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How to Make a Jasmine, the Delicious Gin and Campari Cocktail That Give You a Gentle Kick

Despite what you’ll read more or less everywhere, the Jasmine cocktail has nothing to do with the Cosmopolitan.

The two drinks are directly compared so often you’d think they were siblings. Most of the articles you’ll read about the Jasmine will tell you that it’s the Cosmo’s “tart and bitter cousin” or that you can “think of it as a next generation Cosmopolitan” or that “it’s the Cosmo for grown-ups,” when honestly, it’s none of those things. Yes, both call for a red ingredient that makes the resulting cocktail kind of pink, but expecting cranberry juice and getting Campari is like expecting Barney the Friendly Dinosaur and instead getting an actual dinosaur. It’s more than just a difference of degree.

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Paul Harrington never set out to invent a modern classic cocktail. He was just a bright young man tending bar outside of San Francisco in the early 1990s, but a couple introductions to the work of legendary New York bartender Dale DeGroff—one with a chef who was familiar with the classics DeGroff was resurrecting, and one chance encounter with the man himself—inspired Harrington to dig into dusty old cocktail books, diving into the all-but-lost cocktail secrets from the previous century.

Somewhere in the ‘90s—accounts differ on precisely when, some say the mid-90s, others say 1992 or 1993 or also maybe 1990, but in any case, before almost anyone was making proper cocktails west of the Hudson River—Harrington was working at a place called Townhouse, rediscovering classic cocktails and making them for his regulars. One day, a friend of his named Matt Jasmin came in and asked him to “make me something you’ve never made before.” Harrington had been recently enjoying the Pegu Club cocktail, a classic made of gin, orange liqueur, lime, and bitters, and in a flash of insight, cooked up a version that dialed back the liqueur, changed citrus fruits, and traded Angostura Bitters for a healthy splash of the Italian bitter liqueur Campari. It was citrussy and refreshing with a textured, bitter edge. “Congratulations,” he remembers an early regular saying, “you’ve invented grapefruit juice.”

Jasmin liked it enough, so Harrington named it the Jasmine, what he believed at the time to be the spelling of his friend’s name. The Jasmine’s path to fame is long and circuitous (it has been tirelessly reported by Robert Simonson and far too long to recapitulate here) but the point is that it has earned its place in the pantheon of modern classics, not by being featured in a movie or amplified on TikTok, but on account of its sheer tastiness and versatility. The Jasmine is an electric and delicious drink, and a great introduction to the polarizing bitterness of Campari. Most cocktails with Campari tend to be either intense and boozy, like a Negroni or Rosita, or tropical and juicy, like a Bitter Piña Colada or the Jungle Bird. The Jasmine is neither—it’s bright and approachable but unmistakably adult, with the prickly gin and the bitter Campari giving identity to what is otherwise a simple, orange-tinged sour.

You can think of the Jasmine like a Pegu Club with an herbal edge, or you could think of it as a sour take on a Pink Gin, or as a piney and bitter Lemon Drop, or even an orange-tinged refreshing Negroni of sorts. The one thing it’s not is a Cosmopolitan. It doesn’t taste anything like a Cosmopolitan.

Jasmine

  • 1.5 oz. gin

  • 0.25 oz. simple syrup

  • 0.25oz. orange Liqueur

  • 0.25 oz. Campari

  • 0.75 oz. lemon juice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake hard for eight to 10 seconds. Strain off the ice into a coupe or cocktail glass, and garnish with an orange peel.

NOTES ON INGREDIENTS

Beefeater London Dry Gin
Beefeater London Dry Gin

Gin: The core flavors of this drink are, as mentioned, the gin and the Campari, so it’s at its best when the gin has a bold juniper presence. This is easy enough—certainly newer brands can feature this, like the solid and high-functioning Ford’s Gin, for example, but the ubiquitous London Dry classics like Tanqueray and Beefeater also work brilliantly. Softer gins, while great for other applications, are a little too soft for this.

Simple Syrup: I’ve added simple syrup, just a touch, to the recipe. The above without simple syrup is indeed the “official” recipe, the one that Harrington created all those years ago and what you’ll read in most write-ups of the drink. The problem is that it’s way too tart. A quarter ounce each of Campari and orange liqueur isn’t nearly enough sweetness to balance a full 0.75oz of lemon, which is not my opinion so much as established mixological fact (writers and journalists tend to give outsized deference to original recipes, outdated or unbalanced though they may be). Nonetheless, this cocktail needs simple syrup, which is equal parts sugar and water, stirred until the sugar dissolves. Honestly, it’s still a bit tart even with the above simple syrup, but it’s the tart end of acceptable, where without it it’s plainly not.

Orange Liqueur: Here I’m a bit torn. This feels like it was developed for triple-sec, the clear type of orange liqueur, that comes with a pure orange flavor and makes a Jasmine that’s as clean as a whistle. Of these, Cointreau and Combier are the gold standards, and when I make Jasmines, I usually make them with one of these. That said, the brandy influence from a curacao, like Grand Marnier or Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, brought a welcome oak and vanilla influence alongside the orange, and makes the cocktail richer and fuller, with more meat on the bones. I like them both, they’re just very different. Feel free to choose your own adventure.

Campari: There are mixological impulses to increase the Campari here, but it becomes too assertive in a hurry (and that’s coming from someone who loves Campari). Keep to the 0.25 oz. A gentle touch is all you need.

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