I’m Listening To: You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones (1969)
A great poet once said: “That’s a mighty good gin and tonic. You should mix me up another”. Or maybe it was the Star Wars Gangsta Rap. Either way – today I’m going to let you in on how a perfect gin and tonic should be done, just the way R2 makes them.
Now I know that to profess to have created a ‘perfect’ gin and tonic is a bold claim, and one that I can’t frankly back up. However, I’ve never made a bad one with this method – and for such a ridiculously simple drink, I’ve seen them ballsed up *a lot*. The most frequent offender is the unstirred G&T, which treats the drinker to an utterly bland experience for the first two thirds before they hit a brick wall of overpowering gin flavour.
First things first, serve it in a Collins (‘hi-ball’/‘tumbler’) glass. There’s a trend right now to serve gin and tonic in a large balloon glass, but really these should be reserved for Spanish-style G&Ts, if used at all. There the larger size makes sense there in accommodating the wedges of fresh citrus etc – but when dealing with a simple British G&T, such a large glass seems unwieldy and overly fussy.
Which gin should you use? Well, at a later date I’m going to create a comprehensive list of which gins work best at creating certain flavours or styles of G&T. For now though, as ever, I’d advise adjusting to palate. If you enjoy the taste of a particular gin then chances are you’ll enjoy it in a gin and tonic – it is very much the primary ingredient after all. I’m much more a fan of smooth gins rather than overly flowery or botanical varieties, but if you prefer that kind then feel free to go with them. I honestly haven’t come across a variety of gin yet that simply didn’t work in a gin and tonic at all!
And finally, which tonic? There are many different types of tonic water floating around now, particularly flavoured varieties. I’d advise sticking to plain tonic water to start with – experimentation is great, but a flavoured tonic (as one would expect) can completely alter the palate of the drink. Just because a certain gin works very well with a plain tonic doesn’t mean that it will work just as well with Elderflower tonic, for example! Basically, just try and use a high-quality brand – I can wholeheartedly recommend Fentiman’s, Fevertree, and Franklin & Sons.
And for the record, there is generally very little difference in flavour between the same brand’s regular and slim version of tonic (the slim version usually simply substitutes sugar for fructose, while keeping the same botanicals). So if you’re on a diet, or just want to regulate your sugar and calorie intake, feel free to go with the slim version!
Also, I’d strongly suggest going with small bottles or cans of tonic water (generally available in most supermarkets, at around 150-200ml) rather than larger bottles, unless you drink a *lot* of them. This will ensure that the tonic water you use is always fresh and does not go flat. Oh, and try and always keep your tonic water chilled! This will help to stop it from melting the ice while mixing the drink and overly diluting it.
1.5oz/45ml Gin (adjusted to taste, see above)
Tonic water (good quality, approx 100ml)
Ice (good quality, cubed)
1) Fill your Collins glass with cubed ice. Add the gin.
2) Top up with tonic water. Slice a thin piece of lemon peel, express it over the glass, and drop it in,
3) Stir the drink with a bar spoon by putting it right to the bottom of the glass, holding the top of the spoon, and quickly rotating it back and forth on the spot. While continuing to rotate the spoon, lift it up and down through the glass. This will create a whirlpool-like effect in the glass, allowing the denser gin particles to effervesce right through the tonic, and creates a much more even flavour from the top to the bottom of the glass. Stir for around ten seconds, then serve.
4) Try and come up with a witty final line to your drinks recipe. Inevitably fail (as you’ve been drinking), and make yourself another gin and tonic.
A final tip: if you are using a small bottle of tonic that makes two drinks (for example, 200ml) and want to make another G&T to use the rest up, make this recipe ‘backwards’ – that is, put the tonic water in before the gin. That will ensure that you can alter the amount of gin you use to suit the amount of tonic water, and prevent you from making an overly strong G&T! And, yes, this is something I have learned from experience.