It’s the quintessential classic cocktail, the perfect feel-good drink (forget all that baloney about mother’s ruin) and is a true British icon. Born during the British Empire in India (the quinine in Indian Tonic Water helped keep malaria at bay), the G&T still conjures up romantic notions of garden parties, cricket whites and ladies who lunch in pretty tea-dresses and large brimmed hats during heady Indian days. Fast-forward 300 years and the appeal of the G&T is no less appealing. The clink of ice cubes, the glass cool in your hand, the refreshing taste of juniper berries, the aromatic scent of lime… is there anything quite as delicious as a classic G&T on a balmy summer’s day?
‘There’s never been a better time to enjoy gin, with a record number of new and boutique gin brands landing on the shelves of our bars and supermarkets,’ says Duncan McRae, Gin Ambassador to Britain for iconic British gin label Hendrick's. ‘Tonic waters too are having a renaissance, with new flavours and brands appearing on supermarket shelves all the time.’
‘The G&T is a very simple drink, and for that reason it’s actually very easy to get wrong,’ he says. Because so little goes into the iconic cocktail – gin, tonic water and perhaps a bit of lemon, lime, or in the case of Hendrick's: Cucumber – what really matters are good ingredients. But with so many gins to choose from, buying a bottle can be a gamble, so Duncan recommends heading to one of London's new Gin Emporiums to try before you buy. Graphic Bar in Golden Square, The London Gin Club at Soho’s Star and Garter, and Worship St Whistling Shop in Old Street all offer an excellent place to sit and taste. ‘Whilst some gins are distinctive and delicious, many brands now experiment with unusual flavours and unique botanicals. Like finding a nice wine or whisky, experimentation will let you find out what style and brand works for you.’
Duncan explains how to create the perfect G&T in four easy steps:
Take a tall clean glass and fill it with good quality ice. The more ice you have in the glass, the colder the drink and the less it will dilute. If you add just a few cubes your drink will quickly become watery. The best place in the world to enjoy the G&T is Spain where they have perfected it as an art form. There, you'll be served your G&T in large ‘copa’ style glasses with hand-cracked ice. A large wine glass works well at home – the stem allows you to hold the glass without warming the drink up. However, a tall hi-ball glass will do the trick nicely too.
Whereas in bars or restaurants you're served a set measure – one of the advantages of drinking in your own house is you get to choose your ratios. Start by measuring yourself a gin and tonic with exact proportions (an egg cup can come in really handy here if you don't have measures). I like 1 gin to 3 tonic, and experiment until you find your perfect balance. The key to the drink’s classic taste is to balance the bitterness of the tonic against the juniper and other flavours in the gin, but always the juniper on top. As a rule of thumb (and to keep things responsible), a single serving shouldn't exceed 50ml of gin. It's always a good idea to measure your drinks – the benefit being that you can keep track of how much you're drinking as well getting the balance of ingredients just right.
Pour your gin over the ice, add the tonic and give a brief stir. There's more than one tonic water to choose from now too, so whilst you try your gins ask to try the tonics too, different tonic waters will compliment different gins. Unbelievably there’s a big difference, from how sweet or bitter to the fizziness and even the herbal quantities, who knew! Shweppes Indian Tonic or Canada Dry are commonly used in most bars, but for the full debrief check out this review of the top ten tonic waters.
Often overlooked, the garnish is one of the most important parts of the cocktail. As well as making it attractive, the garnish has the potential to give your drink an aromatic bouquet on the nose. Lemon is making a comeback, lime is just fine too, grapefruit, orange, strawberries, I've seen it all. But at Hendrick's we enjoy our gin with a three slices of cucumber to accentuate and highlight those cucumber notes in the gin.
The new G&TS
Create your perfect G&T by matching your drink to your taste. Try one of these five new gin cocktails:
Floral: Inspired by the ‘foliage of an English country garden’, Bloom is a delicate floral London Dry gin. Serve: Add ice, two quartered strawberries and Fentimans botanically brewed tonic.
Fruity: Far nicer than its name would suggest, Death’s Door has a spicy, citrus flavour with notes of fennel. Serve: The London Gin Club recommend drinking from a Copa glass with slices of pear and a stick of celery.
Fresh: A premium small-batch Scottish Gin, Caorunn is infused with botanicals from the local area and distilled with fresh spring water. Serve: Use three slices of fresh apple to bring out the invigorating crisp taste, and mix with Fentimans tonic.
Herbal: A Spanish gin that includes, rosemary, basil, thyme and olives in its list of botanicals, Gin Mare is a revolutionary flavour. Serve: Serve with 1724 tonic water, along with plenty of ice and a sprig of either rosemary or basil.
Spicy: An organically made gin, Bathtub Gin comprises a strong and spicy flavour with cardamom and clove notes and a hint of orange. Serve with: it’s best with Fevertree tonic and garnished with a slice of blood orange for a zesty and complimentary scent.