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How to make the perfect gin and tonic

January 31, 2016

How to make the perfect gin and tonic on mycustardpie.comWhy is a gin and tonic such a perfect drink? It’s refreshing, but not sweet, slightly bitter from the quinine in the tonic water with depth and interest from the botanicals. I had to be persuaded to try my first one – I always thought it was an old person’s drink – and I remember the revelatory experience of that first sip to this day.  Back then the standard was Gordon’s gin and Schweppes;  in retrospect just down to good marketing as the base spirit was just flavoured with botanical extracts. Thankfully since the gin trend explosion there is an amazing choice with craft distillers going back to the old way of distilling with various interesting herbs and spices combined with the essential juniper.

With a three ingredient drink (if you count the garnish), you have to make sure your gin and tonic is perfect. This depends on choosing your components carefully and attention to detail when making it. I asked super talented Denzel Heath, from the MMI Bar Academy, for his advice. Here are his tips plus my own personal preferences below:

Top tips for the perfect gin and tonic

  1. Ice. Make sure you use a whole heap of ice made from good quality water. More ice, means less dilution, so you won’t end up with a watered down drink. The clearer the ice, the longer it will last in your drink, resulting in a colder more refreshing tipple.
  2. Gin. There is a gin out there for everyone. Try different ones until you find your favourite. If you like a dry drink then Sipsmith is your brand; like it spicy, go for Ophir; something a bit more subtle, then Bulldog is your choice of base. If you have sweet tooth – sloe gin is for you.
  3. Tonic. Great quality gin, is produced using REAL quality botanicals from all over the world and so is good tonic water. The perfect tonic water is naturally flavored with no preservatives. Try anyone of the wide range of flavours from Fever Tree and taste the difference.*
  4. Garnish. Pick a fresh fruit, vegetable or herb that will best compliment your gin. Select your garnish by smelling (nosing) and tasting your gin neat – perhaps with a touch of water added, to make it a bit less sharp on the tongue.
    Those are Denzel’s tips, and, as you can see from my images, I’m clearly not using enough ice. Apparently having more ice traps in the bubbles to keep the tonic fizzier for longer too. My extra tips:
  5. Measure: The proportion of gin to tonic is important as you need to be able to taste the gin without it being too overpowering. How disappointing is a weak and watery G & T? I use one and a half UK measures (a single measure is 25ml) to one bottle of tonic (Fever Tree is 200ml). Never pour by eye as you can lose track of how much you or your guests are drinking (and home drinkers notoriously over pour). A drinks scientist has prepared I guide to the proportions here if you want to get nerdy.
  6. Glass: There’s a lot of debate right now about the right glassware for drinks (especially Champagne). Some recommend a traditional highball whereas the Spanish trend of serving in a stemmed balloon glass is gaining credence. My own preference is a wider tumbler akin to a Scotch glass, with a chunky base. It gives the wider surface area for inhaling the botanicals but enough space for ice, garnishes and tonic.

*Never, ever use slimline tonic. Just don’t.

My favourite gin

What’s your favourite gin is a question I get asked a lot – perhaps it’s due to having a mere 16 bottles in my collection (to date). It’s like choosing your favourite child! Actually part of the joy of drinking gin is discovering different nuances in each one and suiting them to your mood. So:

Dry. A dry style is my top choice for my end of the week G & T on a Thursday night. My hand reaches for Portobello Road, Sipsmith or No. 3 from Berry Brothers; all are balanced, elegant, crisp and clean.

Clean. Or as Denzel says “subtle”. When I’m looking for something really understated I’ll choose Plymouth (standard or Navy strength).

Spicy. Warner Edwards has a warm layer of cinnamon and black pepper balanced by the citrus flavours. Psychopomp is another interesting gin with those characters.

Botanical. I don’t have Monkey 57 in my collection but adore the complexity from the 57 botanicals used in it if lucky enough to have a drop in my glass (it’s very expensive). Cotswold is what I pour from my collection.

Floral. The delicate Devon violets of Tarquin’s or the chamomile of Bloom are both seductive. Nothing overblown here.

CrazySacred Pink Grapefruit or William Chase Seville Orange Marmalade for livening things up a bit – like a Negroni… but now we’re getting off topic.

So what else can you do with gin? Denzel has come up with a unique gin-based cocktail for every month of the year based on some seasonal and Dubai based events. Can’t wait to share February’s with you.

So what’s your take on a G & T?

  1. January 31, 2016 4:04 pm

    Sally, I never used to drink gin till moving to Dubai a decade or more back. It was an old person’s drink and my spirit of choice was whisky. Then, I forget why, I decided to try a glass – no doubt Gordon’s and Schweppes – and it was a revelation. Since then, I’ve tried as many gins as I can and have yet to find one that I didn’t really enjoy – current favourites are Sipsmiths and Hendricks. I return to the UK in just a few months and one of my retirement projects is working my way through the new generation of boutique gins – this tour looks like good value:

    • January 31, 2016 8:37 pm

      Where do I sign up?! Very floral gins are my least favourite and strangely Bombay Sapphire doesn’t really rock my world. But downright refusal to drink? Never!

