Cooking from the Bar Cart: Gin Fizz Fried Chicken

Batter up! A gin-spiked brine and tiny bubbles in the batter deliver home-run fried chicken


Epiphanies often come at odd times. This one arrived while testing cocktail recipes for a cookbook a few years ago, as I gathered ingredients to make the Pistachio Fizz from Charleston, South Carolina’s Prohibition bar. The drink is bartender Jim McCourt’s riff on the classic Ramos Gin Fizz, famous for its towering raft of foam. He calls it “a real bicep burner” for the four minutes of vigorous shaking it requires. I call it inspiration for great fried chicken. No, I don’t mean chicken that tastes like a gin fizz, but rather how the same ingredients in the cocktail can come together to make something entirely different and equally delicious.

Let’s start with the gin. Beyond its heady effects when drunk, alcohol has this nifty ability to bond with both water and fat. Added to the brine for the chicken, it drives water-soluble and fat-soluble flavors into the cells of the meat for a more flavorful bird. As for the drink’s citrus and cream, here citric acid from lemon juice makes the cream in the brine behave more like traditional buttermilk that breaks down the collagen in the meat to help tenderize it. Egg white, which amps up the drink’s body and richness, gives the batter more cling but is lighter than a whole egg for a delicate, crispy crust. And the club soda creates airy pockets in the batter as the chicken fries for an end result that’s as enticing as the drink that inspired it.

This recipe uses the double-fry method. First, the brined chicken pieces are battered and par-fried at a lower temperature and removed to rest, allowing moisture to evaporate from the hot chicken skin. (Think of it like blotting a steak dry to get a good sear.) The chicken then gets fried a second time at a higher temp until it’s cooked through and golden brown. This process delivers extra-crunchy fried chicken.

Note: You can cool the chicken completely after the first fry, refrigerate it, and then bring it to room temperature before doing the final fry the next day. It’s a great way to get a jump start on cooking, especially for a party.

See other recipes in our Cooking from the Bar Cart series.


  • Gin Fizz Fried Chicken (Yield: 4 servings)

    • 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces

    • Peanut or vegetable oil for frying

  • For the brine

    • 1 cup boiling water

    • ¼ cup salt

    • ¼ cup sugar

    • 1 cup cold heavy cream

    • 3 tbsp. lemon juice

    • 3 tbsp. gin or vodka

  • For the batter

    • 1 cup cornstarch

    • ¾ cup all-purpose flour

    • 2 tsp. kosher salt

    • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

    • 1 tsp. paprika

    • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper

    • ½ tsp. turmeric

    • ½ tsp. onion powder

    • ½ tsp. garlic powder

    • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

    • 1 (12-oz.) can club soda


  1. For the brine: Whisk the salt and sugar with the boiling water until dissolved; set aside to cool 5 minutes. Whisk in the cold heavy cream, lemon juice, and gin (or vodka) to incorporate. Pour the brine over the chicken pieces in a gallon-size zippered bag. Remove excess air, seal, and refrigerate at least 2 hours but no more than 4 hours. Drain the chicken and let sit at room temperature for about an hour before frying.

  2. For the batter: Combine the cornstarch, flour, salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne, turmeric, onion powder, and garlic powder in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the egg white and club soda.

  3. To fry: Heat several inches of peanut or vegetable oil over medium-low heat in a Dutch oven, or several quarts of oil in a deep-fryer, to 300° to 325°F. Line a sheet pan with paper towels and top with a cooling rack.

  4. Whisk the batter to blend well. Using metal tongs, dip a chicken piece in the batter to coat, letting excess run off. Swirl the battered chicken piece in the hot oil to set the crust before letting it go. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken pieces, frying them for a total of 10 minutes. Move the chicken pieces around from time to time with a slotted spoon or mesh spider strainer so that they do not stick together or to the bottom of the pot. Transfer the par-fried pieces to the prepared rack to cool for 15 minutes.

  5. Bring the oil to 350°F. Return the chicken pieces to the hot oil for the second dip. Fry for 5 minutes. While the chicken fries, wash and dry the cooling rack and return it to the lined baking sheet. Remove the cooked fried chicken to the rack to cool for several minutes before serving.

  6. Note: When cool, strain the cooking oil into a bottle and refrigerate. The oil can be re-used to make a couple more batches of fried chicken.

Katherine Cobbs is a cookbook author and editor. Her most recent books are Pantry Cocktails (2021) and Tequila & Tacos (2020), published by Simon & Schuster. She also developed recipes for Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook – Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories.