbal elements.
Lilac Bee’s Knees
2 oz. Black Button Distilling Lilac Gin
1 oz. lemon juice
¼ oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and warm water, stirred to combine)
¾ oz. lavender-infused simple syrup*
Lavender sprig or lemon peel, for garnish
Add the first four ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe or Nick and Nora glass and garnish with the lavender sprig or lemon peel.
*For the lavender simple syrup:
Add ½ cup water and ½ cup white sugar to a small saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons fresh or dried lavender flowers. Let steep for 1 hour or until the desired flavor is achieved. Strain out solids and store syrup in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Salcombe Rosé Sainte Marie Gin
SRP $39.99 Salcome Rose Martini
Named for the Sainte Marie lighthouse at the Southern entrance of the port of Marseille where nineteenth-century schoolers would load England-bound citrus fruits and herbs, this French gin is meant to celebrate Mediterranean flavors. It’s distilled with Macdonian juniper berries for structure, gets a little sweetness from strawberries and angelica, fresh citrus from lemon and orange peels, and has ten other botanicals including lemon verbena, rose petals, orange blossom, and pink peppercorns; the gin is proofed using naturally-soft water from Dartmoor National Park. Subtly pink-hued in the glass, it touts aromas of lemon and Provence herbs as well as red fruit, white flowers, and a sea breeze-like salinity; the palate shows lavender and white pepper and there is a lingering softness on the finish. It works well sipped over ice, mixed with Indian tonic, and garnished with a strawberry slice or stirred into a contemporary take on the Martini, suggests co-founder Angus Lugsdin.
1 ¾ oz. Salcombe Rosé Sainte Marie Gin
⅓ oz. rosé vermouth (like Lillet Rosé Aperitif or Knightor Rosé Vermouth)
2 tsp. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
2 tsp. Grapefruit juice
Orange peel, for garnish
Add the gin, vermouth, St. Germain and grapefruit juice to a cocktail glass, add ice and stir for 30 seconds until chilled. Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the orange peel.