Here are three cocktails that embrace gin’s Christmas-tree side.

By Carey Jones and John D. McCarthy
Updated December 23, 2019
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We’ve heard it over and over: drinkers describing gin as having the scent “of a Christmas tree.” And, sure, we get it. The spirit’s piney, herbal character can recall that unmistakable aroma.

So why not embrace gin’s Christmasy side? We often reach for our trusty bottle of gin in the summertime, when a stiff pour of the spirit with tonic is the ideal end to a steamy day. But gin works just as well in winter cocktails, and in these three drinks, we’re really playing up its piney flavors.

Carey Jones

While a classic gin like Beefeater or Tanqueray would work in any of these cocktails, we’re using The Botanist, which has a lovely complexity, but still retains an essential, well, ginny-ness. Grab the bottle of your choice and enjoy.

Easy: Cranberry & Pine

Carey Jones

Gin and fruit always work well together, so let’s bring in some seasonal flavors. A hundred percent cranberry juice—unsweetened, with no ingredients on the label but “cranberry,” rather than Cran-Raz or whatever Ocean Spray makes these days—is puckery-tart, adding a welcome burst of acidity to cocktails. Balance out with honey and orange bitters, and you’ve got a wintery drink that shows off the tart berry and herbal gin in equal measure.

Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce and a half of gin, an ounce and a half of 100% cranberry juice, a quarter-ounce of fresh lemon juice, and an ounce of honey syrup—that’s equal parts honey and hot water, stirred until dissolved. Add a dash of orange bitters. Shake until well-chilled, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a few thin lemon slices and a few cranberries, if you like.

Intermediate: Mandarin Gimlet

Carey Jones

Clementines, mandarins, tangerines—you see bags of the adorable orange citrus everywhere, this time of year. And if you’ve got too many to eat, why not juice ‘em, as the starring ingredient of a cocktail? Cut those little guys in half, and squeeze with a hand juicer; add gin and sugar and you’ve got yourself a drink. The juicy citrus feels fresh and festive, while the piney gin cuts right through.

Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce and a half of gin, an ounce of mandarin juice, half an ounce of fresh lime juice, and ¾ ounce simple syrup. Shake until well-chilled, then strain into a tulip glass or coupe. Garnish with a mandarin segment.

Advanced: Christmas Tree Martini

Carey Jones

This drink shows how a garnish can truly define the whole character of a drink. We’re starting with a standard gin martini. Then add few winter tweaks: Angostura bitters bring an elusive hint of spice, and a higher-than-usual ratio of vermouth to gin keeps the drink on the lighter side.

But let’s get to the garnish. Here’s the first bartender tip: Before you garnish with a stalk of rosemary, clap it firmly between your palms. That’ll break up some of the cellular structure and give you a much stronger scent. That rosemary amplifies the herbaceous qualities of the gin, shaping your perception of the cocktail.

And if you’re feeling adventurous, light the rosemary on fire for an even more intense aroma. Just run a lighter or match over the end until it flames, and you’ll unleash a powerful scent that’ll perfume the whole room.

Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine an ounce and a half of gin, an ounce of dry vermouth, and half an ounce of simple syrup. Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Stir until very well-chilled, then strain into a chilled martini glass or coupe. Garnish with a stalk of rosemary, clapping it between your palms to release its fragrance.

If you like a smokier, more intense aroma, light just the tip of the rosemary stalk with a lighter before serving, just so the tips catch fire for a moment; the scent is amazing.