The humble gin and tonic appears to have become this year’s pulled pork and I cannot pretend to be happy about it. It has to be expected these days to face a smugly recounted list of nineteen gins, twelve origin countries and seven potential tonic varieties when you pull up an artistically industrial chair in your local craft-bar of choice- afterall when paying a tenner for a double and mixer who doesn’t appreciate an over educated and self important barkeep openly judging your vote for Mediterranean Fever tree over a Schweppes Slimline?
It is another thing entirely to find yourself constantly bombarded with endless gqarnish gimmicks and badly thought out G&T side products. Sweets- aren’t these for kids? Ice pops- ok but with an 18 label. Cakes- acceptable at a push but it is a bit of a push. Lip balm- you’re just being bloody silly now. This is going too far and before long we shall be nipping to Boots to pick up some gin and tonic ‘flavoured’ eye drops along with our Unicorn coloured B12 supplements and salted caramel hair home hair dye kit. Has the time actually come where there is such thing as too much gin?
I remember in the mid nineties falling in love with a certain era- defining Britpop album, only to have it ruined for me when some crunchy-permed mouth breathers started belting out one of the more popular singles in the corridor between 4th lesson French and last lesson Maths. Horrors. Twenty years on that song has never been the same. In a similar way, my love for a G&T (something of a Boomboom family birth right) is absolutely not something I need to share with a bunch of affectedly hip idiots in too-tight trousers living their life through irritating snapchat filters. This cannot happen again. I will not suffer being forced to share my seat on the gin and tonic bandwaggon with the mixology equivalent of a Kings of Leon ‘fan’ who only knows the words to Sex on Fire.
Let us be clear, I am in no way opposed to a marginally tarted up G&T, firmly grounded in the proven and subtle science of complimentary aromatics and all that gastro chemistry guff. Some peppercorns, a wee sprig of thyme, a sliver of grapefruit zest, why the hell not? If it makes for a tasty consumption experience and a pretty Instagram post then go right ahead, I’ll try two. It makes sense to experiment, because gin is by no means a standard recipe when it comes to distilling and all sorts of ingredients (what Gin Twats will call ‘Botanicals’) can be added to the process with notable difference in the end products. I can’t tell you what is responsible for the nuances of flavour in a shot of Opihr vs a nice nip of Bathtub but I can tell that they are different and as such will benefit from being served with different mixers or garnishes. This is all good. What I cannot cope with is your common or garden chain restaurant of choice offering Summer G&T Specials or Gin Clubs that basically involve a single measure of Gordon’s poured over not enough ice and served with a sad scrape of citrus fruit and a half acre of non-descript greenery in a red wine glass.
Just don’t. Please.
If you are going to get on trend with all the cool kids then don’t just blunder in there and start chucking about the rosebuds and chilli peppers willy nilly like a bull in a juniper shop. The execution of a perfect G&T only requires the basics of a mid range gin, a reasonable quality tonic water, ice and a slice.
Here cometh the first rule of gin: LOTS OF ICE. Then a bit more ice. Seriously fill that glass up. Then sneak another bit on top.
You don’t need a mega expensive secret recipe export strength gin or a violet tinged, organic water carbonated with angel farts. Fever tree and schweppes make excellent tonic water. The co-op own brand one is also more than alright, though sadly only available by the bottle rather than in those handy single serving tins that wont go flat.
Here cometh the second rule of gin: mix it with fresh and fizzy tonic.
Big bottles go flat quickly unless you are pouring a large round, so shop wisely and recycle your containers like the responsible grown up that you are. You can actually end your gin craft here with a minimalist slice of lime if you want to and that is perfectly OK. G&T, done. If you are going to get into syrups and twists and garnishes then for Tanqueray’s sake get it right!
Here cometh the third rule of gin: Less is more.
It is a cocktail, not a live art installation and more often than not a slice or a stem will do the job nicely. Personally I believe you should draw the line at two additions for fear of ending up with a weird muddle of gin-ish flavours which is just a waste of Mother’s Ruin. Make those reasonable sized additions too, no-one needs to be stabbed in the eye with a six inch rosemary stalk whilst trying to avoid choking to death on stray cardamom pods.
A fine G&T is a fine thing indeed, nectar of the very Gods on a hot day or a cold night or a particularly stressful morning in airport security as I once experienced trying to leave Las Vegas. It is a simple but precise art, which can by all means be experimental but must never, ever be dumbed down to mass production ready-meal status and should never, ever be served from a tin (unless you are already three sheets to the wind at a festival or facing an unavoidable apocalypse within the next half hour). So just try, will you please? Put in a little bit of effort, learn a few tricks by all means but treat this cocktail with the respect and affection that it truly deserves. Or just stick to a bloody jack and coke and leave my gin the hell alone, you animal.
Those who wish to explore the art of a G&T would do well to start with The Gin Manual by Dave Bloom and check out @ginmonkeyUK on that there Twitter thing.