Locally distilled gin offers a tantalizing taste of Northern Michigan terroir. Lavender buds picked from glowing purple fields in Antrim or Emmet Counties provide a sweet floral undertone. Spruce tips, jack pine seed and juniper berries invoke the essence of a pine forest warmed by September sunlight. Savory herbs like sage leaf and coriander channel the farm plots and herb gardens sown throughout Leelanau County.

Gin, made by macerating and distilling botanicals in a neutral grain base (read vodka), is arguably the most intellectual of the clear spirits and manifold flavors make up the base for hundreds of classic and modern cocktails. With the craft spirits craze at full steam, Northern Michigan’s microdistilleries are harnessing field and forest to distill small batch gins of world-class quality.

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Northern Michigan Gin

Grand Traverse Distillery, Barrel-Finished Gin
This take on the barrel-aged style of gin known as Old Tom utilizes a blend of seven botanicals. The finished spirit ages for six months in rye and bourbon barrels, where it assumes smoothness and a subtle whiskey soul.

Mammoth Distilling, Old Dam Gin
High tone floral notes underpinned with conifer, citrus peel and sage dominate Mammoth’s Old Dam Gin.

Civilized Spirits, Gin
Civilized’s hoochmeister, Mike Hall, riffs on the light, bright, juniper-driven “London Dry” style of gin with a pure, precise spirit well suited to classic martinis.

Northern Latitudes Distillery, Jack Pine Gin
Jack pine seeds from the forests of Leelanau County add a distinct piney edge counterbalanced with sweet lavender notes.

Iron Fish Distillery, Michigan Woodland Gin
Concolor Fir sprigs and a balanced juniper infusion bring a complex forest essence to Iron Fish’s Woodland Gin.

Ethanology, Eros Summer Gin
Eros is Latin for forager, fitting as this is the first gin in Michigan to utilize 100 percent wild-foraged native botanicals. Eros has a complex nose of citrus and light conifer with a tinge of pepper to keep things interesting.

Rose 75

Classic Gin Cocktails

Celebrate summer’s end with local gin mixed in these simple classic cocktails. Thanks to Poppycocks for sharing their recipes!

Poppycocks’ Rose 75 Gin Cocktail

  • 2 ounces Hendrick’s gin (or your favorite local gin)
  • 1 ounce rose syrup (recipe below)
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 ounce cucumber juice
  • 1 ounce M. Lawrence Green sparkling wine
  • 2 drops rose water

Shake gin, rose syrup and lemon juice. Pour into cocktail glass, with ice. Top with sparkling wine. Layer cucumber juice and drop of rose water.

Rose Syrup (make ahead of time) 

  • 2 cups dried food-grade rose petals
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups sugar

Place all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Cool for 24 hours then strain. Refrigerate. Discard rose petals.

Cucumber Gin Spritzer 

  • 3 ounces local gin
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 3 slices cucumber
  • Club soda
  • Slice of lime
  • Slice of cucumber

Add gin, lime juice and cucumber to cocktail shaker, muddle, add ice and shake thoroughly. Strain cocktail into an ice-filled old fashioned glass garnished with lime and cucumber slice.

Gin & Tonic

Classic Gin & Tonic

  • 2 ounces Knickerbocker Gin, New Holland Artisan Spirits
  • 4–6 ounces Fever-Tree Tonic
  • Lime slice. A good juicy one.

Gin Martini

  • 2 1/2 ounces local gin
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • Dash of orange bitters
  • Lemon twist

Add gin, vermouth and bitters to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Stir (or shake) vigorously until chilled. Strain into chilled martini glass and garnish with lemon twist.

More Cocktail Inspiration

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner