For a drink whose ingredients are right there in its iconic name, the Gin & Tonic sure gets screwed up a lot. And while you may think all there is to making a solid G&T is throwing gin and tonic in a glass, there are actually several ways to improve the classic highball—and, good news, they’re super-easy. To get the scoop, we tapped two experts: Bryan Dayton of Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder, CO and a soon-to-open Basque-inspired rooftop restaurant (which will have a dedicated G&T program), and Nikos Mantzaridis of the recently opened Gin + Collins in Miami Beach (which specializes in gin cocktails). Here, the two giniuses reveal every way to make a better Gin & Tonic.
Skip the Highball, Use a Goblet
Both Dayton and Mantzaridis take inspiration from Spain, where the G&T has become a way of life, and serve their Gin & Tonics in giant, wide-mouthed goblets instead of tall Collins or highball glasses. For Mantzaridis, it’s all about enhancing the cocktail’s aroma. “If you use a Collins glass, you don’t get any smell,” he says. “But if you use a big snifter glass, you get all those aromas in your nose [as you drink].” Dayton appreciates how a globe-like glass allows for a greater amount of tonic and a more balanced drink. “By the time you fill the glass with tonic, it’s not such a full-proof cocktail,” he says. “The gin is milder, the tonic comes through. I like it because it makes for a more sensible and milder drink.”
Find the Golden Gin to Tonic Ratio
Too often, little to no thought is put into the ratio of gin to tonic in a Gin & Tonic. But that ratio is incredibly important to the outcome of the drink. Mantzaridis’s intention is to highlight the gin in his cocktails, so he pours about an ounce and a half of gin and an ounce and a third of tonic into a glass with ice and serves that with the partially emptied bottle of tonic. That way, customers can sip the drink and experience Mantzaridis’s gin-forward take on the cocktail or dilute it down with their preferred amount of tonic. Dayton, were he a customer at Gin + Collins, would definitely be pouring in the rest of that bottle. He prefers his G&Ts made with a five-to-one ratio of tonic to gin for a lower proof, more aperitif-friendly cocktail. In the end, though, the ratio of gin to tonic is up to you. The most important thing is that you base it on your personal preferences.
Chill Your Tonic (and Use a Good One)
While Mantzaridis and Dayton disagree on how much tonic to add to a G&T, they agree that the tonic, when added, should be good and should be cold. “If you use warm tonic, the ice will melt immediately,” Mantazaridis says. “And then your drink will be over-diluted.” Dayton points out that the Gin & Tonic is not a gulping drink; it should be sipped. You need the ice to maintain its integrity over a long period of time, which means you need your tonic water to be cold. And when it comes to the type of tonic, both Mantzaridis and Dayton lean toward brands like Fever Tree and Q. “Keep it craft,” Dayton says.
Lose the Straw
“Never straws,” Mantzaridis says. “If you drink a Gin & Tonic with a straw, you’ll never get the aromas.” Dayton also prefers to drink his G&Ts sans straw, but says it’s up to personal preferences. While Mantzaridis is a bit stricter on the matter, he will give a customer a straw—but only if they insist.
Think Outside of the Lime Wedge
While a lime wedge is the typical G&T accoutrement, it’s not always the best one. It all comes down to the gin you pick. For his upcoming project, Dayton has been experimenting with many gin-tonic-garnish combinations. “The idea is to really study the botanicals of the spirit, of the gin itself, and then put some of those botanicals into the glass,” he says. For example, he’ll garnish a G&T made with Bombay Sapphire with lemongrass, or one made with Tanqueray 10 with juniper berries. Mantzaridis takes the same approach, garnishing his G&Ts with items that will enhance the flavors already present in the gin. Gin Mare gets an orange slice and lemon, and Hendricks gets a cucumber, while more juniper-forward gins get peppercorns. He’ll even go as far as to add an extra liqueur or spirit to the drink to enhance the gin’s flavors. Botanist gin, for instance, gets an herbal kick from a splash of green Chartreuse. Go garnish crazy and find your wedge replacement. You’ll inspire your own, personal ginnaissance.