The Best…Gin & Tonic

The gin and tonic eluded me for a long time. When I tried it as a young thing, I thought it was disgusting, which I think was mainly due to the draught tonic water, eurgh. Then, a while down the line on a night out, I tried a sip of someone’s gin and apple juice, someone I know, clearly, not a random person, because the concept intrigued me, and I liked that A LOT. I still do.

Then came my experimentation with gin cocktails, especially gin slings and gin martinis, mmm whenever I was in a bar that didn’t have a beer or wine I fancied. And then, one day, one magical day, I gave the gin and tonic a go again, and now it is pretty much my drink of choice. Especially in the evenings with a film. Mmmm.

Since my love affair with gin and tonics began around a year ago it’s taken time to find my absolute favourite mixture. Starting off asking for Gordon’s, and quickly migrating on to Bombay Sapphire, the first gin I ever actually bought was Blackwood’s Dry Gin, from a small distillery in the Shetland Islands off the very northern coast of Scotland. This one interested me because it’s the world’s first vintage gin, made with different hand-picked local botanicals used in the formulation each harvest. It’s delicious.

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Another great gin is The Botanist, which I received a bottle of for my birthday recently, and is also from a Scottish island, this time the Isle of Islay off the west coast of Scotland. Islay is world-renowned for its whiskies, and this gin again, dry, is called The Botanist and is actually distilled by a whisky company Bruichladdich. It’s another lovely one: I think I prefer it slightly to the Blackwood’s, actually.

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And then…the game changer. In January my boyfriend Chris and I went to Berlin for a week for a holiday, and to see a friend of mine who was working there. She took us one evening to this seriously cool bar, of which there is no shortage in Berlin called The Green Door. This bar is so cool that you have to knock before you get in: the impossibly cool bartender comes to the door presumably to check you’re not a stag/hen party and, if you look vaguely hipster enough I pulled my best hipster face then you get in. And the drinks were INCREDIBLE. We got very very drunk on expensive and absinthe-laden cocktails the Boris Karloff and the Mary Shelley were the ones I can recall.

And then, oh, and then, Chris declared drunkenly that he wanted a posh gin and tonic, and pointed, Alice in Wonderland-like, to a small, curious bottle with a monkey illustration, and slurred “The monkey one!” I feel it’s important to note this fateful choice was entirely him being drawn to the monkey picture rather than a discerning eye. The impossibly cool German bartender nodded with approval, and duly mixed it up with some funky lime sculpture and a posh tonic water. Chris tasted it and just about had tears in his eyes. I snatched it and OH MY DAYS it was one of the best drinks I had ever tasted, rivalling only the martini we had in Hemingway’s Parisian haunt Closerie des Lilas pretentious bar name-dropping intended.

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This magical combination we just had to track down almost as soon as we returned to Scotland. The gin was Schwartzwald Dry Gin or MONKEY 47, named such as it is a blend of 47 different botanicals to “unite great British traditions, the exoticness of India, and the purity and nativeness of the Black Forest”. We thought it was going to be a nightmare to find but luckily our trusty independent wine warehouse which is dangerously close to our flat stocked it in their spirits section: ALBEIT AT £38.00 FOR 500ML, WHICH ISN’T EVEN A STANDARD SIZED BOTTLE OF GIN AND YET MORE EXPENSIVE THAN MOST. So, so worth it though. If you have a chance to try this in a bar, do. It’s the best I’ve tried.

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And the tonic, which may not seem exciting, is the best tonic of all time. It’s called Fever-Tree, which you can get in Tesco and everything, and it’s really tasty – much, much better than Schweppes. I would never have thought that tonic water makes a big difference, but it absolutely does. The idea of quality mixers going with quality spirits is at the heart of Fever-Tree’s philosophy: “Why craft premium spirits and then compromise the experience by masking the flavour with poor quality mixers?” Good point, Fever-Tree!

And so that’s what makes our perfect gin and tonic. But wait…what about the lemon?

LIME. NOT LEMON. LIME. I feel quite strongly about this. A wedge or two none of your slices here of a nice juicy, fresh lime is perfect. Lastly, plenty of ice in a highball glass, and we’re done. The perfect g & t.

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