The Highly Refreshing Jean Genie

Susan Pagani / Heavy Table

Why is it that the people with the least navigational skill are also the least likely to stop and ask for directions or consult a map? I’m not one of those people, but in the not so distant past, I might have arrived very late to a Stitch ‘n’ Bitch type of event, restive and muttering terrible things like, “Damned inconvenient of you to live some place I can’t find.”

Our hostess, designer and artist Sarah Bartl, simply ignored my intemperate grumbles and handed me a Jean Genie, a remarkably refreshing, ginger-infused drink that soothed my traveling woes and put me back on track — perhaps never to stitch, but at least to provide pleasant company.

What is this drink, I wondered, as I polished off my pint glass with gusto and held it out for more.

At some point in the mysterious transition from spring to summer, Bartl and her husband Spencer had determined that winter was actually over and they should switch to something lighter than whiskey to mix with the house favorite Reed’s Ginger Brew ginger ale. Entranced by its well-appointed apothecary bottle and delightfully odds-bodkins website, they chose Hendrick’s Gin, which they soon discovered was even tastier with the mellow spice of Gosling’s Ginger Beer, and dubbed it “Jean Genie” for the eponymous David Bowie song. (Bartl is clear that one should not confuse the Jean Genie for a Gin Buck, which is made with ginger ale and has a silly name, or the Gin Genie, which is made with sloe gin: “Now, that is wicked stuff. You don’t have to drink it to be sick; all you have to do is smell it.”)

Susan Pagani / Heavy Table

They were pretty happy with the drink and would have stopped there had fate not intervened. One night, whilst dining at The Strip Club and craving the comfort of their now familiar cocktail, they asked bartender Dan Oskey if he would mind making a Jean Genie. “No problem,” he said, “but do you mind if I add a splash of elderflower liqueur?”

“And that was the magical moment,” says Bartl. “The Jean Genie was complete.”

If you mix this drink, you will discover that St-Germaine, the elderflower liqueur, is costly ($30 to $35), but worth it. You will truly add only a splash to each drink — otherwise, you might as well drink syrup — but that small amount smooths out the gin and ginger beer and adds a hard-to-place flavor, something akin to lychee nuts, lemons, and flowers. If that doesn’t tempt you, it has a cool story, involving giant sacks of wild elderflower blossoms carried down the French Alps on postcard-worthy bicycles ridden by elderly yet spry Frenchmen in wellies and wool caps. Also, every bottle is numbered and dated for the year the blossoms were plucked, which is always nifty.

In the end, this drink stole the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch, and we never did make anything — no, the once and future scarf project has stayed safely tucked in the knitting bag, but the Jean Genie has been a regular this summer, a new favorite drink.

Sarah Bartl’s Jean Genie

Serves one

1-2 oz gin
Ginger beer

1. In a highball glass with ice, mix gin and a splash of St-Germaine elderflower liqueur.

2. Top with ginger beer and swizzle well.

3. Garnish with a lime. Cheers!

Note: Sarah Bartl prefers Hendrick’s Gin, which has a lovely slightly sweet, very dry, herbal flavor, and Gosling’s Ginger Beer, all of which we have found, along with the St-Germaine, at Thomas Liquors and Haskell’s in St. Paul and at Skol Liquors in Minneapolis. Reed’s Ginger Brew ginger beer is also nice, and I sometimes enjoy the drink with the intense, rather woodsy juniper berry flavor of North Shore Gin No. 11.

Susan Pagani / Heavy Table


  1. Carolyn

    I wish the glass wasn’t tinted pink…throws off what the final product *should* look like.

  2. Susan

    Hi Carolyn,

    Good point! The drink will resemble whatever ginger beer you use, as it is the dominant liquid, the gin is clear, and only a tiny amount the elderflower liqueur is added. In this case, the drink had little discernible color; however, a homemade ginger beer rendered the drink a pale, rusty brown color.

  3. ElJay

    I went looking for St Germaine recently to add to another cocktail, and was hesitating over the price when I saw Thatcher’s Organics elderflower liqueur nearby on the shelf. It’s less than half the price of St Germaine. (So I bought the blood orange, too!) I haven’t done a side by side comparison, since I’d have to buy a bottle of St Germaine to do so, but it seems like an acceptable substitue for mixing. Maybe a hint more anise.

    This drink looks great, and I look forward to trying it. With my cheap, knock-off elderflower liqueur. ;)

  4. splatgirl

    Drinking one now–delicious! I had been pining for a bottle of St. Germain for various yummy sounding, summery cocktails for a while. This recipe pushed me over the edge.
    +1 for Hendricks, although I have just acquired a bottle of the locally produced and organic Farmers gin that could oust Hendricks as our house pour, but I haven’t tasted it yet. Hendricks bonus=they sell the big bottles at Costco.

  5. Raffe

    This looks wonderful! I have already discovered that gin (particularly Hendrick’s) and ginger beer are an excellent and oft-unknown combination. Now I’ll have to aquire a bottle of St. Germain and try this, too.

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