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Gin it to win it

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    Cool drinks for summer: A French 75 mixes gin with sparkling wine.
    Gin is in for summer sipping.
    Maria Burke muddles (crushes) raspberries for a berry-flavored Tom Collins.
    Kyle Reutner offers a toast with a tall, pink glass of Watermelon Fizz, flavored with elderflower.
    Joey Gottesman tops his French 75 with sparkling wine.
    Titus Nakagawa strains his Remedy cocktail into a glass rimmed with brown sugar.
    Cool drinks for summer: Top, Maria Burke of the Manifest with her Raspberry Tom Collins.
    Cool drinks for summer: Above, thirtyninehotel’s Watermelon Fizz.

Now more than ever, the emphasis in local cocktail culture is all about the quality and freshness of ingredients being used behind the bar. Green bottles and chilled shots are still the norm at many Honolulu watering holes, but savvy sippers are starting to search out bartenders who have built reputations for serving tasty libations that push the limits of our palates.

Four such individuals — the Manifest’s Maria Burke, Better Brands’ Joey Gottesman, Remedy’s Titus Nakagawa and thirtyninehotel’s Kyle Reutner — agreed to provide the Honolulu Star-Advertiser with their personal picks for summer 2010. Surprisingly, all four reached for bottles of gin.

"When you think summertime, you want to drink something refreshing, not something that makes you full," said Gottesman, who spends most of his time these days helping local bars and restaurants develop their beverage programs. "Not everybody wants to drink 14 to 20 ounces of something blended."

Burke said she also enjoys something light when drinking during the daylight hours. For her, gin is a liquor "of old" that many underestimate when it comes to making cocktails.

"I just think that people don’t know that they like gin," she said. "The thing with gin is, you can substitute it into a lychee martini or a cosmo and you don’t even realize you’re drinking it.

"It feels very luxurious, but at the same time it’s light and makes you happy!"

Of the four bartenders, only Reutner decided to make his drink without using Bombay Sapphire. Like any other liquor, different brands have different qualities, and he wanted something that went a little better with the ingredients he wanted to use.

"Plymouth is a kind of underrated English gin," he said. "It’s just a different style … (and) there’s only one place that makes it.

"It’s a bit smoother and more citrus-forward, which is why it works well with the watermelon and lemon in my drink — but it also makes a great martini."


Try one of these recipes for a refreshing daytime drink with just the right amount of punch. Not into gin? Joey Gottesman provides an alternative cocktail recipe using coconut and basil at

Joey Gottesman, Better Brands: "When you look at the mixer-to-alcohol ratio, this is refreshing, it’s fortified and it’s just screaming, ‘Summer!’ This is also something you can make in a punchbowl so you’re set for success at your next party."


1 ounce Bombay Sapphire gin
2 ounces homemade sweet and sour (see glossary for recipe)
2 ounces sparkling wine
Lemon twist for garnish

Fill Collins glass (approximately 10 ounces) with ice. Add liquor and sweet and sour. Top with champagne.

Stir lightly and add lemon twist.

Titus Nakagawa, Remedy: "This is my own recipe. When I think of summertime cocktails, I think sweet, refreshing, vivacious. This one is actually Asian-inspired, with hints of vanilla that cater to desserts like apple pie. It’s perfect for summer."


3/4 ounce Bombay Sapphire gin
1/4 ounce De Canton Ginger liqueur
1/4 ounce Stolichnaya Vanilla vodka
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 drop vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
Dash bitters
5 to 7 sage leaves
Soda water
Splash of lemon-lime soda

Combine alcohol, lemon juice, vanilla extract, brown sugar and bitters in pint glass full of ice.

Tear up sage leaves and add to glass. Cover glass and shake vigorously.

Rim another pint glass with brown sugar and fill with ice. Strain contents of first glass into second. Fill with soda water. Add splash of lemon-lime soda.

Stir lightly. Garnish with sage leaf.

Maria Burke, The Manifest: "The first thing I thought … was, ‘On a superhot summer day … what do I want to drink?’ And this is exactly what I’d want."


Juice of 1 lemon
2 ounces simple syrup (see glossary for recipe)
5 ripe raspberries
1-1/4 ounces Bombay Sapphire gin

Moscato sparkling wine (substitute with champagne or soda water, according to taste)

Squeeze lemon juice into tall glass and combine with simple syrup.

Drop in raspberries and muddle. Add gin and ice.

Shake a few times in cocktail shaker or "roll" (pour back and forth) between two glasses.

Top with Moscato or other bubbles. Garnish with a mint sprig and raspberry.

Note: Add a dash of egg white (pasteurized, prepackaged egg whites work fine) to the glass before mixing for a slightly different texture.

Kyle Reutner, thirtyninehotel: "Anywhere you go, any country that drinks any amount of gin, they’re gonna drink it during the summer. It’s really as simple as that. Gin is the summer drink."


2 to 4 pieces watermelon, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon water
2 ounces Plymouth gin
1 tablespoon St. Germain elderflower liqueur or elderflower syrup
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Soda water

Place all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake very hard. Pour directly into glass.

Note: Sparkling water, club soda or lemon-lime soda can be substituted for soda water.

Nutritional information unavailable.


» Muddling: The process of lightly smashing fruit (or other ingredients) in a cocktail mixing glass in order to release its flavors and essence into a drink. Using a muddling stick (or flat side of a spoon), gently press on the fruit to break it down into smaller chunks.

» Simple syrup: Add two parts sugar to one part water in a pot and bring to a boil. Once the sugar has dissolved completely, remove pot from heat and allow to cool. Once bottled, simple syrup can last up to six months in the fridge.

» Sweet and sour: Add the juice of three lemons to 3 ounces of simple syrup in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a container. Once stored in the fridge, homemade sweet and sour can last up to three days — add water to taste for delicious lemonade.


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