Jun 12, 2015

How to: The Simple, Easy Trick to Improve Your Gin and Tonic

created at: 06/18/2013

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?

created at: 06/18/2013

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. 

created at: 06/18/2013

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:



This ManMade post was originally published on June 18th, 2013. We're sharing it again because it's summer!


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quarterSwede on Jun 19, 2015:

For me it was the gin. Didn't like it till I had some Bombay.

Tim on Jun 17, 2015:

Years ago someone gave me that very same advice: to always use a decent tonic. It makes sense as it's the main component of a G&T.

I would also add that if you choose to have a slice of lime with your G&T, first squeeze a little of the juice into the glass, then run the lime around the rim. It's maybe not for the purists, but I like it.

Sean on Jun 12, 2015:

Hi Chris, great post! I'm the brand ambassador for Fentimans here in Canada, so thanks for the shoutout! My opinion on which Tonic is the best may be a little skewed, but you've hit the nail on the head! A client of mine put it best when they said "I'd rather have a bad gin with a great tonic - but never the other way around"

stacia on Jun 12, 2015:

I agree. My favorite tonic (and best price) is Whole Foods brand 365. It's sugar and not corn syrup. I've been known to cut it 50/50 with seltzer (I never seem to have club soda on hand). For some reason I hate Fever Tree. Not sure why. I was excited to find it when it's so hard to come by non-corn syrup tonic in a regular grocery store. Now I just make sure I have a lot of 365 on hand. 

Samuel on Jul 26, 2013:

Okay, the traditional lime garnish on a Gin and Tonic is a waste on this one. Hendricks Gin is distilled with cucumbers, take advantage of that and buy a cucumber, slice it up, and pull that flavor out. You won't be disappointed! Respect the Gin :)

Great Post!

Pia on Jul 22, 2013:

Great post! Love Gin and Tonic and might try this recipe!

Anonymous on Jul 02, 2013:

you are missing the vital garnish for Hendricks; cucumber. An absolute sin without it.

Nick F. on Jun 19, 2013:

Fever Tree is certainly my favorite so far, but also very pricey. You can sometimes find them on sale in the food section at Home Goods though.

I also have to put a vote in for Jack Rudy tonic concentrate. I like being able to "dial in" the taste.

Finally, my go-to tonic is Whole Foods' house brand (365) tonic. It's $3 for a 6 cans, made with real cane sugar and I think the best value. It is extremely carbonate to open it in the sink!

Alex C. on Jun 18, 2013:

I also enjoy a bitter tonic, and have found that too much water opens up sweet flavors. I learned this simple trick long ago... Freeze a tray of tonic water and use that as your rocks, as they melt they enhance the bitter in the gin, and the acidity of the fruit, creating a much more flavorful cocktail.