Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa.

As we prepare for a warm weather, right after a major dumping of spring snow (gotta love Vermont, right?), I tend to gravitate toward more refreshing beverages, ones that are thirst-quenching and invigorating at the same time.

Let’s face it: Yard work is not always easy, and when you’re working in 80-degree weather, nothing says summer like some classic cocktails. Mojitos, margaritas, daiquiris, and coladas are the order of the day, but nothing quite says spring and summer to me like the gin and tonic.

It was first introduced in India by the British East India Company in the 18th century. Tonic contains quinine, which is made artificially but was sourced from the bark of the Cinchona tree. It has pain-killing and fever-reducing properties, but is extremely bitter in nature. To mitigate the bitterness, the British added their beloved gin to make it more palatable.

Tracing its origins all the way back past the 10th century, gin is a neutral spirit that’s principal flavoring agent is juniper berries. Juniper berries were recognized as possessing medicinal properties by Italian monks, and in some cases were used to treat bubonic plague (though not effectively). Gin is most commonly found in a London dry form, though there are several other legal styles of gin. London dry is perhaps one of the most popular because of the citrusy notes that accompany it. London dry’s flavor is derived from the addition of lemon and bitter orange peels and may include herbs and spices, such as anise, angelica root, cinnamon, licorice, lime peel, grapefruit peel, saffron, coriander, nutmeg — the list goes on.

Ever wonder why Bond said he wanted his martinis shaken, not stirred? Vodka martinis are fine shaken, but you should always stir a gin martini. (For those of you who didn’t know, the original martini was made with gin). Shaking gin bruises the fruit of the juniper berry, and it “deadens” the drink and eliminates the liveliness of the flavors.

I’m a big gin and tonic fan. Let’s just get that out there now. If I had one drink to live with for the rest of my life, Tanqueray and Tonic would be my life-long companion (besides my wife, of course). With the flavors of Juniper prominent and the refreshing taste of botanicals, it’s my No. 1 go-to beverage for the warmer months (plus, I’ll never get malaria).

With that said, I’ve recently found a new gin that is pretty interesting, refreshing and quite different. For those of you who like the subtle flavor of cucumbers, try Hendrick’s. One of the only gins — if not the only gin — distilled in Scotland, this gin has a very slight nuance of cucumber that’s refreshing but subtle. Try the following cocktail with a little twist this weekend while the heat is on. I think you’ll find it as refreshing a beverage as any you’ll find, and you’ll be safe from malaria. Enjoy!

The Hendrick’s Tonic
1 ½ oz. Hendrick’s Gin
½ oz. St. Germaine
8 oz. tonic water (I prefer the small bottles of Schweppes as tonic can lose its fizz quickly)

Combine all ingredients in a Collins glass. Garnish with a cucumber slice.