Gin is not a spirit that I’ve worked with a lot. Sure, I’ve had a gin martini and a number of gin slings and fizzes, but when I looked at my spirit inventory I only have one bottle of gin!* And I call myself a “mixologist”, well actually I don’t like that name, I think bartender works just fine, but that is for another day. I have lots of rum and whisky, so why haven’t I looked into gin? Well, it could be because gin hasn’t received a lot of attention lately because it’s attention grabbing sister, vodka, is stealing the limelight. But that’s still not a reason because I don’t drink vodka, so it is time for me to explore the world of gin, and what better way to reintroduce myself to gin than with a Gin and Tonic.
The Gin and Tonic is a highball that seems to meet the classic definition of a cocktail, in a loosely defined way. A cocktail in the 1800s was the combination of a spirit, sugar and bitters plus a diluent for the weak part. In a Gin and Tonic you have gin, which is, of course, the spirit part of the equation, you have the sugar in the tonic water for sweetness, the soda in the tonic water is the weak and the quinine is the bitter flavour. Strong, weak, sweet, and bitter, it looks like a cocktail to me.
The Gin and Tonic is a pleasantly bitter cocktail. The combination of the gin with the tonic almost seems to be a match made before the universe began. The two flavour come together in a way that neither is dominant, assuming the drink is made right. But the basic flavours still need something to bind them together and that binding agent is lime. Without the lime, the Gin and Tonic seem flat and not as refreshing on a hot summer day.
This drink is so easy to make, so why is it so difficult to get a good one at a bar? Well, because it is so easy, bartenders don’t think about making them, they just whip them up. Now, there are a lot of bartenders who make great drinks, but as we all know, there are a lot who don’t. If you want to make a great GandT here is what you do.
How to Make a Gin and Tonic
1. Make sure your tonic water is nice and cold and it wouldn’t hurt to chill your glass
2. Cut a fresh wedge of lime (1/6 of a lime, don’t cheap out using a 1/8 or less)
3. Pack your chilled 12 oz glass full with ice *
4. Pour 1½ ounces of gin into the glass
5. Top with tonic water
6. Run the peel side of the lime around the rim of the glass
7. Squeeze the lime into the drink and drop it on top of the ice
* I overfill with ice knowing that once you add the other ingredients, the ice will melt a little and fit into the glass.
As usual, good ingredients will help this drink reach its full potential. Good gin is a fine start. I usually have Plymouth gin on hand, but today I picked up a bottle of Iceberg Gin, made by the same people who make Iceberg Vodka. A quick side-by-side gin comparison reveals that Plymouth gin still has a smooth aroma with juniper and what I perceive to be anise or liquorice. Iceberg Gin isn’t as strong on the nose and is mostly juniper. The Iceberg Gin is very smooth and has a slight sweetness that complements the juniper well and has a clean finish. The Plymouth gin surprisingly isn’t as smooth and has a bolder flavour with a longer finish. Those are the quick notes and in the next few days, I’ll take a more in-depth look at these two gins, plus Beefeater, just to compare.
As for the other ingredients, you must use fresh limes, no crunchy old limes or god forbid sour mix. The tonic water is another thing that can vary very from manufacturer to manufacturer, but 200 years ago tonic water was a few magnitudes stronger than it is today, so if you can find a "boutique" producer of tonic water you might find it makes a better drink. There was a company that once contacted me about trying their tonic water “Q Tonic” but they were in early development so samples weren’t available at the time, but keep an eye out for them. Also, Stirring’s makes a tonic water that I wouldn’t mind reviewing.
If you like Gin and Tonic, you might want to try the Moscow Mule for something different.