Like fish and chips, gin and tonic is one of life’s classic combinations. The way gin’s resinous juniper mingles harmoniously with sweet, quinine-spiked tonic is pure magic.
Not that this pairing is staid. Just as gin has rapidly evolved with its craft distilleries and quirky botanicals, so has tonic boutique-ified. The default is no longer trusty Schweppes, or even Fever-Tree; new options have joined the mix, including Double Dutch, London Essence and Buzbee’s. In short, it’s now possible to customise your G&T to the nth degree.
Any quality gin will, theoretically, work, so long as you use the right mixer, in the right quantities (see below). But the very best gins for G&Ts are special. When combined with tonic, they become more than the sum of their parts. Lengthened out judiciously, their true characters shine.
As for character? There should be plenty of it: complexity is key to keep you wanting every sip. A gin’s flavours must stand up to the body and sweetness of your chosen mixer, too – as well as ice dilution.
How to make a gin and tonic
Although the Gin & Tonic is a simple two-ingredient cocktail, there’s plenty of debate in the drinks world about how to craft a perfect serve. Which glass to use? How much ice and which garnish is best? What about the gin-to-tonic ratio?
Start with the basics: whichever glass you choose (highball, balloon wine glass), chill it in the freezer first, then fill it to the brim with ice.
Your choice of gin is entirely down to personal preference – though London Dry styles make a reliably good G&T – and it’s worth investing in a premium tonic such as Fever-Tree. Use a three-to-one ratio (50ml of gin to 150ml tonic) and stir gently to mix. Avoid stirring vigorously as this will make the drink lose carbonation and its signature fresh fizz.
Lemon is the classic garnish, but don’t be afraid to experiment: lime, grapefruit, herbs, cucumber or berries can complement the botanical notes in different gins.
The best gin for a gin and tonic: Eight to try
Boatyard Double Gin
Boatyard is made using a genever-inspired, double-contact distillation – which means that the juniper is introduced twice (hence the ‘double gin’ moniker). The result is bags of juniper flavour that, when paired with the punchy abv, make a full-bodied gin that rounds out beautifully when blended with richer tonics. Produced in Northern Ireland with organic wheat spirit, the distillation also includes local sweet gale. Alc 46%
Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin
It’s a difficult line to tread: how do you imbue a gin with sense of place, while still making sure it tastes like gin (that is, like juniper)? But this premium Aussie bottling nails it. Juniper-forward on the initial sips, a slow savour reveals some of the 20-odd unique botanicals: finger lime, macadamia and raspberry included. It’s just as lovely with a light tonic as it is in a very frosty Martini. Abv 46%
Cambridge Dry Gin
From Master Distiller William Lowe – also a Master of Wine – Cambridge Dry is made with a vacuum distillation process that faithfully captures delicate botanicals such as fresh basil, lemon verbena and blackcurrant leaf. The result? A flavourful, ultra-smooth gin that’s delicious no matter how you serve it. A simple Indian tonic brings out that basil note, which persists even after significant ice-melt. Alc 42%
This transportive London Dry, hailing from southern France, sings with aromatic orange flower, mimosa, pink peppercorn and citrus on both nose and palate. Distinctively sun-baked yet elegantly restrained, it needs only a small slug of quality tonic to heighten its floral and peel notes. A fresh, contemporary gin that will make you yearn for the Côte d’Azur. Alc 43%
Kaffir lime on the nose; sea buckthorn fruitiness and gently tannic maté on the palate – this gorgeous Cornish gin, distilled in a copper still using a one-shot method, is filled with 11 unique botanicals that probably shouldn’t work together (but really do). It’s best mixed with a fresh, neutral tonic that lets each distinct flavour chirp in – try Navas. Alc 43%
Distilled with fresh quince, Ramsbury smells like an orchard in autumn; think generous fruit sweetness, tempered with a crisp, citric brightness. It’s a full-flavoured nose and palate made for G&T drinking, so the unique profile of this grain-to-glass spirit is not lost to even the most robust of tonics. If you love floral and fruity notes, experiment with Fever-Tree Elderflower. Alc 40%
Zippy yuzu peel; floral cherry blossom; herbaceous green tea; warm sansho pepper – Roku has them all, and when this Japanese gin is lengthened out with a fresh tonic they hit your palate in perfect, symphonic succession. Complex, structured, utterly distinctive and with plenty of staying power in the glass, it encapsulates what you should look for in a great G&T gin. Alc 43%
Tarquin’s Cornish Dry Gin
A highly aromatic gin from Cornwall that delivers equal intensity on the palate. Floral orange blossom, coriander and spicy cardamom notes show first; almond sweetness and more spice follows on, with a hint of violet. There’s a fair dose of juniper, too, lending pine forest freshness. Tarquin’s suggests using a Mediterranean-style tonic, but try a premium Indian tonic for mellow smoothness. Alc 42%