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.
Andie Reid says
Pam, have you tried freezing tonic for your ice cubes?
On occasion my editor’s husband makes tonic ice, but since I don’t usually have room for ice cube trays (my freezer looks exactly like the one in the illustration and gin storage is more important that tonic-flavored ice cubes!).
For me it’s an extra step and you have to think ahead. I’ve found the insulated glasses, coupled with big ice cubes works well enough for me.
Also, not sure I could afford Q ice!
Have you ever tried it, and if so, do you think it’s worth it?
I’ve always thought the lime was the key to pefection! Fresh lime,Tanqueray & Schweppes. I will have to look for Q though and give it a try!
i have long thought bombay, schweppes, and a healthy squeeze of lime was the perfect concoction. but now that Q has come into my life…i am pretty sure it will never be the same again.
Q is so light and refreshing, not super-sweet, and it doesn’t cover the taste of the gin. it has more of what i like about tonic (flavor) and less of what i don’t (calories)…it’s pretty perfect.
also, i know this is near-heretical to say in this family, but i think i might be switching to hendrick’s–or at least in the summer–because it’s so crisp, cucumber-y, and herbaceous. or maybe martin miller’s (which tony likes a lot). i don’t know, i love the blue bottle, but i am branching out. don’t worry mom, i’ll always been a gin girl 🙂
Marianne Johnson says
I have been drinking G&T’s for a very long time. I think it was when I discovered I couldn’t drink martini’s any longer. I love Bombay Saffire too, but have not tried freezing it. Thanks for the suggestion. I am also going to try to find Q. I was glad to see you don’t like the tonic out of the soda gun. I have sent several back to the bar saying they used soda water. They seem to produce a bitter drink. So, everyday around 4:30..I say to my husband…are you ready for a G&T? The answer is of course, YES. Life is good…and maybe even better when I try freezing the gin and using Q, if I can find it.
Andie Reid says
Pam for me it depends on how much they’ve melted. I think I prefer your insulated cup method. If too much of the tonic ice cubes melt, it throws the balance off for me.
Great essay, Pam! I’ll have to check out Q tonic.
Pam – great tip about the Q tonic, I love it too. My new favorite drink right now is Knob Creek burbon with a splash ginger beer and the juice from half of a lime – delightful!
Thomas Setter says
G&T the most perfect drink in the world – bar none.
Agree about the tonic, have you read whats in Schweppes?
My preferred tonic though is Fevertree, natural ingredients throughout, as for gin I would, in the name of a truly perfect G & T spend a little bit more money and trade up to Martin Miller’s Gin. Delicious!
love using the insulated cup — Pam’s G&T . . . mmmmm — but I’d especially enjoy it with your company!
Nicola Hall says
Girls you are drinking to slowly – the idea is to beat the ice cubes melting haha