The Slippery Drink: Convincing the Masses to Like Gin

pendennis cocktail

“I’ll have something without gin or whiskey in it.”

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I used to hear this when mixing up drinks for friends. So what did I do? I made them a drink with gin or whiskey.

“Oh, that’s really tasty, what’s in it?”


Needless to say, I’ve been pretty successful at converting gin-haters and rum-disdainers. So much so that bottles of each seem to keep showing up at my house. There are many other reasons faults of judgment people give for not liking a certain spirit.

Annoyance #1 – “I got really sick off that once and can’t drink it anymore.”

I surely believe the first part. But you likely got sick from drinking too muchtequila, not because of what you were drinking. And if the mere smell of the spirit brings back horror movie-like memories of time spent over the bowl of eternity, you have hope. Try it again in cocktail that features it lightly. Just take a sip or two. Repeat, and build from there. Though if for some reason you’re allergic to say, rum, then don’t do this. But God, I can’t even imagine how terrible an affliction that would be.

Annoyance #2 – “That’s for old people/hicks/hayseeds/your mom.”

If you think gin is something only your grandparents drank when the economy was strong and horses pulled buggies around town like a quaint movie, that’s ok. If you don’t want to be as cool as James Bond, Alfred Hitchcock, and Julia Child who all loved the stuff, then so be it. You can be lame.

Annoyance #3 – “I don’t want to taste the alcohol.”

Then don’t come to my party.

How to Get People to Like Gin

First off, I’m in no way suggesting you pour drinks for your friends that they won’t like. There are a ton of recipes featuring various spirits that can be a good (re)introduction for the wary tippler.

“It tastes like pine trees.”

Before you roll your eyes, consider the major flavoring component of gin: juniper berries. They come from coniferous juniper trees and shrubs, which have needles. Just like your Christmas tree. The name gin even comes from the Dutch word for juniper: genever. But juniper isn’t only used to flavor gin; it’s also commonly used when curing pancetta and goes delightfully with venison and quail. Why do I point this out?

Because juniper is intense. Find some at your local spice store and open up the package; I guarantee your first thought will be “That smells like gin!”

So for the guest who doesn’t like gin, you’re going to have to temper that piercing aroma with other aromatically strong ingredients. Bitters of all sorts work here as do floral liqueurs.

The flavor of gin is not timid either, so cut it with some sweetness and definitely get it ice-cold. Here are a few suggestions for starter cocktails:

Gin Cocktails That Everyone Will Like

Pendennis (pictured above)

  • 2oz gin
  • 1oz apricot brandy
  • 3/4oz lime juice
  • 3 dashes Peychaud bitters

Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This is my go to cocktail when I’m in the mixology doldrums. It’s one of those where all the ingredients blend together to form something new, like a good tiki drink. You don’t necessarily pick out the gin, apricot, or lime, which for a gin-hater is a good thing.

50 / 50 Blanc Martini

  • 1 1/2oz gin
  • 1 1/2oz blanc vermouth
  • 1 dash Angostura orange bitters (or other orange bitters)
  • lemon twist, for garnish

Stir with crushed ice for at least 30 seconds and double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Expunge the oils from the lemon peel onto the surface of the drink and rub the skin on the rim of the glass.

Ok, now I want a 50/50 martini. Most people who don’t like martinis dislike them because they don’t like quaffing glasses of cold gin. History has given us the ultra-mega-hypo-arch-dyno dry martini where vermouth can’t even be in the same state as the drink being made. But if you take a wonderfully sweet vermouth, like the blanc, and use a healthy dose of it, you’ll have a cocktail that should please anyone. The orange bitters and lemon twist also help beat the gin into submission.


  • 2oz gin
  • 1/2oz crème de mure or Chambord
  • 1oz lemon juice
  • 2t simple syrup
  • lemon slice and two raspberries, for garnish

Build over crushed ice in an old fashioned glass. Stir and crown with the crème de mure.

Greg Boehm of Mud Puddle Books suggested this as a potion to lure even the most frightened soul to the wiles of gin. The sweet and tart fruit puts a meshed mask on the gin, so only a bit of it comes through with each sip.

Richmond Gimlet

  • 2oz gin
  • 1oz lime juice
  • 1oz simple syrup
  • 1 large mint sprig, leaves only

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

If anyone knows about making gin drinks that taste like they don’t have gin in them, it’s Jeff. Ok ok… I’m jesting. But this potion is a great example of a nice introduction to our junipery enemy. A perfect balance of flavor with the punchy aroma of mint to put the gin into a deep slumber.

Singapore Sling

  • 1 1/2oz gin
  • 1/2oz cherry brandy
  • 1/2oz creme de cassis
  • 1/4oz sloe gin
  • 1/2oz lime juice
  • 1/2oz lemon juice
  • 1t grenadine
  • club soda, to top

Shake all but the soda with ice and strain into an ice-filled collins glass. Top with club soda and garnish in some ridiculous fashion. Maybe with a lego sculpture or a large piece of cinnamon raisin bread.

Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide

An excellent punch that will surely please anyone at any time. The liqueurs do a phenomenal job of molding the gin into a paradise of flavor. You practically can’t taste the gin in this with all those liqueurs dancing around like crazy fairies in your drink.

Introductory Gins

Here is the part where I get in trouble recommending brands. These suggestions are based on both quality and, more importantly, how a gin-fearing overlord would like them. Many of these hold prominent posts in my liquor cabinet as well.

  • Plymouth
  • Hendricks
  • Hayman’s Old Tom
  • Citadelle Reserve
  • Bombay Sapphire

Part II – Whiskey

I quickly realized when writing this post that there was no way I could cover every spirit, so consider this Part I of my series: The Slippery Drink.

KP Questions

  1. What drinks have you slipped to your friends to get them to like something they think they don’t?
  2. What other gins are good starter gins?

19 Responses to “The Slippery Drink: Convincing the Masses to Like Gin”

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19 Comments to “ The Slippery Drink: Convincing the Masses to Like Gin”
  1. TiareNo Gravatar says:

    Real great post! and this time you have broke the record in making a nice cocktail/garnish/picture…WOW!


  2. 1. A Coffee Cocktail, Pisco Sour, or anything else with egg.

    2. Just about any gin that doesn’t come in a plastic bottle is a good introduction.

  3. NathanNo Gravatar says:

    I would introduce my friends to Citadelle Reserve except that you CAN’T FREAKIN’ BUY IT YET.

    Did you ever try the DH Krahn? It’s very, very light on the juniper, almost to the point of being un-gin-like. It does have some nice citrus notes, though, so I can see it appealing to the infused-vodka crowd.

  4. RowenNo Gravatar says:

    When I first moved in with my housemate, he could not drink Martinis. But after any number of Bronxes with fresh orange juice and Negronis and pretty much everything else under the sun, he became used to drinking gin cocktails regularly. He tried a Martini again and it became a favorite. Now when I’m out for the evening, this is the cocktail he makes for himself.

    Gin blends so well that I always end up adding more until it seems sufficiently forward. So the idea of a starter one seems odd. But I guess I’d have to say the regular Bombay cuz it’s soft, warm and charming.

  5. seezeeNo Gravatar says:

    re: pendennis; one thing that always perplexes me is when a recipe calls for apricot brandy. i never know whether i should be using an apricot flavoured brandy, or an eau de vie. and then there’s the added complication that i can’t get the good stuff (marie brizard apry) here anyway, so i’m stuck with bols.


  6. GaryNo Gravatar says:

    I have tried DH Krahn and I am a big fan of it. I do not completely agree with Nathan in that the folks are going after the flavored vodka crowd.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people assume that when a gin does not taste like a london dry style like Tanqueray (ie. wrestle you to the ground with camphor and pine) that it is not gin. In fact, the DH Krahn is more in the fashion of the traditional plymouth style.

    Anyway, I realize that the juniper is dialed slightly, however, for you purists, they use some interesting spices like coriander and thai ginger that add an odd, enjoyable kick.

  7. Jeff FraneNo Gravatar says:

    For a long time, I was a brown liquor snob. Whiskey, whisky, and, erm, whiskey. Gin is nasty and tastes like a shrub. Oddly enough, in the last year or so, I’ve become a huge fan of gin cocktails in all shapes and sizes. (As in most things drink related, I blame Morgenthaler.) I had one bottle of Tanqueray for two years without touching it; now I have five or six different gins in the cupboard all the time. For some reason, overdoing gin cocktails doesn’t have the crippling effect that too many Manhattans has.

    But in reference to your Martini, I get the strongest resistance from others not to the gin, but to the vermouth. They’ve never even really tasted it, of course, but they’ve been conditioned by decades that vermouth is vile and nasty and it’s best just to wave the bottle cap across the gin and stuff it full of olives.

    I loves me some vermouth.

  8. Jeff FraneNo Gravatar says:

    And I meant to ask: how the hell do you get such beautiful drink photos? What’s the background? I think I’m not getting enough light, which is partly because I make the drinks and take the photos at night. Maybe I need to start drinking in the middle of the day . . .

  9. LizNo Gravatar says:

    3 parts Boodles Gin + 1 part Boisierre Vermouth = Martini Perfection.

  10. BearNo Gravatar says:

    A Vesper (3 parts gin — I like Plymouth for this –, 1 part vodka, 1/2 part Lillet blanc, very very cold, with a twist of lemon) is a nice introduction to gin for those who are wary of it but are still willing to try it. The vodka dilutes the juniper a bit, and the Lillet sweetens the whole drink just a touch. There’s no hiding the gin, but at the same time it’s quite inoffensive, and it’s 2/3 of the volume of the drink.

