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Best Cocktail Recipes for Gin Lovers

Updated on May 2, 2014
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Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home." She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated."

Bitter Bees Cocktail
Bitter Bees Cocktail | Source

Bitter Bees Cocktail

The sun was dipping below the horizon as we rode toward Scottsdale, its last rays casting a rosy glow on the desert sky. A cozy patio table for 4 awaited us at “The Mission”, our favorite Mexican fusion restaurant, and we anticipated a special dinner with our dear, lifelong friends.

Although the restaurant was crowded, once we were seated in the gathering twilight, the din of fellow patrons gradually faded into the background. We merrily chatted our way through an appetizer of tableside guacamole and mulled over the direction of our lives as we lingered over a frosty gin cocktail. The briskly bitter, refreshing lightness of the beverage was the perfect counterbalance to our heavy appetizer.

I was so impressed by the main course that I hardly remember what our friends ordered. The waiter sat before me a duck confit that was caramelized to perfection and nestled on a bed of pureed white beans. Sprinkled with a crunchy concoction of roasted peanuts and guajillo chilies, it caressed my palate with smoke and salt.

As we returned to Phoenix under the cover of darkness, comfortably full and contented, we discussed the refreshing cocktail we had enjoyed. An amalgam of good gin, fresh grapefruit juice and basil, it was aptly named “Bitter Bees”. Our friend Joe went to work in the following weeks to duplicate the restaurant’s recipe. After much trial and error, this is his copycat version of The Mission´s fabulous gin cocktail. Every time I have a sip of a Bitter Bees it takes me back to that memorable patio dinner with our friends. We have also included two variations of this light summer cocktail just to switch things up.

The Mission restaurant
The Mission restaurant | Source


  • For best flavor, use a good quality gin such as Hendrick's, Beefeater or Grey Goose.
  • If you have simple syrup, it can substitute for the agave. You won't have to heat it up in the microwave, either.
  • Squeeze your own grapefruit juice or buy a quality brand such as "Simply Grapefruit"

5 stars from 2 ratings of Bitter Bees Cocktail

Bitter Bees Cocktail

Prep time: 10 min
Ready in: 10 min
Yields: 2 Bitter Bees cocktails


  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4-6 basil leaves, torn in small pieces
  • 3/4 cup good gin
  • 1/4-1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice, to taste
  • 2-4 cups ice


  1. Combine agave and water in a microwave safe dish. Microwave 15 seconds, until agave dissolves into the water.
  2. Pour agave mixture into a martini shaker. Add torn basil leaves and muddle.
  3. Add ice, gin and juice and shake well. Pour through strainer if you don't want the basil leaves.
  4. Enjoy!

Bitter Bees Fizz


  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4-6 basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup good gin
  • 1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2-4 cups ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup tonic water


  1. Combine water and agave in a microwave safe dish. Microwave 15 seconds to dissolve agave.
  2. Pour agave mixture into a martini shaker. Muddle the basil leaves into the agave.
  3. Add ice, gin and juice. Shake well.
  4. Top with tonic water and serve.

Bitter Bees Blush


  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4-6 basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup good gin
  • 1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 cup seltzer
  • 1 tablespoon Campari
  • 2-4 cups ice cubes


  1. Heat water and agave in microwave for 15 seconds, or until agave dissolves.
  2. Pour agave mixture into a martini shaker. Muddle basil leaves in the shaker.
  3. Add gin, juice, Campari and ice. Shake well.
  4. Top with seltzer and pour into glasses.

Did You Know?

Although gin is the national spirit of England, it actually originated in Holland where it was invented to cure stomach complaints. The resulting tonic was called "Genever". Gin is always flavored with juniper, but beyond that any combination of flavorings can be added. A bottle of gin is like a snowflake: each brand sparkles uniquely amongst the sea of gin labels. Botanic flavors can include cucumber and rose, lavender, lemongrass and black pepper, tea leaves, coriander, lemon or orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, angelica, cardamom, etc. Gin shines when used in cocktails because its complexity comes to life when combined with other liquors that bring out its nuances of flavor. Martinis were originally made with gin, not vodka.

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