The sun’s finally out (touch wood), which can only mean one thing – it’s time for gin. London’s finest mixologists and bar owners tell us how to take the classic G&T from good to exceptional…
There are many variations to the perfect G&T, but if there’s one thing that every mixologist agrees on, it’s that the right ice is crucial. ‘It sounds bizarre, but small, wet ice cubes will kill your G&T,’ says Darren Ball, bar manager at The Ivy. The bigger the cubes the better, as ‘they slow down the dilution and keep your drink fizzier for longer,’ says to Keivan Nemati, bar manager of the Zetter Townhouse. In fact, Ryan Chetiyawardana – aka Mr Lyan of Dandelyan – thinks that the temperature of the drink is the most important part. ‘It must be super-cold’, he says, ‘use big cubes of ice, chilled gin and chilled tonic.’
Again, the response was unanimous – only an old-school highball glass will do. Why? ‘Because bulbous glasses or glasses that taper out allow for more fizz to escape,’ says Ball. Erik Lorincz of The Savoy was the only mixologist to specify what kind, and revealed himself to be somewhat of a traditionalist – for him, the perfect G&T is simple. ‘Two parts tonic to one part gin, in a crystal-cut highball glass, with proper hand cut ice and lemon peel.’ It’s hard to argue with that.
Here’s where personal preference comes into play. Some seemed to think that any tonic would do, while others were more specific. Edmund Weil of Oriole specified the award-winning Fever-Tree tonic, while Nemati warned against strongly flavoured or overly sweet tonics. ‘You want your G&T to be about the spirit, not the mixer,’ he said, ‘and it has to be good-quality.’
Of course, it’s all about the gin. Some mixologists like to experiment with different gins to match different garnishes – Hendrick’s and cucumber being the prime example – while others had current favourites. ‘Be mindful of what botanicals you’re working with’, says Tony Conigliaro, the mixologist behind 69 Colebrook Row and cocktail lab The Drink Factory, ‘Tanqueray will create a completely different drink to say, Bombay Sapphire.’ If you’re looking to try something new this summer, Ball waxed lyrical about the Garden Tiger dry gin from the Capreolus Distillery, stating that ‘the resinous oils and carefully selected botanicals combine for an amazingly complex, dry, and delicious G&T.’ Produced in a small distillery in the Cotswolds, the creators recommend serving it with a slice of orange, or blood orange in the winter. ‘But remember, there are only really two types of gin’, he says, ‘the gins you like and the gins you don’t’. Wise words indeed.
And now, the final flourish. For some, it’s everything – for others, it’s just a finishing touch. Mr Lyan went for both a lemon twist and a mint sprig, while Weil favoured dropping in a squeeze of lime – a controversial move. ‘There are no lime botanicals in gin, so the strength of a lime garnish can mask some of your gin’s more subtle flavours,’ says Conigliaro, ‘a slice of lemon is all you need.’ Nemati also warned against squeezing your citrus fruit, as it gives a different flavour to a whole slice dropped in. Ball, meanwhile, threw caution to the wind. ‘My advice is go wild’, he says, ‘you really have to go out of your way to ruin a G&T with a garnish’.
So there you have it – the perfect way to make a G&T. And of course, if your ice is too small, your glass is too big, your tonic too sweet and your garnish too lavish, it seems, at least, you can’t go too far wrong with the gin.