For one, the simplicity of the recipe is deceptive. “When you only have two ingredients, everything matters—the glass, ice, straw, garnish and coaster,” says Jim Meehan, famed mixologist and author of Meehan’s Bartender Manual.
The other culprit? The tonic. More than just a vehicle to help deliver Gin down your gullet, the tonic in a G&T is meant to elevate and enhance the flavor of the Gin. “The biggest mistake for anyone making a G&T, whether you’re a bartender or just drinking at home, is to assume the tonic doesn’t matter,” says Inoka Ho, founder of Cocktail Co, a spirits and cocktail education and events company tonic tastings in Sydney, Australia.
Like a car with its wheels out of alignment, overly sweet, terrible tonic mixed with good Gin is going to go left no matter what you do. “It’s a phenomenal time to be a drinker of Gin, there are so many awesome spirits available,” notes Jordan Silbert, CEO and founder of Q Mixers. “Choose the right mixers to let those flavors shine.”
Since the tonic is, by volume, the better part of a G&T, it’s high time you upped your tonic game. Here’s how.
London Dry Gins
While various botanicals play supporting roles, juniper is undeniably the star in this style of Gin. Choosing a slightly bitter tonic like Thomas Henry Tonic Water highlights the juniper punch as does one Fever-Tree CEO Charles Gibb’s favorite combinations—Fords Gin and the company’s slightly bitter Aromatic Tonic. “It pairs perfectly with juniper-rich Gins,” he says.
Or you can counter the piney juniper with a tonic that includes citrus notes like the lemongrass and makrut lime leaves in Fentimans Premium Indian Tonic. For European Gin-lovers, London Essence’s London Tonic is distilled with juniper and lemon oil and is perfect paired with London Dry Gin. Also try their Bitter Orange & Elderflower.
Citrus and Herbaceous Gins
“With citrus style Gins, I prefer to lean into the curve,” says Marshall Minaya, head bartender at Valerie, a Gin-centric bar in New York City. “I like Suntory Roku with Fever-Tree Citrus tonic. The bright grapefruit from the tonic paired with the yuzu peel in the Roku is fantastic,” says Minaya.
In choosing between his tonics to pair with more herbaceous Gins, Silbert of Q Mixers prefers the low in sugar, cleaner-tasting Spectacular Tonic. “It was designed for Gins that are trying to do something interesting, whether it’s Hendricks or Death’s Door or Dorothy Parker, that has a little less juniper up front and a little more other stuff on the back side.”
Ho cautions against getting too matchy-matchy. “Highlighting one particular flavor can be a bit too much,” she says. “For example, I wouldn’t pair Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle Gin with Fever-Tree lemon tonic.” Fever-Tree’s Mediterranean, with its hint of rosemary provides more of a counterpoint that stands up to the lemon and allows it to shine.
Other great combos are the made-in-New-York combo of citrusy Brooklyn Gin with Brooklyn-based Q Drinks Original Tonic. "Tourists get a kick out of it," says Minaya..
Subtle elderflower tonics provide a lift to the delicate flavors found in The Botanist, McQueen and the Violet Fog and Jaisalmer without overpowering them. “Our Elderflower Tonic was designed with fresh and floral Gins in mind,” notes Gibb. Also try Thomas Henry Elderflower to add a hint of bitterness at the back or Q Drinks Elderflower which has more carbonation and less sugar.
These Gins may require a re-think of the classic 1-part Gin to 3-parts tonic proportion. “For higher proof Gins you can always add more tonic or less Gin to achieve the desired ABV,” points out Meehan. Because navy-strength Gins are punchier, they can withstand a more heavily flavored tonic. “I recently paired Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin with Fever-Tree Aromatic,” says Minaya. “The heat from the Gin cut with the bitterness from the angostura bark in the tonic is lovely.”
Speaking of Gin & Tonic: Our selection of best Gins under $50 does get along really well with Tonic!
Which is your favorite combo? Share in the comments below.