Explorations in Mixology Cocktails Drinking


TailspinWell, the holiday season is just around the corner! Too soon? Ok, then let’s have a little distraction before we deal with lots of food, family, gifts and snow. Today, we are stirring a drink called the Tailspin. This is a lovely, spirit-driven classic that follows the same formula as the Bijou cocktail, only instead of orange bitters, the Tailspin uses Campari.

A few things stand out here. First, this gin drink combines the three main ingredients in equal proportions. That makes it fast and easy to remember. The second is that as a gin drink, the gin is not the dominant flavor—not by a long shot. As such, we prefer the spirit to play its supporting role without distracting us with intense juniper. Modern dry gins work well, but we usually reach for Plymouth.

1 oz gin
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz Green Chartreuse
1 dash Campari

Add ingredients to a mixing glass and stir with ice. When properly chilled, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry and lemon twist.

If you aren’t familiar with the Bijou (or the Bourbon Bijou for that matter) you might be wondering about the Chartreuse. It’s a little expensive these days, but we can’t imagine our cabinet with out it. If you search the site here you will find lots of other drinks that call for Chartreuse, so there’s plenty of uses to justify buying some. Chartreuse comes in two versions: Green and Yellow. For this and most other recipes you need Green Chartreuse. Go ahead and splurge for the Yellow too if you like, but if you can only justify one bottle, let it be Green.

Your sweet vermouth should be fresh for this and any drink that calls for it. You are keeping your vermouth in the refrigerator, right? If not, it’s best to pick up a new bottle. Most vermouth is inexpensive, and this will give you an opportunity to do a little side-by-side taste test between an old bottle and a new one. We like Cinzano sweet vermouth because it is bold and delicious without a big price tag. Some like to think of it as poor-man’s Carpano Antica Formula. You could also buy Carpano Antica which is so good we could drink it all by itself.

The final ingredient that sets this drink apart from the Bijou is Campari. The recipe calls for just a dash which can be hard to pour from the bottle. You could add a partial spoon full, or just do what we do and pour a splash into a chilled cocktail glass, swirl it around and dump it out. What remains will scent and flavor the whole drink. Campari is quite bitter, but this small amount will merely temper some of the sweetness from the other ingredients adding a bit of herbal and citrus bite.

This is a strong drink. It’s boozy like a Manhattan but because it’s gin-based it seems lighter. It is also intensely herbal from the Chartreuse—an effect we think is wonderful. You really shouldn’t skip the garnish, or if you need to cut corners, don’t lose the lemon peel. Lemon adds another dimension that the cherry won’t, but who doesn’t like a delicious cocktail cherry?

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Michael Meyers
Michael Meyers
8 years ago

I revisited this drink a couple times recently and I prefer it with what I believe to be the more commonly specified 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of Campari. I’ve always been a big fan of the Bijou, as well. However, it got me thinking that this build just screams out for a rye whiskey base. So a few days ago I dragged my Green Chartreuse and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino into one of my local hangouts and the bartender and I spun up a Tailspin and a second version substituting Michter’s straight rye for the gin. While I liked them… Read more »