The Perfect Gin and Tonic

by Paul Zablocki & Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Now that summer is officially here according to our social calendars, gin is in. Every gin drinker has a favorite way to make a gin and tonic. For some, substitutions will not do. We have several ways of making this refreshing cooler, and they all have the same 2:1 ratio of tonic to gin. One of our readers wanted to know about tonics and how they interact with different brands of gin.

"I've been trying to perfect gin and tonics for the summer, but always feel that the mainstay tonics - Canada Dry and Schweppes - could stand replacement with a better product. I've heard of a few boutique tonics, but haven't had any luck locating any. Can you identify these products, and possibly even do an evaluation of various tonics?"

- Chris Boerboom, Brooklyn, NY

So to answer Chris's question, we did a gin-and-tonic tasting using four different gins and three different tonics, all in a 2-parts-tonic-to-1-part-gin ratio, plus lime wedge. Now, remember, taste is very subjective, but we made a few discoveries along the way, namely that a dry gin is preferable, and that tonic with corn syrup is a little too sweet and leaves a bitter and somewhat chemical aftertaste. That said, here are our favorites:

  1. Bombay Dry Gin and Fever Tree Tonic: Regarding London dry gins, Fever Tree Tonic is a great foil. This gin and tonic is refreshingly balanced (you can taste all three ingredients), clean and smooth, with a slightly bitter taste (but no change in the finish, it's a consistent flavor)
  2. Tanqueray Dry Gin and Fever Tree Tonic: This gin and tonic is a little sweeter than our first recommendation. The gin is more prominent, and the bitterness is stronger yet pleasant.
  3. Tanqueray and Canada Dry Tonic: If you cannot locate Fever Tree Tonic, you can go to your grocery store and pick up this tonic that uses corn syrup. Sweetness and bitterness are balanced when mixing this commercially produced tonic with Tanqueray, but the overall effect is a sweeter start and a bitter finish.

Overall, we prefer London Dry Gins (the drier the better, with mild juniper taste) and Fever Tree Tonic (available at finer grocery stores . . . ask your grocer to stock it).

You may have your own preferred brand of tonic (there are lots more out there). You may want to try Q Tonic and Fentimans with your favorite gin and see if any sparks fly. And by all means, don't stick to the 2:1 ratio if that doesn't cut it. After all, it is your drink. Don't settle for something you don't like.

Gin and Tonic

  • 1 1/2 (or 2) oz. gin
  • 3 (or 4) oz. tonic
  • ice
  • lime wedge, optional

In a highball glass filled with ice, add the gin, stir a bit, and then top with tonic. Give it another quick stir. Garnish with a lime wedge for extra flavor.

Serve with potato chips or some other salty snack.

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Photo (c) Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz