Everyone knows the gin and tonic, right? Easy to make at home, even easier to order in a bar, great in the summer, great in the winter when you want to be reminded of summer – a true classic with a long, rich history. But, as with any drink, there are right ways and wrong ways to make one. Just as you can wind up (as often as not) with a shabby offering at a bar, you can make a not-so-great G & T at home. And the difference between a good gin and tonic and a bad one usually boils down to what tonic you use. Your average tonic off the supermarket shelf is riddled with high fructose corn syrup and makes up in sweetness what it lacks in complexity. Fortunately the cocktail revival of recent years has put numerous superior options within easy reach. You can even make your own, as described, among other places in Jeffrey Morganthaler’s The Bar Book. I haven’t gone down that route yet. My tonic of choice is Fever Tree Naturally Light Indian Tonic Water – not because I’m overly concerned with calories, but simply because it’s noticeably less sweet than their regular version while maintaining a good balance of the bitter and medicinal flavors that are crucial to a legit tonic. I also recently tried Jack Rudy’s Small Batch Tonic, which comes as a syrup that you mix with club soda. It was quite good although has a much stronger quinine taste than any other tonic I’ve tried. It also had notes of what seemed to me like sassafras, which wasn’t bad but just didn’t seem to work quite right in a gin and tonic. But it’s definitely worth a try – it’s unique enough that you just might love it.
Gin, too, is a crucial consideration. That being said, there are so many good quality gins on the market now that I won’t even bother to recommend any specific bottles. Just stay off the bottom shelf.
Finally, the size of your glass is important. Too small and you’ll wind up with either a tiny drink or a bad gin/tonic ratio. So use a proper highball glass – roughly 14 ounces, give or take a couple.
As with the Old-Fashioned, I’ve made so many gin and tonics that I don’t measure anything. So these are approximations – in any case, you’ll want to play around a bit until you come up with the version that is perfect for you.
Fill a highball glass about 80% full with ice. Squeeze in some lime juice – I generally do about 1/4 of a lime, unless they are especially small or unjuicy. Pour in the gin – something in the neighborhood of 2 to 2 1/2 ounces. Fill with tonic (about 6 ounces). Stir briskly but briefly. Garnish with more lime if you’d like; I rarely do.
Again, feel free to play around with those quantities, but I wouldn’t expect, one you’re done meddling, that you’ll be terribly far from those numbers. What you should wind up with is a drink in which none of the individual ingredients stands out too much. This is one of those drinks where everything blends together to create something greater than the sum of its individual parts. It shouldn’t taste like gin, or tonic, or lime. It should taste like a gin and tonic. Five livers, of course.