Tom Litten examines how to craft the perfect G&T…
*Originally published in the June Issue of FOODLOVER Magazine*
My introduction to the Gin & Tonic was probably around 2009. At the restaurant I was working in at the time we were marvelling at the gin selection we had and how we thought it was the best in the town: we had four gins. Fastforward ten years, there are over 500 gins made in the UK and the best garnishes, glasses and tonics to pair them with have become a source of popular debate…
Glassware is one of the most commonly overlooked elements of the perfect G&T. I’d always recommend a Copa de Balon glass, a large stemmed glass similar to a bulbous red wine glass. This serve originates from Spain, first being used in the Basque region of northern Spain in the 1700s. The Copa glass provides more room for ice and ensures your drink stays cooler for longer. It also exposes more of the surface of the drink, opening up more of the flavours and aromas.
Broadly speaking, I’d group gin into four different flavour categories: fruity, floral, spicy and herbal. The best way to figure out which of these suits your palate best is to simply try some. There are plenty of bars in the West Country with a diverse range of gins and a good bartender will be able to advise you on the best ones to suit your personal taste.
Like gin itself, the tonic market has a wide range of options; and there are some excellent examples being produced across the south west. Each tonic will have different levels of sweetness and acidity, with producers often having additional flavoured tonics to choose from too. I’d always recommend trying a new gin with Indian Tonic Water first; as the more neutral flavour of Indian Tonic will make it easier to identify the characteristics of the gin itself. Get a feel for the flavours and aromas of the gin and then consider whether or not a flavoured tonic will match and enhance these. Think of it like using herbs and spices in a recipe. More premium gins will already have a well-refined balance between the flavours and may not actually benefit from adding a flavoured tonic.
As for the ratio of gin-to-tonic, it probably depends on how strong you like it. Start with a quarter gin to three-quarters tonic – you can always top-up either way.
In the same way that it’s hard to taste boiling hot food, serving a drink too cold can mask some of the flavours. Fill your glass three-quarters of the way to the top with ice and remember that ice will melt over time and dilute your drink, so slightly larger cubes are better.
A good garnish will have a link to the style of the gin and will complement the flavours already in the spirit. For example, if it’s a more herbal gin its unlikely to work well with a strawberry garnish but it may suit lemon thyme. Try to identify the most prominent flavour in the gin and choose a garnish with a similar feel. Most distilleries will give some serving suggestions on their website and extra-helpful producers will put them on the label.