How to make the perfect gin and tonic
Who doesn’t love a gin and tonic? Light and refreshing, like fizzy air in a glass, the classic gin and tonic 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 the perfect 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 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 best glass for a G&T is the Spanish Copa de Balon. With its balloon shape, there is plenty of room for ice, garnish, gin and tonic.
A Collins or highball glass will be your second choice. Their tall shape keeps the fizz in your tonic. But there is less room to be creative with your garnish.
Tip 2: Chill Your Glass
The perfect gin and tonic needs to be as cold as possible and a warm glass will just ruin that. The sight of condensation on the outside of your Cope de Balon or Collins glass 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 looks really pretty.
Tip 3: Choose Your Ice Carefully
There are only 4 ingredients in a G&T: ice, gin, tonic and garnish. So each one has to be the best. The first ingredient to go into your glass will be ice. Cloudy, misshapen ice can spoil the look of your cocktail. Clear ice is fabulous and looks great.
When 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.
Some websites will tell you to boil the water first, then cool it before freezing it in an ice cube tray. This just doesn’t work. Trust me.
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: sadly, you don’t.
Which is where you have fun trying out a lot of 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.
If you get stuck try an app like Ginventory.
Tip 5: Keep Your Gin Cold
Some people, not me I hastened to add, keep their gin in the freezer. Gin, usually at 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.
But if you know which gins (note the plural) you are going to drink of an evening, just pop them into the fridge an hour beforehand to chill them right down.
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 tonic waters 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 brand you particularly like.
The new ‘light’ tonics that promise fewer calories on the label rely on fructose as a sweetener. But although you will be taking in fewer calories, fructose has been linked to Type 2 diabetes so should be treated with caution.
If you are at all worried about the number of calories in your G&T trying switching to soda water instead.
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 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 25ml of gin to 50ml of tonic or roughly 1 ounce to 2 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.
That said, you can try a ratio of 1:4 in a Collins glass with a supermarket gin and a premium flavourful tonic. It just means the tonic will be the star of the glass, not the gin.
Tip 9: Use Fresh Garnishes
Taking a sad bit of mint out of your fridge and dangling it over the side of your glass is not garnishing your gin! Your herbs, citrus, spice, or whatever you choose to garnish your gin with should be as fresh as possible.
The current trend for dried citrus garnishes is quite awful. No true ‘ginthusiast’ will use dried citrus garnishes to compliment their G&T. Why? Because it won’t. The flavour and aroma will be long gone, along with the fresh colourful appearance of the zest if using dried citrus.
Use organic citrus. Or alternatively, pop your citrus into a bowl of hot water for a few seconds to remove the wax coating.
Similarly, use fresh spices, not stale old ones that have been hanging around in your kitchen for a decade.
Check out Youtube for some great garnishing tips. I’ve never managed to copy some of the fabulously complicated garnishes on there. But I keep trying!
Tip 10: Enjoy Your Gin and Tonic
Well, this one is easy. Just take your time and savour your perfect gin and tonic.
Click on these links for some simple cocktail recipes:
For more gin in your life follow me on Facebook and Pinterest. Tag me on Instagram #4theloveofgin. I would love to see your G&T creations. Thank you.