A hot summer needs chilled refreshment, and in our opinion, nothing is more refreshing on a hot summer day than a cool gin and tonic.
The wonderful thing about gin is that it is a fairly simple infused spirit, often with Juniper, but with other options as well. In fact, gin can be infused with a wide variety of flavors and botanicals, from citrus peels, coriander, and ginger, to other sundry spices and botanicals. There are myriad variations for the quintessential summer cocktail.
With the re-evaluation of contemporary laws, new ‘boutique’ distillers have popped up all over. In fact, in 2009, Sipsmith (now owned by Suntory Brands) was the first company granted a license to produce gin in London in over 200 years. Along with the loosening of the laws, have come a renewed interest in vodkas and gins, with new brands multiplying like drunken bunnies
A Gin and Tonic, by definition, is Gin with Tonic and Citrus, generally served over ice,
But I’m not a purist. The majority of us out there are interested in enjoying ourselves and not adhering to definitions. Let’s be rebellious.
Therefore, for the purposes of this article, let’s accept that Gin and Tonics are allowed to be bastardized at will. Go ahead. Relax. Enjoy yourself. Furthermore, if you are hosting an event a ‘modified’ G&T may be a new experience for your guests. What is better than a new experience?
Still worried? Call it George and Tom. A Gin with Tonic… and some other stuff. And make some new friends. Ones that aren’t so damn judgemental.
We suggest beginning with a ratio of 2 parts gin to 4 parts tonic. If you are using a highball glass a rule of thumb (or finger) is two fingers of gin and fill with tonic to a 6” glass filled with ice. Stir. There are some suggestions below to make some variants that might be memorable under the right circumstances
I think one of the best things I taught my children is to have the faith not to follow recipes. Rather, for best results try to understand the recipe. Every ingredient has its place. Try to figure out what those ingredients add and what the various steps do.
We’re in luck. For a reasonably simple recipe, nuance can generally be thrown out of the window. So let’s focus on the ingredients. A good rule is the better the ingredients, the better the result.
The key to a good gin and tonic is to work with a gin you like. For this purpose I would suggest speaking with a professional before you spend money on a bottle. Every great bartender has their own ideas. Speak with them. Ask to try a bit of gins they have available. Keep in mind that gin sipping is not the greatest thing for most people. The idea is that you find a gin that has elements you like. Proof may also become important. Generally 80 proof is the standard. However, our favorite gin, Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin (from Germany) is 94 proof, so we sometimes may need to consider additional dilution when mixing. (See below for types of gins- let’s stick with London Dry or Boutique Gins for simplicity).
Tonic contains quinine and sugar. Sugar is there to counteract the extreme bitterness of the quinine. Like gin, tonic waters also vary- and some tonic waters are also infused with additional botanicals- Fever Tree Indian Tonic has orange notes for example. Schweppes is very good. For higher budgets we suggest Fentiman’s or Fever Tree. Keep in mind that we feel it is very important to use fresh tonic water and therefore suggest small bottles. I’m personally fond of using some bitter lemon tonic, which has a heavy citrus flavor. Worried about calories? There are some diet tonics out there. We’re not incredibly fond of them.
Keep things cool. The more the ice melts the more the drink is diluted. This is a plus if the drink is strong; it is a big minus if the drink was nice to begin with. Plan ahead. Above all, stir. Do not shake. Shaking makes the ice melt, and besides, who would shake a drink with a carbonated mixer?. Dilution is only good if you want it.
There are a lot of options to modify a gin and tonic. Looking for refreshing? Muddle some cucumbers- or just use them as garnishes. Adding a bit more citrus does wonders- I prefer a few slices of lime. Need some more sweetness? Use Luxardo, a maraschino liqueur, to taste. Presentation? Add some color- lemons, limes, mint, cucumbers. Most importantly, have fun.
A (Very) Brief History.
Gin is widely believed to have been derived from the Dutch spirit, Genever, which became ‘gin’ when abbreviated. Llike many alcohol-based drinks, it was originally thought to have medicinal properties. The use of juniper (as an infusion, incense, etc.) as a medicinal agent goes back millenia, and was believed to be purifying. The ‘English’ versions of Gin became popular with the increasing influence of England in the world. Tonic water was added as a mixer at some point, in no small part due to the antimalarial effect of quinine. Take your medicine, indeed.
Types of Gin
Perhaps the predecessor of today’s gin, Genever is a Dutch malted grain mix with a juniper infused distillate. Think of it as the missing link between whisky and gin. The term ‘Genever’, just like Cognac or Champagne, is now controlled and protected. This protects the region’s producers but also ensures that the product has some defining characteristics.
Our favorite (and most readily available) Genever is produced by Bols. Bols has a number of genevers available, including a barrel aged one and pre-mixed cocktails. We recommend pre-mixed cocktails only as a last resort While there has been some interest in using genever as a mixer, we like to sip it.
