If you’re looking for an easy but unique gin-based drink, try the Army & Navy cocktail! This classic gin cocktail is tropical, nutty, sweet, and tart all at once and whips up in a flash.
In the market for a fun new gin cocktail? Then you have to give the Army & Navy a try! It’s a classic cocktail that combines gin, orgeat almond syrup, fresh lemon juice, and bitters for a tangy and refreshing drink. Essentially, it’s a spin on a gin sour that substitutes orgeat for simple syrup, which makes the final result more rich, nutty, and creamy. It’s spirit-forward while also being easy to sip on, so if you love a good shaken gin drink, prepare to have a new cocktail obsession!
Army & Navy Cocktail quick facts
- Level of difficulty: So easy! It’s a simple shaken cocktail with only a few ingredients, so anyone can make this drink.
- Number of ingredients: Four not including the optional garnish.
- Main spirit(s): Gin.
- Season or occasion: This is one of those easy drinking cocktails you can make anytime of year! That said, the citrus and gin make it wonderful for warmer weather.
- Type of cocktail: Classic gin cocktail.
History behind the Army & Navy Cocktail
The Army & Navy cocktail is a classic cocktail made with gin, orgeat, lemon juice, and bitters that falls in the “Tiki” drink category. However, since “Tiki” culture is a product of cultural appropriation, we’re not going to sing its praises and will word the use “tropical” in its place.
Some speculate the cocktail was created to celebrate the annual Army-Navy football game (my brother’s a Navy JAG so GO NAVY!), but as with many classic cocktails, the true origin of the drink is murky and greatly unknown. What we do know is it was popularized by The Army and Navy Club in Washington DC, where they still serve it today, and it first appeared in writing in David Embury’s 1948 book titled The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. In Embury’s book, he makes the cocktail with an 8:2:1 ratio (8 parts spirit, 2 parts sour, 1 part of sweet) and refers to the original recipe that uses a 4:2:2 recipe as “horrible” (gotta love some old-fashioned shade!). This reference implies the recipe existed before Embury’s time, but he doesn’t give any hints as to where or when it was invented.
Nowadays, mixologists play with the ratio of gin to orgeat to lemon juice to bitters, and you’ll probably get something a little different at each bar. Regardless, you can always expect the Army & Navy to be a delightful combination of nutty, sweet, tart, and boozy.
Ingredients in an Army & Navy cocktail
The Army & Navy is a dangerously drinkable, spirit-forward cocktail with a sweet, rich nuttiness and bright, tart acidity. Sounds delish, right?!
The trick to a perfect Army & Navy is using the right ratio of ingredients. Too much citrus makes it overly acidic, too much orgeat makes it too sweet, and too much gin or bitters overpowers the other flavors. So it’s a delicate balancing act, and after a lot of trial and error I found what I think makes the most balanced and tasty version of the cocktail. Here’s the full rundown on what you need to make it!
- Lemon juice
- Angostura bitters
- Grapefruit peel or lemon peel, for garnish (optional)
What is orgeat?
Orgeat (pronounced or·zhaat) is an almond syrup that adds sweet nuttiness and richness to cocktails. It’s typically made with almonds, sugar, and orange flower water, and is best known for being a key ingredient in tropical drinks like the Mai Tai, the Saturn, and of course the Army & Navy! Here’s what you need to know about it.
- What does orgeat taste like? Many compare orgeat to liquid marzipan because it’s creamy and has flavors of sweet almonds and citrus.
- What can I substitute for orgeat? Orgeat adds rich and nuanced flavor to drinks that you can’t really replicate with other cocktail syrups. That said, in a pinch I’d recommend using almond extract or amaretto.
- How long does orgeat last? It’s perishable, so once opened it’ll last about 4 weeks if it’s stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
- Where can I buy orgeat? You’re most likely to find orgeat at liquor stores, cocktail specialty stores, or online. That said, I highly recommend making your own because it’s super easy and honestly tastes better than most store-bought orgeat. Here’s the orgeat recipe I use — it’s takes five minutes to make and is seriously good! If you’d prefer to buy it though, Liber & Co. and Liquid Alchemist are both great options.
Looking for more orgeat cocktails? Here are the best cocktails that showcase orgeat as a main ingredient!
Choosing a gin for the Army & Navy cocktail
Traditionally the Army & Navy is made with London Dry gin, which is the most popular gin for cocktails and is generally sharp, dry, citrusy, and juniper-forward. Here are a few of my favorite London Dry gin bottles to use in this cocktail and in general!
These options shouldn’t blow anyone’s mind — they’re all really popular bottles for a reason! They blend great with other ingredients while adding the botanical notes you want out of a gin to your cocktails.
