There’s probably only a handful of weekends left in this year’s G&T season—so let’s not waste another precious minute. Instead, let’s give this cherished summer classic a memorable send-off with four versions of the perfect gin and tonic.
With all the new craft gins in Canada (as well as plenty of exciting tonic water options), it’s never been more fun—or more delicious—to play around with this mixed drink. That said, mixing and matching is easier when you know a few basic rules about selecting the right gin for your palate, as well as a foolproof formula for making the best G&T.
Two parts tonic to one part gin is a classic formula that’s easy to follow, easy to remember and will never let you down.
Method: Add ice to a rocks glass and pour in two ounces of gin. Take the tonic water out of the fridge and slowly pour it into the glass. Stir it once and garnish with a lemon, spritzing a little juice in before you drink it.
*The lemon and lime debate rages on, even though it’s more common to see limes these days, especially in North America. Lemon boosters say limes are too sweet and bully the gin. The lime camp says, simply, they like the way lime tastes better. Fair enough. We invite readers to try them side by side to see if they agree that lemon allows a classic dry gin’s spicy juniper and citrus to shine through.
Now, about the choice of gin. There are, essentially, two styles of gin to choose from: “London Dry”-style gins and “Contemporary” gins. Until about 15 or 20 years ago, most gins we saw on-shelf were London Dry and they had a relatively uniform style that balanced, citrus, earthy spices and juniper—an essential ingredient that gives it that bracing “pine” flavour. Contemporary gins still contain juniper, but they often use other ingredients as the “star” botanical that drives the flavour. Georgian Bay may not call itself a London Dry, but it still conforms to the classic profile.
In the case of premium tonic, trading up seems worth it, since the sugar levels are so much lower in most of the swanky tonics than they are in the cans offered by Big Soda. In addition to the ubiquitous Fever-Tree, though, there are plenty of other great brands, including Franklin & Sons from the United Kingdom and a new-ish Canadian tonic called 1642, which is made in Montreal. (It’s nice to have a homegrown option, right?)
At many bars in Spain and Portugal you don’t just order a gin and tonic, you’re presented with a menu of options made from the dozens of bottles lining the shelves of southern Europe’s gin bars. The drinks come in large, round “copa” glasses and, in addition to the usual ingredients, are seasoned with herbs, spices and fruit designed to enhance the gin’s unique flavour profile.
Method: Partly fill a copa glass (or large wine glass) with 5 or 6 ice cubes. Build the drink by adding gin, tonic, peppercorns and star anise and give it a quick stir. Add basil and garnish with a lime wedge, spritzing in a little juice before you drink it.
Since it’s actually difficult to taste the juniper, Montréal’s Loop Gin is very much a contemporary gin—ideal for people who don’t love the botanical’s pine flavour of traditional gins. It’s also a good choice for those of us who worry about food waste, since it’s distilled from the leftover bits of spuds that don’t make the cut at the potato chip factories.
It’s easy to think nothing can top the classic formula and the Spanish twist but this pink slushy G&T is, hands down, our new favourite. Hard to understand why it isn’t everywhere yet.
Method: Combine all ingredients except grapefruit and blend for 30 seconds until it has a slushy consistency. Squeeze the grapefruit wedge into then drink, then add its husk to the cocktail.
*We’ve called for chilled tonic in all recipes. It makes a big difference to the integrity of the drink, since you don’t want the ice to melt too quickly. That’s especially true with this frozen version and, if you can keep the gin in the freezer for a few hours before making this, it’ll be better yet.
There are several gins that have a pink or blue-ish purple hue out there, including the indigo-coloured Empress 1908, which contains butterfly pea flower, a natural substance that causes this gin to turn pink after it comes into contact with acidic tonic water and/or citrus.
For days when you want to skip the alcohol but still enjoy the flavour, there are dozens of options for non-alcoholic spirits on the market these days.
Method: Use the classic method for this, but garnish with a cucumber ribbon, in addition to the lemon.
Non-alcoholic spirits: Since Canadian-made Lumette! is an “Alt-Gin” made in a London Dry style, the classic formula works well here. It’s widely available across Canada but, if you can’t find it, try HP Juniper Classic Non-Alcoholic Gin (made in Quebec) or Ceder’s Crisp, an import we’ve come to appreciate.
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