Hot enough for you? Cool down with a gin and tonic. The classic drink has evolved from that sickly sweet, under-poured, brown lime wedge-adorned highball that slid sadly across bars in the 80s and 90s. Ground zero for its renaissance has been the city of Barcelona, where bartenders pair aromatic gins with small batch tonics in big round glasses. Just as important as the gin is the garnish, which compliments both the botanicals of the gin and the flavour profile of the tonic.
Here are my favourites (in no particular order) with some recommendations on creating the perfect serve. All of these are available in BC, as are the tonics. Make sure you have lots of ice (preferably big cubes) and keep your tonic cold!
Mare | Spain
Gin | Gin Mare is from Vilanova, a fishing town just south of Barcelona. It’s a very Mediterranean style of gin with separate distillates of basil, thyme, rosemary, olives, and a blend of citrus. The citrus is a custom blend of sweet oranges from Seville, bitter oranges from Valencia and lemons from Lleida. The citrus fruit is macerated for a whole year in neutral spirit. The distillates are blended together resulting in a bright, savoury, stunner of a gin. It’s not your typical Martini gin, but it makes for a bangin’ G&T. Also try it in a gin-based Caesar.
Tonic: Fever Tree Mediterranean | Garnish: Fresh grapefruit, and a sprig of thyme
Sipsmith – England
Gin | Sipsmith London Dry was first produced in London in 2009, by three gin fanatics who built the first copper pot gin distillery in London since the 1820s! Sipsmith macerates ten botanicals sourced from all over the world. Floral and slight juniper notes on the nose lead to orange marmalade on the palate, with a peppery finish. A very versatile London dry gin. It also makes a killer Martini.
Tonic: Fentiman’s Indian | Garnish: Lemon twist, and juniper berries
Tanqueray No. Ten – England
Gin | Tanqueray No. Ten will be in my top five in any category when it comes to gin, or any category for spirits for that matter. The No. Ten refers not to the number of botanicals, but rather to the No. Ten still they use to produce this multiple award-winning dram. Loads of citrus (especially grapefruit) make this the ultimate gin for a Martini, G&T, Last Word, or pretty much anything you mix it with. Also, it is available all over, in private and specialty stores. Long live the Queen!
Tonic: Fentiman’s Herbal tonic Garnish: Fresh grapefruit
Botanist – Scotland
Gin | This is a gin produced on the small island of Islay, which is infinitely more famous for its peaty whisky. The folks at Bruichladdich have been known to be more innovative than traditional with their bottlings, and their latest dry gin fails to disappoint. With over 30 botanicals in the mix, 22 are sourced locally on the island. Apple mint, creeping thistle and downy birch are all hand-foraged together with the other local botanicals. This is a fantastic cocktail gin; try it in shaken cocktails such as an Aviation or Corpse Reviver #2. Drink it in the B&T at Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar now!
Tonic: Fever Tree Indian | Garnish: Fresh Oyster, slice of lemon
Death’s Door – Wisconsin
Gin | Three botanicals – juniper berries, coriander, fennel – make up this very simple recipe, but the finished product if far from simple on the palate. Up front, bright citrus and piney notes lead to subtle spice and anise on the finish. These folks from Madison, Wisconsin have a great relationship with the worldwide bar community, and hold their annual Juniper Harvest every year on Washington Island (I had the pleasure of attending a few years back, an experience you can read about here). In addition to making a great G&T, Death’s Door also makes a superb Corpse Reviver #2.
Tonic: Rootside tonic syrup with sparkling water | Garnish: Fresh mint and orange