I am huge lover of gin. I was never a big gin & tonic fan. However, having only had them at bars or at house parties, both the gin and the tonic typically used are not the highest in quality. Drinking “bar rail” gins are absolutely putrid (think: Gordon’s, Beefeater, etc.) and the tonic water coming out of the yellow Schweppes can makes my stomach wretch just thinking about it. Watching other people drink it inside of a nightclub however, is super fun because their drink turns neon blue under blacklight.
First of all, you have to find a gin that you like. There are typically two kinds of hard alcohols: those intended for mixed drinks, and those intended to enjoy on their own. Immediately, this eliminates the use of most bar rail quality gins because even though you are adding tonic water which has a type of sugar in it and quinine is also a very strong flavour, there are no juices or complex flavour to “hide” the lesser quality gins.
The type of gin you choose is chalked up to personal taste preferences; some people prefer a simple gin created with not many botanicals (i.e. Tanqueray is only made with 4 botanicals – juniper being the only one mandatory to call itself a “gin”), whereas some people prefer a more floral gin (i.e. Bombay Sapphire contains 10 botanicals), and some people prefer a more earthy vegetable flavour in their gin (i.e. any cucumber gin, Hendrick’s). If you have the money to shell out for a bottle of Hendrick’s or Tanqueray 10, those would be my higher quality gin recommendations.
Next, you have to find a tonic water that you like. Personally, I would stay away from any cheaply-produced tonic waters (i.e. Schweppes, Canada Dry) because anything produced from a company which mass-produces soda pop is going to contain foul ingredients (high fructose corn syrup as their sugar and sodium benzoate as a preservative). I used Fever-TreeNaturally Light Indian Tonic Water because it uses a small amount of fructose as its sweetening agent and has only 3.9g of sugar per 200 mL bottle. What is “Indian” tonic water? It’s the same thing as regular tonic water, it’s merely a marketing ploy to make it sound more fancy. Read the Wikipedia entry for tonic water and you will see that the history of the Gin & Tonic drink originated in British colonial India, hence the name. Quinine (the ingredient in tonic water that gives it that unique bitter flavour) is not indigenous to tree bark from India, it is indigenous to Africa and South Asia.
The first G&T that I made at home, I used 2 oz of Bombay Sapphire gin and the Fever-Tree Naturally Light Indian Tonic Water. It was too intense for me, so I added 5 drops of Hella Bitters Citrus bitters to try and temper the overwhelming flavour of the thinned out Bombay Sapphire. Choosing the proper gin was even more crucial in this case because I used half of the 200 mL bottle of Fever-Tree for my drink, which means there was next to no sugar to mask nor complement the gin flavour.
The second G&T I made was far better. Instead of using Bombay Sapphire, I used 2 oz of De Kuyper’s Genever Gin. This gin has a flavour like nothing else I had tried before it; it has a very citrus and sweet flavour to it. It definitely tastes like a gin, but lacks the earthy tones that Hendrick’s has, and also lacks the floral tones that Bombay has (sadly after my Bombay G&T, I felt a bit like I had been catapulted face-first into a bowl of potpourri)! The bitter orange flavour in the Fever-Tree complemented the Genever quite well. It was not necessary to add any bitters to this one to temper the flavour; the gin and tonic water alone were a fantastic combination. I now found a G&T that I liked!!
- Fever-Tree Naturally Light Tonic Water product sheet from their website
- Tonic Water page on Wikipedia
- Types of Gin and Distillation processes a fantastic page on the history of gin, different types of gin, and some insight into the distillation process