A customer at work recently asked me what my favorite gin was.
I was struck at first by the thought that this was a sort of strange question. People who like gin tend to really like gin, and usually already know what brands they like, and people who don’t like gin usually avoid it like the plague and couldn’t give half a crap what someone else’s favorite brand might be.
Once I answered her though, and explained why I liked that brand, I was struck by another thought. I haven’t had gin in a good long time.
Before I started drinking whiskey, gin was usually my liquor of choice. Even after I became a whiskey boy I still tended to drink gin in warmer summer months. Gin gimlets used to be my favorite easy summer cocktail, but that all changed when I developed a taste for tequila and discovered the Paloma.
This is making me sound like a terrible lush. I’m not. Moderation. It’s all about moderation… Also, variety is the spice of life, so there.
The answer to the favorite gin question, for those of you who might be wondering, is Hendrick’s. While it’s not the only gin I like, if I have to choose a favorite this would be it. Hendrick’s is a small batch gin made from a variety of herbs and botanicals, and along with the traditional juniper that gives gin its distinctive piney flavor, this gin is infused with rose petals and cucumber. The resulting gin is smooth and mild with a subtle juniper flavor, pleasant aromatics notes, and hints of cool cucumber and floral rose.
The use of high quality ingredients also prevents you from feeling like you’ve pickled your insides if you drink one (or two) too many cocktails.
With Hendrick’s on my mind I started thinking about the best gin cocktail I’ve ever had.
Right after college I moved to Ithaca, New York, and took a job waiting tables at a hip & modern restaurant called Olivia. Olivia’s sister restaurant, Stella’s, was a trendy late-night cocktail lounge in Ithaca’s “college town” neighborhood. My coworkers and I would frequently head to Stella’s for a drink after Olivia had closed for the night. Sometimes there’s nothing like a good drink with other waiters to help you wind down after a busy night.
One of my favorite and most frequently consumed cocktails was called the C.D. Rocktail, which was named after the bartender who created it. (Her initials are C.D.) I was no stranger to gin even then, but I was not familiar with Hendrick’s and had never tasted such a wonderfully refreshing gin cocktail before. Back then the craft cocktail trend was still in it’s formative years, and most of upstate New York hadn’t yet caught on. The mixologists at Stella’s knew what was up though and came up with more than a handful of recipes for some seriously tasty tipple.
The C.D. Rocktail was made by muddling cucumber & basil with lime juice and simple syrup, and topping it all off with gin and soda water. This potent potable is unbelievably fresh, summery, & refreshing; with a subtle sweetness and just a hint of effervescence. The cucumber helps to mellow out the gin’s bite, the basil imparts a pleasant herbal freshness, and lime sweetens and brightens everything up and ties the whole thing together.
I mean, this was almost ten years ago and I’m still thinking about this cocktail. It’s a Stellar (har har har) drink, and I’m sure you’re going to love it just as much as I do. Even if you’re not a huge gin lover, you should give this a try. The juniper piney flavor of gin is extremely subtle in this drink and only adds to it’s bright green summeriness.
When that customer asked about the gin and jolted my memory, I knew I had to try to recreate this cocktail. It’s been a looooong time since I’ve had one and I’d almost forgotten how much I loved them. The problem though, was that I couldn’t remember exactly what went into it. I knew it was Hendrick’s and I knew there were cucumbers and lime, but my memory failed me and I thought it was mint instead of basil, and forgot about the soda water. I also wasn’t sure how it all came together as, at the time, I was paying more attention to how they went down than how they were made. Although Olivia has since gone out of business, Stella’s is still open, but unfortunately, the C.D. Rocktail is no longer on the menu.
I’m still good friends with a lot of my former coworkers though, so I started asking around. No one had the recipe, but one of them is still in touch with the bartender who dreamed up this dreamy drink. So, she asked and a few days later the recipe was in my inbox. Or, at least, a list of ingredients was. Quantities and directions weren’t provided, so it took me a few tries to get it right, but if memory serves me this is pretty damn close to the way the original recipe tasted.
So, you should totally make this. I went to sooo much trouble to find and recreate the recipe for you. I had to drink multiple cocktails to get it right. This is the cross I bear in the name of blogging, so the least you can do it try it for yourself. And besides, the C.D. Rocktail is an unbelievably summery and refreshing drink and you’d be crazy not to make it.
the C.D. Rocktail
1/2 oz lime juice
4 – 5 fresh basil leaves
1/2 oz simple syrup *see note
2 oz good quality gin, preferably Hendrick’s
2 oz soda water
Muddle cucumber & basil in a cocktail shaker with lime juice & simple syrup. Take your time and get them real good and mashed up. Top with gin, add ice, and shake well. Strain into an 8- 10 oz glass filled with ice, and top with 2oz soda water.
Garnish with a slice of cucumber, if desired.
*note- simple syrup is crazy easy to make. Heat an equal amount of sugar and water, until sugar is completely dissolved. Cool. You’re done.