Who doesn’t love a gin and tonic? Light and refreshing, like fizzy air in a glass, the classic G&T is the easiest and simplest of cocktails to make at home. The perfect companion on a warm summer evening or by the fireside in winter.
Easy to make? Well, you might think so. And you might be forgiven for thinking ‘Do I really need someone to tell me how to make a gin and tonic?’ But the difference between a so-so G&T and a great gin and tonic is like comparing fine dining to a ready meal.
A Little Bit of History
The classic gin and tonic is a historical fluke. Quinine, the bitter extract from the cinchona tree, had been used as a preventative against the tropical disease malaria since the 18th century. But it took British colonialists in India in the late 19th to early 20th centuries to concoct the modern-day G&T. They found that by mixing the bitter quinine with gin, sugar and soda water made it rather more palatable. Huzzah!
So, here goes…
Tip 1: Choose the Right Glass
The current trend in gin glassware is the Spanish Copa de Balon. With its balloon shape, there is plenty of room for ice, garnish, gin and tonic.
The traditional Collins glass still has its advocates. Its tall shape keeps the fizz in your tonic. There is less room to be creative with your garnish but if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like a sprig of rosemary up your hooter when taking a sip then this may be the glass for you.
Tip 2: Chill Your Glass
A great G&T needs to be as cold as possible and a warm glass will spoil that. The sight of condensation on the outside of your Cope de Balon is a wonderful sight. Try keeping your glass in the freezer. It won’t break the glass and you will get frosting on the glass which does look rather pretty.
Tip 3: Choose Your Ice Carefully
The first ingredient to go into your glass will be ice. There are only 4 ingredients in a G&T: ice, gin, tonic and garnish. So each one has to be the best. Cloudy, misshapen ice can spoil the look of your cocktail. Clear ice is fabulous and looks great.
If making it at home use an ice cube tray that makes large cubes. These will take longer to melt in your drink and keep it colder for longer.
You can also buy ice cube kits online that promise the production of clear ice. These work as long as you follow the instructions closely.
Tip 4: Be Discerning in Your Choice of Gin
This tip is harder to achieve than it sounds. There are 5000+ gins out there. How do you know which one is going to make a great G&T? Answer: you don’t.
Which is where you can have lots of fun trying out different gins until you find a few or many you like. Over time you will come to know your palate and know which gins you are likely to enjoy. Whether fruity, floral, spicy, sweet, savoury or full-on juniper.
Tip 5: Keep Your Gin Cold
Some people keep their gin in the freezer. Gin, usually hovering at around 40% ABV (alcohol by volume), will not freeze solid. Of course, if like me you have 50+ gins in your gin cabinet at home, finding space for them all in the freezer is ridiculously impossible. Chilling your bottle of choice for the evening in the fridge is the answer.
Tip 6: Be Discerning in Your Choice of Tonic
Yep. It’s just as important to get your tonic right as it is your gin. There are a lot of tonics to choose from. Maybe not so many as gins but enough to make the array and choice quite dizzying. Again, it is a matter for experimentation until you find a few or a particular one you like. Don’t overlook the humble plain Indian tonic. It gives the gin the chance to shine.
Tip 7: Never Use Flat Tonic
This is more of an anti-tip but it is one of the most important. Flat tonic will ruin your carefully planned G&T. Bubbles carry flavour. The crisper your G&T the more flavoursome it will be. Use a fresh bottle every time.
Tip 8: Get Your Ratios Right
Gone are the days when a bartender would pour you a single measure of gin only to drown it out in a tsunami of tonic. These days bartenders will often as not hand you a bottle of tonic with your serving of gin to enable you to pour your own to your own satisfaction. That said, it is too easy at home to commit the same crime of washing out all the flavour of a good craft gin with too much tonic.
So how much is too much?
A good ratio to start with is 1:2. 1 part gin to 2 parts tonic. That works out at about 30ml of gin to 60ml of tonic or roughly 1 to 2 fluid ounces.
Ok, so this might just look a little skimpy in a large Copa de Balon. In which case, double up your quantities.
If this is too strong for your taste try a ratio of 1:3. Any more than this and it really isn’t worth using an artisan gin with a unique flavour as you won’t taste it.
Tip 9: Use Fresh Garnishes
Your herbs, citrus, spice, or whatever you choose to garnish your gin with should be as fresh as possible. Taking a sad bit of mint out of your fridge and dangling it over the side of your glass is not garnishing your gin!
Use organic citrus if you can. Alternatively, pop your citrus into a bowl of hot water for a few seconds to remove the wax coating along with the preserving chemicals.
Freezing citrus degrades the flavour as does dehydrating it. I am not a fan of the current trend for dried garnishes. I just think what is the point? The aroma and flavour will be long gone, along with the fresh colourful appearance of the zest if using dried citrus.
Tip 10: Enjoy Your Gin
Well, this one is easy. Just take your time and savour your creation.