That said, while London Dry gin is the most popular choice for the Army & Navy, you can feel free to sub it out for your favorite gin and experiment! I personally like it best with a London Dry gin, but it’s also fabulous with a maltier, richer Old Tom gin. If you want to go that route, try Ransom Old Tom Gin or Sacred Old Tom Gin!
Tips for making an Army & Navy
What glassware to use
An Army & Navy is typically served in a coupe glass, which is what I like to use. That said, since it’s a shaken cocktail served up (i.e. without ice), any type of smaller glass with a long stem you can hold so your hands don’t warm up the cocktail — like a Nick and Nora or sour glass — would work well too.
Add a citrus garnish
While the garnish is optional, it adds a fun pop of color and elevates the overall presentation! It’s not very clear what the original Army & Navy garnish was since the origin itself is foggy — you’ll see some recipes that use grapefruit and others that use lemon, and both work really well. I personally like to use grapefruit for another dimension of aromatics since the cocktail already has lemon juice in it.
Whichever you decide to use, be sure to lightly squeeze the peel over the glass before serving to express the oils, which will give the drink citrusy aromatics. Then you can set it on the side of the glass, or drop it right in the drink. For an even more impressive presentation, you can also make a citrus twist out of the peel or carve it into a fan!
Double strain it for the best result
Double straining (also known as fine straining) is when you strain a shaken cocktail twice using two strainers to prevent any small specks of ingredients like ice, herbs, or fruit from making it into the final cocktail. This helps the overall presentation of the cocktail, as well as the texture and flavor. In the case of the Army & Navy, it keeps out any small shards of ice, which will over-dilute the drink as it melts.
To double strain a cocktail, you need the cocktail strainer you normally use with your cocktail shaker (like a Hawthorne strainer), as well as a fine mesh strainer, which you probably already have in your kitchen! Instead of straining the cocktail through your cocktail strainer directly into the glass, you pour the drink from the cocktail shaker through your cocktail strainer as you normally would, as well as through a fine mesh strainer held directly over the serving glass.
If you want to learn more about double straining or need some visuals, check out this step-by-step guide on how to double strain a cocktail!
How sweet is the Army & Navy?
The level of sweetness will vary based on the recipe and how much orgeat is used. Ultimately though, the Army & Navy should be a dry, spirit-forward cocktail that’s balanced out by a hint of sweetness from the orgeat. This specific recipe that I’ve honed in (and in my humble opinion, is the best out there) uses a ratio of gin to citrus to orgeat that produces a dry cocktail at the perfect intersection between sour, sweet, and citrusy.
How to make an Army & Navy cocktail
The Army & Navy cocktail is beyond easy to make and whips up in two shakes of a lamb’s tail (or more accurately, 10-15 shakes of a cocktail shaker 😂). Here’s the step by step breakdown on how to make it!
- Build the cocktail: Add the gin, fresh lemon juice, orgeat, and Angostura bitters to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for 10-15 seconds or until you feel the cocktail shaker get ice cold.
- Double strain it: Double strain the cocktail through a cocktail strainer and fine mesh strainer into a coupe glass.
- Garnish (optional): Twist the grapefruit or lemon peel over the glass to express the oils, then use the peel as a garnish.
More gin cocktails
I can’t burn out on gin cocktails. It doesn’t matter what time of year (or day 😂) it is — I am ALWAYS game. So if you love gin like me and are looking for some more cocktail inspiration, here are some recipes you should try.
- If you want another refreshing, simple gin cocktail, try the St Germain Lemon Basil Martini.
- Love frozen cocktails? Then try the Saturn! It’s a tropical cocktail that sets itself apart by using a base of gin instead of rum.
- For more easy gin recipes, here are some of my favorite 2-ingredient gin cocktails.
- Need a gin drink that’s gorgeous in a glass? Check out these beautiful purple cocktails made with Empress Gin!
- 2 ounces gin (prefereably London Dry gin)
- 3/4 ounce orgeat*
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Optional: grapefruit peel or lemon peel, for garnish
- Add the gin, orgeat, fresh lemon juice, and Angostura bitters to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until you feel the shaker get ice cold.
- Double strain the cocktail using a cocktail strainer and fine mesh strainer into a coupe glass.
- Optional: twist a grapefruit or lemon peel over the glass to express the oils, then use the peel as a garnish.
*I highly recommend making your own orgeat because it makes the cocktail that much better and is super easy. I use this orgeat recipe that takes about 5 minutes to make and always turns out perfectly!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 185Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 3gSugar: 9gProtein: 1g