Surprising though it may seem, the most popular cocktail in Spain is the Gin and Tonic or “Gin Tonica” as it’s often known.
Taken for granted by many Americans — and many of the British as well — the Spanish have adopted this stolid stand-by as a refreshing, versatile quaff with an endless stream of variations.
Beyond the expected gin, tonic, and lime, the Spanish version contains all matter of fruits, herbs, and other aromatic flourishes. It could lemon peel or grapefruit, but it could also be rosemary, mint, cardamom, Serrano chili, cloves, lavender, kumquat, lemon verbena — you get the picture.
Also of note is the glass the Gin Tonica is usually served in. In this case, the bigger, the better. A large balloon glass (sometimes used for red wine) or copa glass is a great choice, but a pint glass will work in a pinch.
The skill of the bartender is in guiding the guest’s palate towards the right additions for the right gin. But this is where you can play mixologist at home. Almost none of these combinations would taste bad, so you can feel free to experiment without risking doing serious damage to your drink.
So lay in a handful of different ingredients and a gin or three — and maybe even a variety of tonics to explore — and let your imagination and your palate run wild.
The latest limited-edition gin from the masters at Tanqueray is Bloomsbury, a new (old) twist on their traditional London Dry Gin. The previous two releases, Tanqueray Malacca and Old Tom, were both great successes. Let’s see how this one matches up.
The reason I say the Bloomsbury is both new and old is because it’s based on a recipe dating from 1880 that was originally created by Charles Tanqueray’s son, Charles Waugh Tanqueray, who took over the business after his father’s death.
Tanqueray Bloomsbury is still classified as a London Dry Gin, which means it is a grain neutral spirit flavored predominantly with juniper berries (other botanicals may also be added), with only a limited amount of sugar added. The only other permitted ingredient is water.
Although the company describes this gin as being “juniper-forward,” I found the presence of the pungent berry to be far more muted than in the standard Tanqueray expression. Instead I got a lot of fruit, including sweet berries, in addition to ethanol. (This is bottled at 94.6 proof, 47.3% alcohol.) The juniper is still there, of course, as is a slight herbal quality.
The berry fruit is also present in the taste, along with juniper and spices (coriander and cinnamon, most likely). It is slightly sweet and quite hot on the palate. (It should be pointed out that I tasted this gin neat and at room temperature, a manner in which I would not ordinarily drink gin.) It has a long, lingering finish with some vanilla and anise notes coming in at the end.
Tanqueray Bloomsbury Gin is an interesting variation on the standard London Dry Gin. It has a milder flavor — which might make it more appealing to those who are juniper-averse — but still has promising mixing potential. I don’t see it as an essential gin like the Tanqueray Malacca, but it’s still a worthy addition to the line.
Some good news for those of you who are looking for well-made craft spirits that actually deliver on what they promise. FEW Spirits, based in Evanston, Illinois, is expanding to four more states, bringing their distribution to a total of 20 states, as well as Washington, D.C. (The brand is also distributed in the UK, throughout Europe, and in select locations in Australia, Japan, Thailand, and Hong Kong.)
FEW makes gins, whiskies and other craft spirits, which we have found to be generally of very high quality. You can read our review of FEW Spirits Rye Whiskey, and also see where FEW American Gin placed in our Gin and Tonic Taste Test.
FEW likes to call themselves a grain-to-glass producer. They source their ingredients from as close to their distillery as possible, and do all fermentation, distillation, aging, and bottling on-site. As founder and master distiller Paul Hletko explains, “If we can’t grow it ourselves, we buy it locally. And if we can’t buy it locally, we buy it from friends.”
On a side note, FEW is of special interest to me as a historian, as Evanston is the location of the headquarters of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (an organization which, surprisingly enough, continues to this day). Evanston was also the longtime home of suffragist and prohibitionist Frances Elizabeth Willard, whose initials were appropriated for the name of the company.
The classic Gin and Tonic is one of the world’s most elegant drinks. Full of flavor and with a bracing kick, it’s the perfect balance of bitter, spicy, tart, and sweet. Although the G&T is thought of by some as primarily a summertime beverage, it’s far too fine to confine to only one season of the year.
And the good news is, you don’t have to! Although the Gin and Tonic is the ideal accompaniment to a warm summer day, it can also be a very welcome quaff for the fall and beyond.
Professor Cocktail and Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water recommend you enjoy your Gin and Tonic all year long. To assist you in your enjoyment, the Professor Cocktail panel tasted 40 different gins to find the best to mix in your drink.
For more details about how the taste test was conducted, please see the supplemental information after the results. But now, let’s unveil the winners!
Unlike the dark days of the past, when high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors ruled the land, we are fortunate today to have several great options for tonic waters and syrups available. For the purposes of this test, we chose to use Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water, which we consider to be the gold standard of tonics and the perfect accompaniment to gin.
Each drink was made with a ratio of 2:1, tonic water to gin. The samples were prepared with 1 ounce of gin, 2 ounces of chilled tonic, and 1 one-ounce ice cube. Due to possible variations in garnish, the drinks were tasted unaccompanied by lime or lemon.
