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Recipe: How to Make the Perfect Gin and Tonic (With Origin Story)

Recipe: How to Make the Perfect Gin and Tonic (With Origin Story)

 Gin and tonic reminds us of summer beach trips, pool parties, and evening barbeques. Its crisp taste coupled with aromatic notes creates a delightful sensory experience that captures the essence of carefree summer days and vibrant social gatherings. No wonder it has survived the test of time and continues to be a timeless classic. But few people know that this drink is known more for its fighting spirit than its botanicals.

Curious? Alright. The true essence of a complete drink-making experience lies in knowing its origin. So, before we get into the perfect gin and tonic recipe that you are here for, let's take a moment to explore the unusual history behind it. It would be something interesting to talk about while making the cocktail for your friends, family, or customers.

170+ Years of the Gin and Tonic

Believe it or not, the G&T dates back to the 1850s. Back in the day, when the Crown took over the Indian subcontinent, the British colonial officers faced a serious problem of malaria. The cure and preventative was quinine, a derivative of the cinchona bark, which happened to have an extremely bitter taste.

To make it palatable, the Britishers would mix their daily anti-malarial supplement with sugar and soda which Schweppes would eventually call ‘Indian Tonic Water’. With a daily ration of gin at their disposal, someone soon realized that the drink smoothed out even more when the spirit was added to it along with a slice of lemon. The accompanying inebriation didn’t hurt anyone. And voila! The Gin and Tonic was born.

Even Sir Winston Churchill, acknowledging the genius of the cocktail had remarked, “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen's lives than all the doctors in the Empire.” This sentiment holds even more true considering a rather extreme European malaria treatment before the discovery of cinchona. In those times, infected individuals were thrown into bushes with the hope that they would emerge before the fever, essentially leaving the fever behind.

In addition to the iconic British legend, the origin of the gin and tonic also has a few other intriguing tales. One such story dates back to 1846 when French chemist John Dubonnet crafted the 'Aperitif', a tonic wine infused with herbs and spices to conceal the bitter taste of quinine. It was originally intended to encourage French Foreign Legion members to consume quinine. This Dubonnet blend caught the attention of wine merchants, the Lillet brothers and they transformed it into an invigorating appetite stimulant by adding wine and fruit liqueurs to the concoction.

Fast forward to the early millennium. A remarkable evolution of the Gin and Tonic (Gin Tonica) unfolded in Spain. Renowned Michelin-starred chefs at San Sebastian, Spain’s culinary capital, embraced the trend, adorning their long-stemmed, balloon wine glasses called ‘copa’ with artisanal G&T creations, generously garnished with botanicals.

Product recommendation: Get your Balloon Wine Glass at Joseph Grace Brands

Since then, this once-simple libation has transcended Spain's borders, captivating the United States and the rest of the world. Craft gins, tonics infused with meticulously crafted herbal blends, and dedicated gin bars have emerged, diligently keeping the G&T flame alive.

Why is the Gin and Tonic Still Popular Today?

The gin and tonic recipe embodies a fundamental principle of cocktail mixing, as seen in classics like the Negroni, Manhattan, and Old Fashioned: the harmonious interplay of spirits, sugar, and bitters.

If you take a closer look, the gin and tonic recipe is a mash-up of two drinks: gin and bitters and gin sling. Gin and bitters had already gained prominence in 18th century India (as mentioned above) with the ‘bitters’ part consisting of ingredients like cinchona bark, ginger, gentian, Bitter Orange, etc. And the gin sling constitutes a concoction of gin, sugar, and soda water without the ‘bitters’. So what G&T essentially did was take the best parts of both these drinks, put them together, and give it a stir. What’s not to like?

Today, the G&T has been reinvented for the modern audience. While it can no longer prevent malaria, the marriage of gin's vibrant botanicals with tonic's tangy and subtly bitter characteristics exemplifies the classic cocktail balance.

The Gin and Tonic Recipe (We’ve All Been Waiting For)

There is a lot of debate about what makes the perfect gin and tonic. Truth is, any cocktail is only as good as the sum of its parts. So it's best to start with quality ingredients instead of reaching for the bottom-shelf gin or the sweetened pink gins and the store-brand tonic.

For a classic, crisp taste, choose Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater, or Tanqueray. Choose premium tonic water like Q Mixers, Regatta, or Fever-Tree to complement the gin.

You will need:

  1. Copa/Collins/Rocks glass
  2. Gin
  3. Tonic
  4. Ice cubes - You can use playful ice cube trays to make your G&T stand out. For example, add a touch of whimsy to your drinks with this fun Gin And Titonic-Ice ice cube tray which creates four ocean liners and four icebergs.
  5. Lime
  6. Garnish (optional)

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

  1. Believe it or not, choosing the right glassware is an important part of the G&T flavor. A balloon glass pushes the gin’s aromatics to your nose, thus creating a more flavorful drinking experience. On the other hand, a highball glass preserves the carbonation, keeping your drink fizzy longer.

  2. Large ice cubes keep the drink frozen longer without watering it down

  3. The ideal ratio of gin to tonic is 1:2 (one part gin and two parts tonic water). Why does this work? Because this ratio allows the gin to shine through nicely while the tonic water complements the botanicals in it without overpowering the taste.

  4. Use chilled tonic water for maximum carbonation. But do not pour the tonic too fast since it would release a lot of carbonation before hitting the glass and make your drink less fizzy. Instead, tilt the glass sideways and then gradually bring it upright.

  5. Do not overstir. It will make the drink flat quickly.

  1. Start by chilling your glass. A cold glass helps keep your cocktail at the perfect temperature. While your glass is chilling, prepare the ice cubes.

  2. Now half-fill the glass with the ice cubes

  3. Pour two ounces of gin over the ice

  4. Add four ounces of ice-cold tonic water and give it a couple of stirs

  5. Do not squeeze the lime slice because it would overpower the subtler notes of the gin. Instead, just add a wedge of lime to the drink for the refreshing aroma.

  6. While the lime wedge is the classic garnish, you can get creative and add fruits, berries, spices, or herbs to spruce it up. Use thyme or rosemary with citrusy gins, lavender or cucumber with floral gins, and cinnamon or cloves when using gins with spicy profiles.

There you have it - your perfect gin and tonic

Everything said and done, it's important to remember that taste is subjective. There are plenty of good gins and tonic waters out there. So, feel free to experiment with every aspect of your drink - from choice of glass to garnish. You are going to have a lot of fun doing it.

Here's to the humble gin and tonic, a drink born out of necessity and then evolved into a worldwide favorite!


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