Oh my life. Pages and pages have been written on the topic of G&T. This absolutely British classic drink is not even a cocktail – it is a mixer. Calling it a recipe is a downright lie.
But then there are preferences … but before we get into that, let’s take a look at where the heck G&T (as we Brits call it) comes from. This drink, like ‘bungalow’ and ‘curry’ is a product of the British Raj rule over India. Hanging around India is perilous. The temperature and humidity of central India support life where it goes unwanted; and one of these forms of life is the mosquito-borne malaria. That little bastard will put you in bed with a fever for a week, and if you are of an unlucky disposition, then the wee viral bad guy will just straight out kill you dead.
Malaria is bad, and the British overlords in India were constantly trying to find ways to fend it off. Before the Raj, in 1763, the Reverend Stone famously found that willow bark, growing in the swamps so endemic with malaria, could treat the ‘agues’ (fever). The extract of that bark became aspirin, and that went on to bankroll Bayer for decades.
Meanwhile, back in India, the Raj-ites hit on the most sublime method of whacking malaria. They first invented tonic water that contains the anti-malarial quinine. But that tasted like s**t, so the officers, with better pay, added lime, sugar and gin to make the tonic more palatable. What they did not realise was that the addition of tonic to gin results in a chemical reaction that reduces the natural bitterness of both without wrecking the pharmacology. The gin and tonic was born, and boy am I glad that it was.
When making a gin and tonic, you have bonkers amounts of choice in gins, tonics and garnish. You can make up your own combo, but it might be helpful to know that Plymouth gin is sweet, and might not be great with Fever Tree tonic, which is also sweet. Cucumber gins are popular, and they do well with a cucumber garnish. Diet tonics are essentially cr*p. Beefeater gin goes well wth Schweppes. Most gins benefits from a lime garnish over lemon, and some do well wth grapefruit. Lavender flowers are a nice addition too. You can also chuck in juniper berries or black peppercorns to jazz things up. These days, you can think of gin and tonic as freestyle as a Pimms and lemonade. It is no surprise that gin bars are popping up all over England, with a new one due very soon in my local Macclesfield (details to come when available).
What follows here is Nosey’s perfect G&T (although the picture shows Reykjavik cucumber gin, because we are just back from Iceland and I had a camera handy).
Gin and tonic
- Enough ice to fill a highball glass
- 75ml Tanquerey gin (i.e. a triple)
- 150ml Schweppes tonic water (one of those small cans)
- Half a lime cut into two quarters
- 1 lavender stem
Fill the highball with ice.
Add all the gin.
Add the tonic water.
Cut into the centre of one of the quarters of lime and use it to wipe around the rim of the glass. Squeeze it into the glass and throw in the remains
Add the second quarter of lime to the drink.
Mix with a cocktail spoon, add a lavender stem and serve.
Using a big bottle of tonic is made of failure. It will lose gas, and the ice also strips gas out, so if you use a big bottle of tonic for more than one round of drinks, then you are cruising into a flat G&T, which is just terrible. Another way to make a flat G&T is to use crushed ice instead of cubes. Crushed ice has too many nucleating points, and also removes all the fizz.