“The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.” – Winston Churchill
There is nothing that embodies an extremely simple yet classy cocktail than a crisp, refreshing gin and tonic.
I tend to associate it with a very fond memory: My equally classy adoptive parents. We would have many an evening with a G&T gossiping about everything under the sun… From current events, to growing up in Davao, to the evil boys in the girls’ lives (mine included… Momma once told me to tell a guy in my life to “go jump in a lake”, which daddy punctuated by saying, “no, tell him to go fly a kite”), to kuya’s misadventures (which are too colourful to mention in a blog), to mamita anecdotes, to just assuring me that I am loved.
This is why I’m thrilled the moment gin and tonic became a trend… So much so that there’s a bar dedicated to gin (Bonbon Bar in Legaspi Village, Makati), and even a gin and tonic buffet promo in Gilarmi Bar (Discovery Primea, Ayala Avenue, Makati).
For all its simplicity, however, delving into the world of G&T can be daunting. What makes gin gin? Does tonic water matter?
First thing’s first: Gin is a flavoured spirit that must have juniper berries redistilled or added to it, giving it its distinctive odour and taste. Gin can have different “botanicals” (herbs, fruits, or other edible, usually aromatic, plants) added during the re-distillation process, or artificially added in what is called the addition of essences. This allows a variation of flavours depending on the maker’s recipe, but without losing the juniper berry notes.
I’ve discussed this before, but as a refresher, gin is classified as follows:
- London Gin – Redistilled with juniper and other botanicals, but no other flavourings may be added after distillation
- Distilled Gin – Redistilled with juniper and other botanicals, but other flavourings may be added after distillation
- Inexpensive Gin – Makes use of essences to add flavour
Tonic water is a clear, non-alcoholic, carbonated drink with dissolved quinine, which gives it a bitter taste (or in bar speak, more character to a cocktail). Once upon a time, it was used to prevent malaria. Manufacturers of different tonic water brands claim that their tonic water is different from others for various reasons.
Which led me to ask, will gin and tonic taste different depending on what tonic water was used in the mix?
I decided to lend my taste buds (and maybe my liver) to this experiment using four gins and three brands of tonic water.
The Gin Lineup:
- Gordon’s London Dry Gin – The most affordable of the bunch, I wanted to see if the price of gin is a factor to having a proper G&T (calm down, gin snobs). Its distinction is having pronounced citrus aromas on top of juniper berries.
- Hendrick’s Gin – I wanted to add this to the fray because it was the first classy gin I ordered in an upscale bar. It has distinctive floral aromas, and is normally garnished with a cucumber in a G&T.
- The Botanist Gin – A mix of 22 botanicals, with delicate notes of sweet menthol, woodlands, coriander, anise, citrus fruits, honey, and coconut (which I’m quoting from a previous article).
- Ki No Bi Gin – I’ve written about this before, but I noticed I left out the tasting notes: It has notes of eucalyptus, green herbs, spices, and tea.
The Tonic Water Lineup:
- Schweppes Tonic Water – Being the most accessible of the bunch does not necessarily mean diminished quality. In fact, this 230-year-old brand has a pretty good heritage that focuses on excellence.
- The Original Tonic Water – Available in artfully designed bottles, claims to be “the premium alternative to traditional high end tonics.”* Before the experiment, I admit I’ve never tried this.
- Fever-Tree Tonic Water – Made after 15 months of painstaking research, the people behind this sought-after brand focused on making the best quality tonic water in the market, believing that, “If ¾ of your Gin and Tonic is the tonic, make sure you use the best.”**
In the spirit (pun intended) of keeping the experiment objective, each G&T combination was made with ¼ part gin and ¾ part tonic water, poured over 8 cubes of ice. Since the activity focused on the variation of how tonic water affects the quality of the G&T, I kept the garnish uniform depending on the brand of gin. I also solicited the help of my husband’s friends who are G&T aficionados (because I have only one liver!).
To make this easy to swallow (again with the pun), I decided to put everything in a neat table.
|Gordon’s London Dry Gin||none||Schweppes||It was a classic G&T mix, but the citrus notes of the gin was quite pronounced, almost overpowering|
|The Original||It was a great play on citrus versus flowers|
|Fever-Tree||This was a little too sharp for a G&T, but it might be a good cocktail for someone who prefers sharp citrusy notes, or as a drink on a hot day|
|Hendrick’s Gin||cucumber||Schweppes||The blend was a classic G&T|
|The Original||The rounded flavours of Hendrick’s and the cucumber complimented the gin|
|Fever-Tree||Quite a contrast between the sharp flavours of Fever-Tree versus Hendrick’s|
|The Botanist Gin||lemon||Schweppes||It made for a significantly complex G&T|
|The Original||Given that Botanist is complex, it brought out the floral characteristics of the gin|
|Fever-Tree||Similarly, it brought out the subtle menthol notes of the gin|
|Ki No Bi Gin||none||Schweppes||What surprised us was this made the G&T easier to drink|
|The Original||It was a lovely, equal match between the strength and texture of the gin and the floral notes of the tonic water|
|Fever-Tree||It surprised us that this blend made the cocktail heavy. It’s a great idea for those who want G&T with a little heft to it.|
That said, I found there is a difference when using different brands of tonic water in G&Ts. We should be doing more experiments soon (I would like to do a similar experiment with momma and poppa’s favourite gin, Ungava). Who knows, maybe I’ll do the experiment with them… Heaven knows it would be a colourful one.
For Momma and Poppa Bear, my original (and favourite!) drinking buddies
Very, very special thanks to Mr. Chester Cabrera of Booze Online, Inc.
Extra special thanks to Chad’s friends for helping me do research last night: Chiqui, Clayton, Coach Dan (the man!), and Sophia.