Gin and Tonics Done Right | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Gin and Tonics Done Right

Gin and Tonics Done Right

The key to a tasty gin and tonic is to make sure your ingredients are fresh and of good quality

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Between the shift towards hotter weather, and the thoroughly dispiriting news of late, I thought a bracing, refreshing, cooling cocktail was in order.

The art of mixing a cocktail is not an exact science, so recipes and measurements should be thought of as guides, rather than rules chiseled in stone. At all times, mix according to your own taste. Similarly, the two basic secrets to mixing a fantastic cocktail are to use fresh, good quality ingredients whenever possible and to make certain that all the flavors are in perfect harmony so that each ingredient’s contribution is felt, but nothing overpowers or clashes.

A great starting point is a classic Gin and Tonic, or G & T.

As novelist and infamous drinker Kingsley Amis quipped in his book On Drink, “It would be rather shabby to take money for explaining that, for instance, a gin and tonic consists of gin and tonic, plus ice and a slice of lemon.” Yet even something so simple is so often done badly. When made well, a G & T is refreshing and clean, sparkling, and both bitter, sweet, and really helps take the edge off. When made badly, a G & T is a depressing mess. At too many bars a G & T means cheap gin, bad ice, mediocre and too sweet tonic from the soda-gun, and a sad looking garnish. Why pay for that? Instead, make it well at home and decompress a little.

The key to unlocking the secret of the G & T is to balance the bitterness of the tonic against the juniper and other flavors in the gin, while making sure that the juniper stays subtly on top. Use fresh fruit, super cold, hard ice and a quality, though not too expensive, “London Dry-” style gin like Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, or Tanqueray, and decently bitter tonic water like Schweppes.

To make a Classic Gin and Tonic, pour 2 ounces of gin and 4 ounces of tonic water (if the tonic is on the sweet side, cut it one : one with soda water) over two to three large cubes of ice in a well-chilled highball glass. Stir briefly and add a fresh lime or lemon wedge for garnish. Traditionally, lime is the fruit of choice, but lemon is now more common in the U.K. If you choose to use both, the drink technically becomes an Evans Cocktail.

Or consider the Gin Fizz, a delicious and refreshing classic. In a cocktail shaker three quarters full of hard, cold ice, add two ounces of gin, three quarters of an ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and one teaspoon sugar (or one ounce simple syrup), then shake it like you mean it. Strain into a chilled highball glass with ice and top up with club soda and drink.

For a delicious lime version of the Gin Fizz, The Rickey is a beguiling and refreshing yet simple cocktail. It also happens to be Washington, D.C.’s native cocktail.

Invented in 1883 by bartender George Williamson at a place called Shoemaker’s on E Street NW where the Marriott hotel now stands, The Rickey was named for Democratic lobbyist Joe Rickey.

Here’s how to tackle it: Pour two ounces of gin, half a lime squeezed (roughly half an ounce) and dropped into the glass, and top with soda water.

Originally made with bourbon, by the 1890s it was mostly made with gin, and so it remains today. Give it a sip and you’ll understand why. Think of The Rickey as the American answer to the British G & T.

If for some unfortunate reason you get stuck as the designated driver (or simply can’t drink) and need to skip the booze, a really brilliant Virgin Rickey can be made by increasing the fresh lime juice to three quarters of an ounce, adding one teaspoon of sugar or one ounce of simple syrup, and 3 dashes of Angostura bitters. Top with soda water and garnish with a slice of lime. The Virgin Rickey makes for a most agreeable substitute.


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