How to make the best gin and tonic.
You’re probably sitting there thinking you already know, and expecting me to tell you to use a big balloon glass half filled with ice cubes, a measure of gin drowned in tonic, and a slice of lemon floating on top. Ummm, well, no I’m not!
I’ve been a gin drinker for many, many, many years. I’ve always loved gin, and gin and tonic is my favourite drink. It has many advantages, it’s refreshing, it doesn’t give you the headache that red wine will and, unlike white wine, it’s not over acidic so won’t upset your tum. And I don’t know about you, but I find I can drink gin without it making me squiffy too quickly, unlike beer which goes straight to my head. So, for me, it’s been a lifelong love affair with gin.
Which is why I’ve loved the recent explosion in gin bars and premium gins. But along with gin bars has come a strange new convention about how gin should be drunk. And I’ve tried, really I have, I have tried to drink my gin the way these new ‘experts’ say is best – in a large balloon glass, lots and lots of ice, and plenty of posh tonic. Their theory is that the big glass brings out the ‘nose’, it lets you smell the aroma of the gin. And that having lots of ice cools the gin quickly to retain the gin flavour – they say that if there’s lots of ice it melts more slowly and the gin isn’t watered down. And that the new ‘natural’ tonics taste better.
Well, I have to beg to differ. The big glass is uncomfortable to hold, and makes your hand cold. There’s no aroma because of vast quantities of ice, that DO melt, so that within 5 minutes the gin is drowned in melted ice water which, with the vast amounts of tonic, means that you can’t smell or taste the gin. What you’ve got is a big glass of very cold, tasteless, slightly fizzy liquid. Not for me!
I’m getting to the point where I can’t visit a gin bar any more, as the sight of gin bottles trembling with fear as they await their drowning is just too upsetting.
This is how to serve gin …
First, the really fun bit, is to choose your gin. We all have our personal favourites.
Then, make sure the bar can serve you a simple tonic – personally, I think Schweppes (either full fat or slimline) is best. Schweppes because it doesn’t have lots of aromatic flavour of its own, so it won’t mask the aromatics in the gin.
Ask the barman for a straight sided glass, an ordinary pub glass is fine, or a whisky tumbler. A mug will do fine (especially if you’re at work).
Add, at the most, two lumps of ice.
Pour over a double shot of gin – less than that isn’t worth having. Please, if you like, make it a triple – quadruple even! I’m sure you deserve it.
Always pour your own tonic as barmen tend to add too much. Add the Schweppes sparingly and don’t drown the gin, you want to savour the flavour of the gin, not that of the tonic. A small amount of tonic will bring out the aromatic flavours of the gin (in the same way that a little water brings out the flavour of a single malt whisky), and the bubbles give it life.
You can add a slice of lemon or lime if you must, but remember it’ll add citrus notes to the gin, which just might, depending on its aromatics, destroy the flavour.
Sip, and relax. You’ll get a lovely hit of gin aromatics – lovely!
Drink and enjoy, after all, the best tonic has a large gin in it!