Food & Drink

5 Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Gin & Tonic

Mark Kelly/Supercall

With so many complicated cocktails out there, the Gin & Tonic sounds especially hard to screw up. Two of the three ingredients are right there in the name (the other is just lime juice), and you don’t even need a shaker to make it. But the simplicity of the drink means that there’s nowhere for any flaws to hide; the littlest error can throw off the entire balance of the classic highball. Here are five ways you may be ruining what could be a perfectly delicious G&T, and how to fix them.

Problem: You’re using bottom-shelf products

This is an obvious one, but the easiest thing to rectify. A Gin & Tonic is only as good as the sum of its parts. If you’re only using the cloying tonic water you can find for a dollar a liter, your Gin & Tonic is not reaching its full potential. Try using a quality tonic, like Fever Tree or Q Tonic, instead. The same goes for your gin; we’re not saying you have to fork over half your paycheck for a simple G&T, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for bathtub swill. Ensure your drink is the best it can be, even on a budget, by trying one of these great gins that are under $25.

Problem: Using the wrong ratio of gin to tonic

You can have the greatest ingredients on hand and still fail a Gin & Tonic by getting the ratio all wrong. A balanced Gin & Tonic should have two ounces of gin, three-quarters of an ounce of fresh lime juice, and a healthy topping of tonic water—about four ounces. While of course the exact specifics are up to your personal taste, no one likes to have their palettes totally blown out by too much gin—or worse, be forced to drink a whole glass of tonic water.

Problem: Not using a proper glass

If you order a Gin & Tonic at a dive bar, or worse, the club, you may find it served in a rocks glass or even a plastic tumbler. A proper G&T should be served in a tall highball glass, capturing the effervescence and guiding the bubbles to the top of the glass. Or, you could do as they traditionally do in Spain, and serve it in a wide-bowled, goblet-like snifter to let the aromas mingle and meet the nose with every sip.

Problem: Sticking exclusively to London Dry gin  

While the traditional G&T does call for a nice, juniper-forward London Dry, you are missing out if you don’t experiment with a variety of gins. An Old Tom will give the drink a potent, spiced flavor, as it does in our Holiday Gin & Tonic. A new American gin can add a variety of citrusy and botanical flavors, like lemon, peppercorn and cardamom. Or you can go for an old favorite like Hendrick’s for a refreshing burst of cooling cucumber.

Problem: Limiting your garnish to a lime wedge

A zesty lime does add a nice zing to a Gin & Tonic, but it’s far from the only garnish that can complement the cocktail. Try highlighting the botanicals of the gin by adding things like star anise or a sprig of rosemary. One of our favorite variations is the Spanish Gin & Tonic No. 4 from Los Angeles bar SOCA, which uses dehydrated blueberries, Meyer lemon peel and chocolate mint.