If cocktails were men, gin and tonic would be my life partner.
I’ll admit my head is easily turned by glitzy drinks with alluring names at trendy bars. But only now and again. It’s mostly because I know very few can reproduce my beloved to my liking.
Gin and tonic (G&T to me) has been my drink for nearly three decades—almost as long as I’ve been married. Some people treat booze like a seasonal wardrobe: clear liquids in the warmer months, brown ones for fall and winter. Not me. The discerning drinker sees what I’m drinking in December and laughs, as if I’m wearing flip flops in Ugg season. What do I care?
In fact, it was during last week’s snowstorm that I mixed my ultimate to date—bracing, fresh, potent. I didn’t stumble upon perfection, however. I’ve been refining this drink nearly as long as I’ve been legal.
It starts with the right glass, which in fact isn’t glass at all. Go with insulated plastic. Compared with glass, it preserves the ice, which in turn holds the drink much longer in its perfected state. When we happened upon our insulated glasses at a yard sale nearly twenty years ago, we had no idea we were spending two bucks for Anderson heirlooms.
For the same reason, choose chunky ice cubes over shaved or chipped, both of which melt quickly, diluting the booze and killing the fizz. Unless your freezer ice is truly flavorless, store-bought is better.
Use bright, fresh, juicy limes. Key limes are fine, but I prefer the straight-ahead flavor of the more common Persians. Go without (or squeeze in a little fresh lemon) before using juice from a bottle or one of those plastic lime squirters.
There are lots of interesting gins out there, most of which belong in those glitzy drinks with alluring names. Maybe it’s because I’m a cook that I’m drawn to botanically potent Bombay Sapphire, “delicately infused” (says the ad) not boiled with a whopping ten herbs and spices. I like my drink made with frigid gin. So even though freezer space is precious, I reserve an oversized parking spot for a 1.75 liter bottle.
You can still enjoy a respectable G&T in a glass tumbler, with an aging lime, and a less distinct gin, but it’s impossible without decent tonic. I’d rather sip on oaky California Chardonnay than drink a G&T made with soda-gun tonic. House brand tonic water or even Canada Dry—especially the liter bottle varieties—are almost as bad as the gun stuff, especially if the liter bottles are resealed and day old. (Forget it.)
For years my only tonic was Schweppes—10-ounce glass bottles or 12-ounce cans, perfect for two drinks. My new favorite, the one I used to mix the ultimate drink the other night, is Q tonic. Made with hand-picked quinine and organic agave, it makes a clean, crisp, not overly sweet drink.
Anyone trying to cut calories with diet tonic, don’t bother. Check out the calorie count on the Q bottle. Just 24. Don’t let 24 measly calories stand between you and perfection. It’s taken nearly thirty years—about the same time it took to develop the ultimate drink—for me to realize I’m better than that.