Forgotten Gin Cocktails: The Gin Sour, The Fitzgerald, The Aviation & The Casino

Some of the tastiest cocktails (think the martini, the Manhattan, the margarita) are also the simplest. At a time when it's not unusual to walk into a cocktail bar and see drinks with seven or eight ingredients on the menu, it can be refreshing to look back to the simpler drinks of a bygone era. Here are four cocktails, all variations on the humble gin sour, that thrilled pre-Prohibition drinkers with their simple elegance.

First up: the gin sour. Three ingredients: lemon, sugar, and gin, in perfect balance.

The Gin Sour

makes 1 cocktail

2 oz gin
.75 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
.75 oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice; shake and strain into a cocktail glass.

You can completely alter the character of this drink by adding one tiny thing: a few dashes of bitters. With the addition of the bitters, it's a Fitzgerald; obviously a cousin of the gin sour, but a bit deeper, richer, and more grown-up.

The Fitzgerald

makes 1 cocktail

2 oz gin
.75 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
.75 oz simple syrup
2 dashes angostura bitters

Now, if we were to take the original gin sour and substitute lime juice for the lemon, then we would have a gimlet (which will be discussed in some detail next week). But what about altering the sweetening agent? Switch the simple syrup out for maraschino liqueur (and add just a bit of creme de violette), and you have an Aviation. The violette makes for a drink that's a bit of an odd color - it has a sort of greyish-blue tinge - but is still utterly delightful. Light, balanced, and delicately floral, it almost dances across the palate. There are all sorts of recipes for this cocktail across the internet, but these are the proportions I prefer.

The Aviation

makes 1 cocktail

2 oz gin
.75 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
.5 oz maraschino liqueur
.25 oz creme de violette

And lastly, my personal favorite: the Casino. The Casino is an Aviation, sans violette, and with the addition of orange bitters. Honestly, the word that popped into my mind to describe this drink when I first tasted it was "bouncy." The orange bitters bring out the cheerful side of the maraschino liqueur - it's like something you remember from childhood, but impossibly sophisticated.

The Casino

makes 1 cocktail

2 oz gin
.75 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
.5 oz maraschino liqueur
dash of orange bitters

Nancy Mitchell loves gin even more now. You can find more of her recipes on her blog, The Backyard Bartender.

(Images: Nancy Mitchell)

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