    • mita56 permalink
      February 1, 2016 2:26 pm

      I quite like Hendriks and have, only recently, starting to discover and enjoy a G&T. Maybe its Sally’s posts that did it.

  2. January 31, 2016 4:17 pm


    • January 31, 2016 8:37 pm

      The post or the gin? Either is fine by me 🙂

      • January 31, 2016 9:53 pm

        both! 🙂 Lovely informative post – plus I love Gin and tonic – though none of those brands are familar to me in the U.S. Standard top shelf are Hendricks (lovely with cucumber) and Bombay and Tanguerey, which I like with lime 🙂

  3. January 31, 2016 4:57 pm

    Absolutely my FAVORITE drink!! I love the simplicity of this drink (if I have to gather a list of ingredients longer than my arm to make a drink, it’s not worth my time . . . 😉) Hendrick’s is my favorite. Mmmm . . . Salud!

    • January 31, 2016 8:38 pm

      An enthusiast after my own heart. Love Hendricks for changing some of the conversation about gin – so many others to try now too.

  4. January 31, 2016 5:03 pm

    I love gin! Never had gin and tonic, though. I generally mix mine with berry and lemon juice and add a little coconut flower sugar.



    • January 31, 2016 8:39 pm

      That sounds SO interesting. But you have to seek out some tonic and try it – the sheer simplicity is totally beguiling.

  5. January 31, 2016 11:42 pm

    Very informative post! I never really had gets until I moved here(scotland) in the late 1980s. Then, my inlaws would serve Gordon’s with flat tonic and no ice! Surprisngly I wasn’t put off for life, but sneaked charity shop ice cube tray into the freezer and upped the ante a bit. I am right now enjoying a Botanist Islay Dry Gin with some fevertree. Not the slimline either 😉

  6. January 31, 2016 11:43 pm

    G&Ts not gets.Stupid laptop..

  7. February 1, 2016 10:33 am

    who knew there were so many various types of gin! I love the one from Bruichladdich which is very botanical and made on my favourite whisky isle. I have to use sugar free tonic water and I don’t use ice. I am going to try the different garnish ideas 🙂

  8. February 1, 2016 12:05 pm

    I am such a gin fan – and as it is over 35 degrees Celsius here in Brisbane today we are cracking one this evening. the perfect sundowner. I love Hendricks gin. When I was in New York last year I had the best one of my life at the Plaza bar (a real treat). Great post

  9. Fuss Free Helen permalink
    February 1, 2016 2:01 pm

    I love a good gin and tonic. For everyday we are loving Greenall, excellent quality for a very reasonable price. I always add a slice of frozen lemon and lime, it works nicely.

  10. February 1, 2016 3:07 pm

    I know you say never ever use slimline tonic, but I always do because of the calorie saving. I am doing Weight Watchers and it makes a huge difference to me. I honestly can’t taste much of a difference either.
    I think good quality tonic makes such a difference though.

  11. February 1, 2016 8:26 pm

    I’m not a fan of gin, but I must say that your description is seductive enough to make me want to try again… 🙂

  12. February 1, 2016 8:31 pm

    I have never tried gin but gonna do this your way:)

  13. February 2, 2016 3:12 pm

    Riveting post….I have such good memories of gin and tonic even though I haven’t drunk one of the new artisan gins…or tonics. I don’t really trust myself with spirits since a misspent youth and midlife….it’s interesting to note that the older I get the less I fall down:)

  14. ramblingtart permalink
    February 3, 2016 7:12 am

    I’ve never been a fan of gin and tonic, I’m more of a mojito girl, but I’d like to try it made this beautifully. 🙂

  15. February 7, 2016 4:55 pm

    After a 3 yrs of an alchohol free life, I’m happy to welcome it this year in my system 🙂 I started drinking beer, wine and mojito to celebrate the new year. Gin and Tonic will be a nice addition to the list 🙂 I didn’t know gin can cater to different tastes, I might try the sweet subtle variety first.

  16. sachikumar permalink
    February 7, 2016 9:13 pm

    I am not exactly the biggest fan of gin , but loving your blog post and loving how simple you make it sound. Definitely trying it out once again to test my taste buds.

  17. February 8, 2016 9:38 pm

    I’m not a gin girl but I’d love to give it a try sometime soon x

  18. March 1, 2016 7:32 pm

    I used to love a Gin, however i’m no longer able to drink due to health. This is the drink I miss though especially on a sunny evenings sitting in the garden! I used to drink NB Gin ( which is made locally) as well at Botantist Islay Gin. I’m a bit fan of buying local or Scottish whether its veg or gin!


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