Previously associated with genteel ladies who lunch at hoity-toity country clubs, the Gin and Tonic is a drink imbibed by cocktail enthusiasts of all ages. Both trendy and classic, this gin cocktail is more popular than ever.
Let’s face it, the G&T is a first-ballot member, if such a thing exists, of the cocktail hall of fame. It’s on the mighty Mount Rushmore for cocktails along with the Manhattan and the Martini.
We developed an appreciation for the Gin & Tonic cocktail during our three nomadic years. Not only did we drink the summer sipper in disparate destinations like Barcelona and Cape Town, but we also educated ourselves during a tour of the Bombay Sapphire distillery in Southern England.
Now that we’re based in Lisbon, we typically craft our Gin and Tonics at home using locally sourced Portuguese gin. Like the rest of the world, gin is experiencing a resurgence here – a situation that we’re more than happy to support.
Gin and Tonic History
Despite the simplicity of the basic Gin and Tonic recipe with just two required ingredients, the drink’s origin story is long and winding, touching multiple countries along the way.
The Netherlands can claim a piece of credit with its centuries-old jenever, the Dutch juniper berry infused predecessor to gin. Visitors to Amsterdam can drink jenever at bars like De Drie Flescjes and Wynand Fockink.
England and India get major props due to the British Empire’s early gin infatuation as well as the addition of quinine-rich tonic water to prevent malaria. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, or, in this case, the G+T.
But the Brits didn’t discover quinine. That accolade goes to Peruvian Incas who extracted quinine from cinchona trees (a/k/a fever trees) for medicinal purposes like treating malaria. They shared their discovery with Spanish explorers who brought quinine back to Europe.
The United States joined the gin party in the latter half of the 20th century when fictional characters like James Bond made the botanical beverage cool. At that time, most Americans consumed gin imported from the UK.
Today, both conglomerates and craft distillers produce gin all over the world. The same applies to the recent emergence of boutique tonic water brands like Fever-Tree and Q. These new labels have since joined perennial stalwart Schweppes in adding the ‘T’ to the G+T.
Read The Book of Gin and learn more about gin’s fascinating history.
Gin and Tonic Ingredients
To make a basic Gin and Tonic recipe, you’ll need gin, tonic and a fresh lime wedge. However, mixologists often add additional fruits and herbs to spruce up this simple sipper.
A quality Gin & Tonic starts with good gin. Since we live in Portugal, we use Portuguese gin in our recipe. For this recipe, we bought a bottle of Gin 13 at a local store for €20.
Sold in a black bottle decorated with pictures of black cats, clovers and skulls in deference to the unlucky/lucky number 13, Gin 13 incorporates 13 different botanicals – almond, angelica root, black tea, cardamom, coriander seed, ginger, hops, jasmine, juniper, lemon, licorice, mandarin and prince herb into its gin.
The quality of the tonic water is also important. Ideally, the tonic water should be fresh and bubbly. We like to use Fever-Tree in our G+T recipe but any decent tonic water will suffice.
Open a fresh bottle of tonic water for maximum carbonation.
How to Make a Gin and Tonic
A classic Gin and Tonic may be the easiest cocktail to make at home. The only required steps involve mixing two ingredients in a glass, slicing a lime for garnish and adding ice.
Mixologists take the preparation further by modifying the gin and tonic ratio and adding additional ingredients. When it comes to making a G+T, the options are as big as the imagination.
Serve your G+T cocktail in a balloon goblet for extra impact.
Gin and Tonic Variations
The simplicity of the Gin and Tonic lends itself to variations. Our G+T recipe adds fresh rosemary sprig and a dehydrated orange slice, a combination that smells and tastes divine.
You can and should experiment with this recipe. Here are some ideas to try in your kitchen:
- Experiment with the gin to tonic ratio.
- Use light or sugar-free tonic water to reduce calories.
- Use a variety of fresh herbs, spices and dried or fresh fruit to add multiple dimensions of flavor.
- Add flavored syrup. Our favorite flavor is elderflower.
- Replace the gin with vodka to create a Vodka Tonic cocktail.
Try our recipe first though. What you do next is up to you.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.