How To Win Summer With The Ultimate Gin & Tonic Party

There are a lot of ways to keep cool when the mercury goes above 90. But while we’ve got nothing against swimming pools, it’s a proven fact that the most satisfying way to cool down is to dive into a Gin & Tonic. You can whip one up in 30 seconds (though we prefer a leisurely 60) and it’s snappy, tall and lean—everything you’re looking for in a poolside companion.

Given its combination of ease and cold-appeal, it’s a ringer when summer party season rolls around. But if you’re only drinking the straight-ahead (i.e. boring) version, you’re missing out. With just a few novel ingredients you can go from ho-hum to whoa-yum in an instant.

Step 1: Gather your basic ingredients

The heart of this drink couldn’t be simpler: It’s gin and (stay with us here) tonic and ice. So at a base level, those two ingredients make or break the drink. The key is to play to gin’s variability. Provide several different gins for your guests (and stock your liquor cabinet while you’re at it), or have everyone bring a different bottle. A classic London Dry, like Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire, is a good starting point, but there are too many great gins out there to limit yourself. Barr Hill Gin is infused with honey and Plymouth Gin has a subdued juniper kick, while Old Raj is an herb bomb, and aged varieties like Ransom Old Tom Gin give a deep hit of woody flavor. Same goes for the tonic. Schweppes or Canada Dry are familiar (and quite similar to one another), but there are several interesting options on the market that push the flavor boundaries. Our go-tos are the mildly fruity Fever-Tree Indian Tonic and the citrusy but dry Fentiman’s.

And remember, nothing takes the momentum out of a G&T party faster than running out of ice. If you don’t have a serious, productive icemaker, make sure to fill your freezer with a few bags of the cold stuff the day before.

Step 2: Assemble your tools

It’s easy to overdo it when pouring a G&T, so have a 2-ounce jigger on hand for those that are hesitant to free-pour. Prep you drink-making station with a muddler for fruit or herb customizations. You’ll also want a good barspoon—or five.

For a backyard shindig, gather all the Collins and Old Fashioned glasses you have and go for the charmingly mismatched vibe. If you’re partying by the pool or beach, think disposable and/or indestructible. Solo cups are a safe bet, but hard plastic tumblers are also a good option.

Step 3: Take it one step over the lime

Several steps, actually. To keep your Gin & Tonics from feeling like a one-trick pony, provide a variety of your favorite summertime berries and tropical fruits; herbs like rosemary, mint and sage; spices like cardamom and peppercorns; and keep oddball ingredients like orange marmalade, jalapeños and dried hibiscus flowers on hand to make things interesting. Add just one ingredient or play around with pairs, like these:

  • Dried hibiscus flowers and a lime wedge
  • Blackberries and thyme
  • Orange marmalade (just a spoonful!) and mint
  • Cardamom pods and a lemon wedge
  • Pink peppercorns and grapefruit peel
  • Strawberries and jalapeños

An even easier way to customize a G&T is by adding a few dashes of bitters. Use Angostura for a classic Pink Gin & Tonic (it’s a thing, we promise), or some Peychaud’s if you and your guests are into the licorice end of things. Or channel the spoils of summer with cucumber, rhubarb or celery bitters.

Step 4: Don’t Forget to Host

We know, it seems obvious. But those who aren’t as experienced with mixing orange marmalade or bitters in drinks will need a little guidance before they feel comfortable going all out. Before the party, play around with the ingredients you plan to have available so you can offer pairing advice to the uninitiated. Guests will be more likely to get down and dirty at the bar with a little encouragement from you.

Step 5: Bottoms Up

Once your supplies are in order, it’s time to put your fancy Gin & Tonic bar to the test! Again, encourage unexpected combinations to get you and your friends out of the boring G&T rut.