I never liked gin until a few years ago when I was on a two-week holiday and it was the only thing we had to drink. And, since it was a family holiday, I really needed a drink. By the end of the holiday I was a gin fan (deprivation of other forms of alcohol + excess family time will do that to you) and I haven’t looked back since.
One of the first gin-based cocktails I learned to make was a gin fizz. I found the recipe in Stephanie Alexander’s amazing book The Cook’s Companion (Penguin Group Australia, 2004), which should be required reading for anyone who eats food. If you haven’t got a copy, you can usually get it here. Along with a massive number of recipes, the book provides alphabetical listings of various ingredients and how to use them. So if you have, say, loads of lemons that need to be used up, turn to the “L” section and voila, there are recipes for lemon tart, lemon curd, lemon delicious pudding…you get the idea. It was while browsing through such recipes, trying to work out what I would do with a kilo of lemons I’d just been given, that the gin fizz recipe caught my eye. It seemed like a much better use of lemons than any of the other recipes, primarily because it involved gin. I’m probably risking copyright infringement by reprinting the recipe here. Stephanie, if you’re reading this, please don’t sue me. I need all my money for gin. Thank you.
STEPHANIE’S GIN FIZZ
Shake 45 ml gin with 1 tablespoon pure icing sugar, several mint leaves and the juice of 1 lemon over several ice cubes in a shaker. Strain into a long glass and fill with soda water.
‘But hang on,’ I hear you say. ‘That’s not a new cocktail. Isn’t the point of 52 Cocktails to try out a new cocktail every week of the year? Why yes, it is. It says so right there at the top of the page. Harrumph!’
You’re right – there’s more to this story. And it does involve a new cocktail, I promise. Anyway, where were we? Oh yes.
I liked Stephanie’s gin fizz recipe. I liked it a lot. But I didn’t like having to look up the recipe in her mighty tome whenever I felt like drinking it, which was often. So I wrote the recipe on a bit of paper and stuck it to the fridge for easy reference.
Around this time, I’d also begun using sugar syrup in my drinks and tried using that instead of icing sugar in the gin fizz. It worked – although the taste and texture were different, it was still good. I scribbled ‘can use sugar syrup instead of icing sugar’ on the bit of paper on the fridge so I’d know for next time.
Fast-forward a few years and that bit of paper stuck to the fridge had been joined by lots of other bits of paper, all with cocktail recipes – and amendments to these recipes – scribbled on them. It was getting so you couldn’t see the numerous calendar magnets with real-estate agents’ heads on them that you always get in your letter box and that are never strong enough to hold anything to the fridge other than themselves. (There is probably a whole thesis in that, or at least a stoner-style chaos theory. What do these magnets represent – that real-estate agents want all your fridge real-estate to themselves? Or just that they use really shitty, cheap magnets because they know most people discard them immediately? Discuss.) It was time for drastic measures. No, not throwing out the real-estate magnets. We needed them for dart practice. It was time to Get Organised and Write All the Recipes Onto One Large Piece of Paper. In retrospect, it would probably have been smarter to do this while sober; that way, the recipes would probably have been copied out correctly, instead of into some kind of drunken shorthand.
Yep, you can see where this is going, can’t you.
After years and years of making gin fizzes according to the recipe on the One Large Bit of Paper….
After years of proudly offering them to friends, assuring them, ‘It’s a really gentle drink, it’s like lemonade, you can’t get wasted on a gin fizz…’….
After years of non-gin-drinkers saying, ‘Oh, this is nice, I can barely taste the gin in it. It’s really refreshing.’…
I’ve just discovered that my tried-and-true gin fizz recipe is WRONG.
After I breached copyright by typing out Stephanie’s recipe, I thought, ‘Hmm. 45ml of gin? Nah. A gin fizz is really gentle and refreshing. I’m sure I make them with 15ml of gin, because that is what it says to do on the One Large Piece of Paper. Maybe I have been reading it wrong all these years.’ So I checked. And the recipe written there says:
15ml lemon juice
10 ml sugar syrup
Shake all ingredients with ice in a shaker. Strain into a Champagne glass and top with soda.
And that is how I make my gin fizzes.
Really, REALLY weak.
Oh, and I serve them in a Champagne glass, not a long glass, because that seems classier….even if its contents are really, REALLY weak.
I have thoroughly bastardised a great recipe. I could cry with shame.
Except that I really, REALLY like my gin fizzes.
And so do all the people I serve them to. They’re fantastically refreshing on a hot day. You can start drinking them in the early afternoon and not feel like an alco because they’re so weak. The tartness of the lemon combines beautifully with the gin to create something like an adult lemonade. People who swear they hate gin like them. You can use a more expensive gin than the one you’d usually use in cocktails because you don’t need much of it (you can see in the photo that I used Tanqueray 10 in a recent round). Designated drivers can have at least one of these and not feel like they’re missing out on all the fun. And there’s a chance – just a chance – that when I wrote out the recipe, however incorrectly, I was trying to create a drink that would fit into a Champagne glass instead of into a long glass. After all, the recipe is (roughly) still in proportion – it’s just that it’s only one-third as strong as it ought to be. Which means you can drink three in a row and it really only counts as one cocktail. What’s not to like?
And that is where this rather lengthy transmission should end.
In regards to “What’s not to like?” 52 Cocktails’ CTO (Chief Tasting Officer) says, “Plenty.”
To quote: “I’m not sure you can have a drink with only half a shot in it and still call it a cocktail. No bar would serve something so weak. I think you could probably drink them on an AFD (alcohol-free day) and get away with it. Although apparently that’s their advantage…”
Bugger. Turns out my gin fizz is more of a gin fizzer.
Luckily, I have been playing around with my piss-weak recipe and have discovered it’s got more flavour if you use some orange juice in with the lemon. I made a massive batch for a party a few weeks ago and used about a third orange juice as I’d run out of lemons. But if you’re making just one gin fizz, this is particularly annoying to measure. Who the hell can be bothered squeezing an orange to use just 5ml of juice? Solution: make a big batch. You can share it with friends or drink it all yourself. It’s not that strong anyway, right?
ORANGE YOU GLAD YOU MADE A GIN FIZZ
This flavoursome thirst-quencher is great on a hot day. Serves 10 if you want a low-alcohol drink, or 5 if you want something stronger.
100ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
50ml orange juice, freshly squeezed
100ml sugar syrup
Soda, to top up
Put all ingredients except soda into a jug and stir to combine. (This can be done before your guests arrive.) When it’s time to serve, determine if your guest wants a low-alcohol or a ‘normal’ drink. For a low-alcohol drink, add 40ml of the above mixture to a cocktail shaker that’s half-full of ice. For a ‘normal’ drink, use 80ml of the mixture. Either way, shake the hell out of it, strain into a Champagne glass and top with soda.
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY
As easy as incorrectly copying out a recipe.