Lots of people like a gin and tonic on a hot summer's night. But there are many, many ways this humble summer cooler can be made. Here are some things to consider the next time you have friends over for this classic libation:
Think about the tonic water: you can use Schweppes, Canada Dry, Polar or other regional brands, or boutique brands like Q tonic and Fevertree. They all have different flavors. we like the Fevertree best, as it is much less sweet than the more common brands. So one way to explore gin-and-tonics is to try your favorite gin with several tonics until you find one that goes best with your gin.
It's a little pricier to experiment with the gin, but the results can be very rewarding. Some gins mix well with others and make great cocktails; others make great sipping gins but their flavor profiles are not so copacetic with a wide range of cocktails. I find that Beefeater is a great cocktail gin, especially for research purposes. Richmond likes the Tanqueray; you find one that suits your needs and your tastes.
The Gin and Tonics
We had Schweppes inthe cottage, and a couple of bottles of the precious Fevertree, so we set up our experiment in two stages: first we tried five different gins with the Schweppes, and then we took what we had learned and refined it with the Fevertree.
The gins were:
- Beefeater - classic and familiar, plays well with others
- Bombay Sapphire - higher end and more floral, easily available
- Tanqueray Rangpur - a specifically limey gin perfect for gin and tonics (one of the botanicals is Rangpur lime peel)
- Gale Force Gin - an artisanal gin from Nantucket with a strong flavor profile
- Karner Blue Gin - an artisanal gin from New Hampshire with a softer flavor profile
There were five of us. I mixed each drink with the same proportions of ice, gin, and tonic. We each tasted all five, and then rated them from 1 to 5, with 1 being our favorite.
Karner Blue Gale Force Beefeater Rangpur Bombay Sapphire Richmond 5 4 3 1 2 Annette 4 5 2 1 3 Melissa 4 5 2 1 3 Lorna 3 5 4 1 2 John 4 5 1 3 2 score 20 24 12 7 12
The Rangpur was an overwhelming favorite, followed by the more common bar gins, with the artisanal gins coming in last.
We were a little surprised at the results, but further reflection led to some insights. There is probably a strong element of co-evolution at work here. Tonic water, at least in the USA, is virtually always used in gin and tonics, so it should be expected that Schweppes et al would tailor their formulas to suit the tastes of their market with regard to the gins dominant in restaurants and bars. The gins, on the other hand, compete on a far broader field and would not be expected to limit their scope to G&T (with the almost obvious exception of the Rangpur).
The Next Round
Having identified the best gins with Schweppes and discussed the matter, we opted not to repeat the same experiment with our small supply of Fevertree. Instead, we tried it with the artisanal gins on the theory that the artisanal tonic would not be as tuned to the common gins as the common tonic is.
The Karner Blue Gin was very, very perfumy in all cases. This was easily remedied by adding the last of the Fevertree, with good results. Karner Blue makes a really good low-gin gin-and-tonic, for when you want to cool down with great flavor without hetting hammered.
The Gale Force Gin simply did not do well with either tonic at any strength. There may be a way to make it work, but we were becoming less effective and frankly less motivated to find it after 7 (small) gin and tomics already...