The Perfect Gin and Tonic Recipe (Like They Do it In Spain)
- Take a large wine glass with a long stem. (OK, not like in the photo. Like this: copa de balon).
- Fill it with ice. We're talking eight or ten cubes here. A good G&T is COLD.
- Choose a garnish. The more imaginative the better (more on which garnish to pick further down the page).
- Pour the gin onto the garnish, so as to properly flavor the gin, followed by tonic poured from a freshly-opened bottle or can. Though tastes vary, you probably want a ratio of 2:1 (tonic to gin) the perfect strength when served this cold, so if you have a 150ml or 5oz can/bottle of tonic, you should pour 75ml/2.5oz of gin and then the whole can of tonic.
- Give it a light stir and hear the ice cubes jangle, add a straw and serve.
The Best Gin for Gin & TonicG&T needs a London gin - which is most gins in the world. Don't go near Gordon's, which is nowhere near the quality it was when James Bond would drink it. Avoid the subtle Plymouth, which is not a London gin (put that in your martini instead) or the back-in-production classic Old Tom gins (they're for your Tom Collins).
The standard premium gin in bars in Spain is Tanqueray which has a great fruity flavor and is pretty cheap. At home, the best drink is the one that can be easily followed by another one, so the excellent value of Tanqueray makes it my best gin for a gin and tonic.
If you want to drink a Spanish gin, go for the premium Larios 12, or the standard larios if you need to save a bit of money.
Thankfully the Spanish haven't fallen for the marketing might of Bombay Sapphire, which tastes like perfume and is responsible for so many people saying they don't like gin.
Another good gin for the home is Beafeater. But when you're in a good G&T bar in Spain, be adventurous. I love the distinctive-orange Boudier Saffron Gin and the blue-tinted London Gin No.1.
What is the Best Tonic Water for the Perfect Gin and Tonic?
Schweppes is the standard brand of tonic for a G&T, of course, but the Spanish obsess over Fever Tree, an all-natural tonic water from Britain. I compared the two brands both side-by-side at a bar in Malaga (the one mentioned below) and I have to say that in comparison to the Fever Tree, the Schweppes has a very synthetic aftertaste.
If you can't get hold of Fever Tree, you could always make your own tonic water!
Remember: always a freshly opened bottle of tonic for every drink!
How to Pick Your Garnish for the Perfect Gin and Tonic
There's two ways to garnish a G&T - the classic way, and the Spanish way.
First, let's answer the classic question - lemon or lime in a gin and tonic?
There are two contradictory schools of thought here. It's all about the 'botanicals', the flavors in gin that differentiate it from vodka. Juniper is the main one, but lemon, cardamom and cassia bark are among other frequently included flavors. So, there's lemon already there. Now, the question is: do you want to 'bring out' the lemon with more lemon, or complement the flavor by adding one that's not already present - in this case, lime?
There'll be some sciency-stuff that would prove one way or another whether you can 'bring out' flavours in this way, but we're not doing science here: this is art.
Ultimately, it's down to taste. So, if there is no right or wrong way to garnish your G&T, why stick with lemon or lime in the first place?
Enter the Spanish!
How the Spanish Garnish the Perfect Gin & Tonic
Ever since the marketing guys at Hendrick's thought of putting cucumber in their self-styled 'unusual' gin, the Spanish have been experimenting with G&T garnishes that aren't citrus fruits beginning with the letter 'l'. Any gin bar in Spain worth its juniper will offer you a variety of garnishes.
Gin is a varied beast, so why not vary your garnishes? Below are the garnishes I saw at San Telmo's in Barcelona. I chose this bar's selection because it had the most extensive list I've seen; that doesn't mean all their choices were good!
- Citrus fruits Lemon, lime, pink grapefruit, orange.
- Herbs and Spices Coriander, mint, cardamom, cinnamon, parsely, nutmeg, pepper, curry powder(!)
- Roots Ginger, liquorice
- Berries Grapes, raspberries, juniper.
- Other Cucumber, chocolate.
A lot of bars in Spain try to match garnishes to particular gins. I think this is going a bit over the top. Experiment and find your favorite garnish for your favorite gin.