Dutch ‘genever’ may have given their army ‘Dutch Courage’ but it was the Brits who gave us ‘Mother’s Ruin’. Whatever you call it Gin is having a well-earned renaissance, with the deceptively simple Gin and Tonic leading the charge.
History tells us the gin and tonic was a delightful accident.
When the English imposed colonial rule over India in 1858, the Brits had a problem; the scourge of malaria was rife. English officers drank tonic water with high dose Quinine as a preventative, but the tonic was much too bitter. The solution? Just add gin. And a little lime to ward off scurvy. The British Raj didn’t last but the magical blend of gin and tonic lives on.
Along with the rise of gin in England, came the great gin houses – brands like Tanqueray and Gordons made the old dart the epicentre of modern gin production.
It looks easy. Like a great martini relies only on premium gin and little more than a lick of vermouth, the gin must be top notch and the tonic real. There is nowhere to hide – a hint of lime or a curl of cucumber won’t make up for average gin or synthetic-tasting tonic water.
From the dark, London winter afternoons to sunny, Barcelona evenings and long, hot Sydney days it really is hard to beat the palate-cleansing refreshment of a good, icy-cold G&T.
The Spaniards are a nation obsessed with the seemingly simple cocktail. The Gin Tonica is always instagrammable, served in a large bowled, long-stemmed Copa de Balon glass usually with a fruit flourish and a hint of lime. Traditionally the Spaniards prefer a London dry gin.
Bars from Barcelona to New York serve dozens of variations with elaborate garnishes to temper the gin. Some mixologists even make their own artisanal tonics. But there is one constant – good gin. Salud!
With so many options small batch, artisanal, vapour infusion, vacuum distillation – choosing the ‘right’ option can all be a little overwhelming. All gins start with a pure grain spirit and natural botanicals. G&T traditionalists love juniper-forward gins but with modern gins, all bets are off. It’s all about hearty blends of aromatics from fragrant native plants to obscure herbs that can give the spirit a subtle but quirky nuance.
Some botanicals are enhanced in the glass with the garnish of herbs like rosemary or basil or even veggies like cucumber. Some flavoured gins or gin liqueurs work best with a flavoured tonic water to counterbalance the sweetness.
With new distilleries cropping up all over the world, some modern gins have developed cult status. These contemporary spirits are NOT your nana’s gin.
Gin and Tonic
On paper, it looks straightforward. And it should be. When you discover your ‘perfect’ gin, the tonic is next. Tonic styles include the original Indian, Elderflower, Mediterranean, Aromatic and Citrus. There are tonic cordials or tonic syrups but a good quality, not too sweet tonic like Fever-Tree makes it all easier.
Pink gin is another British accident. English sailors combined bitters with gin to make them more palatable. Voila. Pink gin. Pink gins are usually flavoured with berries, pomegranate, cherries or native botanicals and are a little sweeter and whatever the glass look much more interesting.
Sloe Gin like Haymans is crafted by steeping wild-foraged English Sloe Berries in Hayman’s gin for several months before blending with natural sugars. The recipe has been a closely guarded family secret for five generations. With a hint of almond and a spicy, Christmas pudding flavour this Sloe Gin is just at home over ice as something that could be sipped neat post-dinner.
For a very different G&T add Fever-Tree Sicilian Lemon Tonic Water to highlight the berries and give a slight lemon edge.
The Gin and Tonic’s new-found versatility probably has as much to do with its resurgence as the rise of the mixologist. What’s your tipple? Classic or contemporary?
Haymans and many other quality gins from around the world are available from Dan Murphy’s