For years, I didn't think I liked a gin and tonic. Actually, for a while, I thought it was gin in general that I couldn't stand, but some wiser friends helped me learn with some really stunning gin-centric cocktails, and I quickly moved away from vodka in favor of gin's special aromatic and botanicals qualities. So, then I figured I just didn't care quinine-heavy tonic water, but that didn't make sense, since I'm particularly drawn to mineral and bitter flavors in cocktails and other beverages. Maybe it was the combo of the two...but by this point, I was already committed, so I was determined to figure out what was going awry, once and for all. The results of my quest? One, I like gin. A whole bunch. Two, I like tonic water. And three, I actually like them together. So what was the problem with all those early highballs that sent me into funny face-making disgust?
It wasn't the type of gin, but rather...the brand of tonic water. Turns out, the corn syrup-sweetened (and widely available) Schweppe's just doesn't do it for me. It's way too sweet, almost like Sprite, and the botanicals have a bad medicinal profile that tastes almost like a swimming pool, rather than a pleasant, challenging bitter taste.
So, if you wanna instantly up your gin and tonics this summer, invest in a better tonic water. Or at least, try a few other brands to discern which you like best, rather than just go with what you can find at the carryout. Some tonics to check out: Q Tonic (pictured above), Fever Tree Mediterranean, Fentiman's, or even mass market brands like Seagram's. Or, if you're feeling particularly ambitious, you can make your own tonic syrup and mix with club soda; Jeffrey Morganthaler has a great recipe.
The point is, a gin and tonic is a really basic drink with two distinctive and bold components, So, don't skimp on the tonic, which makes up more than half the highball. You don't have to go for the pricier, artisanal brands exclusively, but make sure you're using a tonic you love. A great tonic can turn an affordable $17.50 bottle like Beefeater or Boodles into something pretty special.
To finish the story....I still find most commercial tonics too sweet, even the higher-end brands. If you're in the same boat, try my trick of cutting the tonic with soda water. I like to do equal parts of club soda and tonic and bulk up the aromatics with two dashes of orange or lemon bitters.
Chris' Favorite Summertime Gin and Tonic:
- 2 oz. London dry gin
- 2 oz. Fever Tree Mediterranean-style tonic water
- 2 oz. club soda
- 2 dashes Fee Brothers orange bitters
- Garnish: lime wedge or cucumber slice
For more on creating great two-ingredient drinks, check out the ManMade guides to:
- The Magic Highball Formula: How to Memorize One Recipe, and Make Dozens of Drinks
- 10 Highball Recipes Every Man Should Know [Free Download!]
This ManMade post was originally published on June 18th, 2013. We're sharing it again because it's summer!