London Dry GIn
A London Dry Gin is the main category of gins. Infused with botanicals, no added flavorings or sugar. This category includes the familiar brands of Tanqueray, Bombay, and the like. Many of these brands have multiple options, depending on the infused botanicals.
Plymouth gin (41.2% ABV; $32.99/750ml) has a legal designation and the category is limited to a single brand: Plymouth. Made in Plymouth, England, Plymouth gin is another one of our favorites. The juniper flavor is a bit less powerful in the gin, allowing other botanicals to come to the forefront. Excellent for G&Ts. Plymouth also makes a Navy Strength (57% ABV; $38.99/750ml) that permits other options(???), as well as an added oomph of flavor.
Perhaps the most interesting of the gins, this category comprises a plethora of choices. Loosely defined, a “boutique” gin has smaller production (small batch). A frustratingly vague definition, no doubt. Generally these gins are decidedly different and may have botanicals that are not regularly found in mainstream brands. Sometimes passion, sometimes marketing, we strongly urge you to try smaller gin brands before purchase. Remember, your bartender is a professional and is more familiar with options available in the marketplace.
A popular Boutique Gin would be Gray Whale (43% ABV; $38.99/750ml). Made in California, the gin has local additions such as kombu (seaweed) and almonds. The Botanist Gin (46% ABV; $39.99/750ml) is made on Islay in Scotland. Manufactured by the same folks that brought us our favorite scotches Bruichladdich, Octomore, and Port Charlotte, The Botanist sources local botanicals for use in their gin, adhering to the focus of Bruichladdich on terroir. The brand is owned by Remy Cointreau but still functions as a boutique-style brand. So we are sticking it here.
Old Tom Gin is a style of gin that fundamentally disappeared from the marketplace. The gin is sweeter than a London Dry. There are numerous variations of Old Tom, more than likely due to the scarcity (extinction?) of samples concerning what the taste of an original Old Tom gin was. We enjoy Ransom Old Tom Gin (44% ABV; $39.99/750ml) as a substitute for whiskey based cocktails. Aged in barrels, Ransom has a bit of genever qualities and less sweetness than other Old Tom style gins on the market.. Once in a while we may sip some.
Sloe gin is a fruit infused gin based liqueur (not a gin). The product is generally sweet and lower in ABV. Generally used as a mixer.
Best: Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Gin (47% ABV; $57.99/750ml)
A fascinating gin from Germany that has a very complex flavor and aroma. We found that Schwarzwald is fantastic for experimenting while being a solid choice for a G&T.
Easy to Find:
Bombay Sapphire (47% ABV; 19.99/750ml) or Tanqueray (47.3% ABV; $18.99/750ml)
Gordon’s (40% ABV; $15.99/L)
Don’t underestimate Gordon’s. It is surprisingly crisp and refreshing and a great choice for a budget conscious party- or any party.
Gin and Tonics are generally served in a Highball or Collins glass. There isn’t a significant difference between the two- aside from height and capacity. Thin glass cylinders packed with ice and a citrus slice garnish. I find the good thing about these glasses is that they fit well in the hand and do a nice job of additional cooling- primarily due to the grasping of the glass..
Recently there has been some renewed interest in ‘balloon’ glasses, or Copa de Balon. The experience of a Gin and Tonic in a balloon glass is significantly different than a highball. Balloon glasses have a large capacity (~22 ounces) and their oversized shape enables additional opportunities. Presentation, for one. While the highballs are tight cylinders, the width and capacity enables the addition of multiple elements- mint, cucumbers, cherries- resulting in a creative result that is as eye catching as it is enjoyable. People who love to gesticulate at parties can swirl at will and place emphasis at the right moment with a giant cocktail glass. Finally, there is some talk about ‘concentrating’ botanicals due to the shape of the glass, but for me that jury is still out.
In a packed party, go highballs. With more space, go Copa de Balons. Just you and a friend?
Let it roll.
Jose Andres Ultimate Gin & Tonic
Jose Andres is a brilliant Spanish chef who is now most notable for providing meals after disasters through his World Central Kitchen. We first had this Gin and Tonic at Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and it impressed me with its presentation, flavor, and simplicity. Arguably the best and most memorable gin and tonic in memory. The addition of juniper berries and verbena pushed the aromatics, while the specialized ice cube chilled but did not dilute the cocktail. Also notable is the presentation in a stemless glass, rather than a traditional highball or balon. Try the original at Jaleo.
1½ ounces Hendrick’s gin
1 lime wheel
1 lemon peel
1 leaf lemon verbena
3 juniper berries
1 bottle (6.8 ounces) Fever Tree tonic water
In a wide-rimmed rocks glass or stemless red wine glass, add gin. Place a large ice cube in the glass, and top with a lime wheel. Express, or squeeze, the lemon peel on the inside of the glass to release its oils, and place it on the ice cube. Place the three juniper berries on top of the cube, pinching one to release its aroma. Slowly add tonic water to taste — half the bottle for a stronger drink, more for a smoother one.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, Floor 3
3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South