  11. napplegateNo Gravatar says:

    I treat converting people to gin as almost a personal mission. I’ve served many a richmond gimlet to convert but lately my weapon of choice has been basil, syrups and fruit-infused gin cocktails. As Jeff said I’ve noticed the same abhorrence to ‘wetter’ martinis due to the vermouth not the gin. As a barman I find that most of this is due to the fact that people are tuned to this way of thinking for two reason.Drinkers are generally sheep and have grown to assume that martinis aren’t supposed to have any vermouth or very little for that matter. Most bars I enter (save cocktail bars obviously) have no idea that a bottle of vermouth is quite different from a bottle of 80 proof and that it has a lifespan. I know there are many bars (and home bars) that have bottles of vermouth that may have sat there for 6 months to 2 years after open unrefrigerated. Consuming a drink with this product would not only be unpleasant to a seasoned cocktailian but quite a bad experience for someone already slighted towards vermouth. As far as my favorite gin to play with in regards to ‘converting’ someone over I would say it’s the cocktail and not the product that does the trick. Personally I greatly dislike Hendrick’s Gin but adore Martin Miller’s so that is generally my go-to product.

  12. AKio KatanoNo Gravatar says:

    You left out one gin cocktail with nigh-universal appeal: The Martinez. I’ve gotten whiskey-only friends to branch out with that one.

  13. SaraNo Gravatar says:

    It would be a bold gin to begin with, but I’ve recently fallen in love with Aviation Gin. It’s what they’re calling a New Western Dry Gin, made here in the Pacific Northwest. The juniper is definitely on stage, and it still plays a leading role, but it’s not all diva about it. The taste the lavender stands out for me (think: supporting actress who steals the show), which I’m looking forward to playing with in a variety of cocktails (once I get over how interesting a combination it is for a dirty martini… yum!).

  14. TiareNo Gravatar says:

    Many people here drinks gin,its something we grow up with along with vodka and the starter gins here are Beefeater and Gordons, and then Bombay, and what people here drink a lot of is gin and tonic.

  15. MorganNo Gravatar says:

    I like your style

    needless to say there is no need to convince me to like gin, and I have also been making it a personal mission of my own to convert my friends into liking it as well. These mixes should work wonderfully.

  16. BethanyNo Gravatar says:

    Although I’m not a huge gin fan, I absolutely love a good Tom Collins or Raspberry Collins. I find the gin-and-fruit combination makes anti-gin drinkers ease up, because it tastes less pine-y. :)

  17. SusanNo Gravatar says:

    Personally, I believe a fresh squeezed gimlet made with Martin Miller’s Gin is one of the best tasting cocktails out there. Besides being a classic and easy to make, I find that it never fails to win over every self professed “non gin drinker”.

  18. RickNo Gravatar says:

    John, What’s your recipe for the Coffee Cocktail? Getting squeamish people to try egg in their cocktails is simple. Don’t tell them it has egg in it. I’ve seen it called “risky” recently to consume raw egg, but that’s just ignorance. That’s like saying it’s “risky” to step outside or get in your car, things you do everyday and without thinking. Sorry, I realize I’m preaching to the choir :)

    Nathan, I haven’t tried Krahn gin yet. Is it available in PA yet or are you talking about the little samples?

    Rowen, Negronis are what got your roommate liking gin? Wacky awesome.

    seezee, Knowing whether to use apricot brandy or eau de vie is always a challenge and needs to be considered for each cocktail you make. Digging up the history of the drink is probably more work than you’d like to put in every time you want to make a drink, so just make two and see which you like better. You may be able to get Rothman and Winter Orchard Apricot, which is a tasty apricot brandy. Marie Brizard is becoming harder and harder to find.
    Jeff, Enjoying such a strong flavor as whiskey yet being turned off by gin seems strange to me, but then again I’m pretty close to being a non-taster. I’ve definitely had a list of converts to vermouth simply by letting them taste one that’s fresh. “Oh, I thought vermouth sucked? You mean it’s just a distilled wine? Oh!” Also, shoot me an email and we can discuss the photography.

    AKio, Great suggestion with the Martinez. It’s such a fine drink, and an easy sell for whiskey drinkers.

  19. DanNo Gravatar says:

    Most freinds of mine,save one, think it’s very strange that I’m 21 and order Gin and Tonics at every bar that we go to. Most of them drink the dreaded vodka, or whiskey. (I do like whiskey) And yet I love gin cocktails. Especially Gin and Tonics. My favorite would deffinatly have to be The Botanist. (Order online 35$) But I usually go with Beefeater or Tanguray. I have made gimlets for my freinds and they do like them. But it’s hard to get anyone to drink G&Ts with me. I guess to each their own. But I just don’t understand how people can drink vodka over gin. (Except Bloody Marys) Do you think it’s weird that I love Gin and Tonics at such a young age? And email me if you want a really good blackberry, gin, cocktail. Cheers!?????

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