The gins were tasted over the course of two days, with 20 gins tasted at each session. The samples were randomized so that our panel could taste the drinks blind, without regard to brand or other details.
A Quick Word About Gin
Gin is a spirit of both variety and complexity. The only important technical requirement for making gin is that the spirit must be flavored with juniper berries. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the botanical flavors that may be added. Everything from citrus to coriander, cardamom, berries, anise, flowers — you name it.
Despite the ubiquity of the Gin and Tonic as the most popular way to consume the spirit, not all gins lend themselves equally well to this preparation. Therefore, we urge that caution be used when attempting to extrapolate from our results to how the gin would perform when enjoyed on its own or, say, in a Martini.
The fine folks at Fever-Tree supplied the tonic water used in this tasting. Several distilleries, importers, and PR companies kindly provided samples of some of the gins we tasted. Others were taken from Professor Cocktail’s own spirits library. Whether or not a sample of a spirit was provided or we purchased it ourselves had no bearing on the results. The judgments rendered were solely our own.
All prices listed are for a 750ml bottle, extrapolated if necessary. Please enjoy your gin responsibly.
The Long Island Iced Tea has one of the worst reputations of any cocktail. For good reason, too. Served by the gallon at every TGI Fridays and Applebee’s across the land, it’s usually made with way too much bottom-shelf booze and chemical sour mix from a bar gun.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s actually not a bad drink when made right. It’s not a sophisticated or nuanced cocktail by any means. But that’s not always what you’re looking for.
I’m not the only one who still has a fondness for this potent party bomb. Rockstar bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler enjoys them, too, and his recipe is basically the same as my own.
The key is to use high quality spirits and fresh lemon juice. If you make this with cheap triple sec or bottled sweet and sour, it’s going to taste like crap. (Just like you probably remember it.)
On the other hand, if you use the good stuff, it’s a surprisingly tasty and refreshing drink. The brands I used when I made this were: Stoli (vodka), Tanqueray (gin), Cruzan (rum), and Olmeca Altos (tequila). You don’t have to use those specific ones. Just make sure you reach for something good.
The Pimm’s Cup, so beloved in England and New Orleans, is one of summer’s finest beverages. Refreshing, colorful, delicious, and lightly alcoholic, the Pimm’s Cup is easy to make and even easier to drink.
The Pimm’s Cup — the most popular drink served at Wimbledon and the Chelsea Flower Show — is built around Pimm’s No. 1. A sweet-spicy-herbal combination of gin and various (secret) flavors, Pimm’s No. 1 was created in the mid-19th century by English barman James Pimm.
The cocktail is a simple highball, made up of Pimm’s No. 1, a mixer, and a fruit garnish. The mixer is typically English lemonade (a carbonated variety, akin to American 7-Up or Sprite), but can also be ginger ale or ginger beer, or even Champagne, which makes it a Pimm’s Royale. The garnish is almost always a cucumber (this has replaced the original borage), and this is sometimes accompanied by a mint sprig, lemon slices, and a variety of other fruits.
A variant of the Manhattan — and a precursor to the Martini — the Martinez was a very popular drink in the pre-Prohibition era, utilizing one of American’s favorite spirits: Old Tom Gin.
Old Tom Gin was a slightly sweetened gin that was popular in mid-19th-century England. It soon made its way to the States, where it became a common cocktail ingredient in the latter part of the century. Eventually it fell out of favor and was replaced by London Dry Gin, popularized by such brands as Tanquery and Beefeater.
Old Tom Gin can be hard to find, but there are a few different brands on the market if you keep your eye out. Hayman’s is probably the most common. There are also Old Tom Gins from Ransom, Spring 44, and Jensen, none of which I’ve tried. (Tanqueray is scheduled to release their own version of Old Tom Gin imminently, which has cocktail folks very excited.)
If you don’t have any Old Tom Gin, you can substitute another style of gin. Something that is not too junipery — like Aviation, Caorunn, or Citadel, for example — would be a good choice. Or you can try it with Genever.
As part of the Ginaissance that has been underway for the past several years, we’ve seen a number of new gins and new styles of gin enter the market. Some have been welcome — Caorunn and Aviation Gin, for example — and others less so.
Brockmans Gin is one of the latest arrivals A departure from the more common London Dry Gin, Brockmans goes for a lighter, fruitier flavor profile. It has just a touch of juniper, but it quickly fades into the mist. More prevalent is the flavor of blueberries and a slightly herbaceous quality.
The producers of Brockmans tout it as a ginto drink neat or on ice. And it’s definitely not a good choice for a gin and tonic, or most other cocktails, for that matter. Its delicate flavor would disappear when combined with almost any mixer.
Brockmans wouldn’t be the first (or second or third) gin I’d reach for on the shelf. It doesn’t have the taste or the body that I’m looking for when I want to drink gin. That being said, it’s a pleasant drink, tastes rather nice over ice, and might make for a welcome change of pace, especially during summertime.