How to make the perfect gin and tonic
Why 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.*
- 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:
- 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.
- 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).
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.
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?