April 9, 2014 at 12:07 PM ET
Forget your grandmother’s gin and tonic. As numerous companies release unique, artisanal spirits and handcrafted tonics, more and more bartenders are experimenting with this classic drink to create something of a G+T craze. Since April 9 is International Gin and Tonic Day, it’s the perfect time to get on the bandwagon.
“Gin and tonic is definitely having a international moment right now, from the paired tonic menus in Spain to brown specialty syrups being served in cocktail bars in the U.S., everyone seems to be participating,” said Chaim Dauermann, the head bartender at Gin Place in New York. (The “brown syrup” refers to the reddish-brown hue homemade tonic takes on due to the cinchona bark used to make it).
Gin Palace alone boasts 60 to 70 gins on any given day, from Nolet’s to Botanist to locally made gins like New York Distilling Company’s Perry Tot, Greenhook Gin, and Brooklyn Gin. The bar also offers gin and tonic on tap, a concoction that uses Gordon’s and their own house-made tonic, not to mention the five other tonics they serve. Each of the artisanal gins and tonics have a variety of different flavor nuances, so the possibilities for combinations are endless.
“Tonic, like vermouth, got a bad rap for a long time, in part because the options for tonic were limited and frankly, a lot of them were not very good,” said Morgan Schick, creative director of Bon Vivants Trick Dog in San Francisco. “In the last five to ten years, there has been an influx of more crafted, artisanal tonic products available, like Fever Tree or Q Tonic, and these products helped opened people’s minds...”
Currently Bon Vivants locations are partnering on a project that will focus on gin and tonics on tap with classic quinine-based house tonics infused with seasonal flavors. In spring, they use floral notes and tarragon, and in summer, highlight stone fruits.
“Much like a chef would pair ingredients on the plate, we’ll identify the flavor profiles of different tonics and pair them with the most appropriate flavor profiles of different gins,” Schick said.
Spanish-inspired Boqueria in New York pays homage to the drink’s popularity in Spain by offering distinct takes on the cocktail. On the menu you find the El Clavo, made with Hendrick’s, Fever Tree tonic, cloves and cucumber; and the Uva y Naranja (recipe below) with G’Vine ‘Nouaison’ gin, Fever Tree tonic, fresh grapes, and orange. Of course, some guests still desire the classic cocktail, without the bells and whistles.
“There is just something so simple and easy to appreciate about a good gin and tonic, and when mixologists revisit them with an eye for innovation and execution, the results are often amazing,” said Zack Bezunartea, the beverage program manager of Boqueria
Ready to give it a try? Experiment with some of these artisanal gins and tonics.
Dorothy Parker: Made by the Brooklyn-based New York Distilling Company, this American-style gin blends conventional and contemporary botanicals to create a spirit that’s as complex and eye-opening as the writer and socialite it was named after. One sip and you will get flavors of elderberry, cinnamon, hibiscus, lemon and traditional juniper.
G’Vine Floraison: Developed in France, this gin gets its delicate floral and slightly fruity essence from grape spirit and vine flower, two main ingredients they use. By adding this to their recipe, the gin takes on a pronounced, but smooth floral note with hints of spices like cardamom and ginger, and leaves you with a long, refreshing finish.
Caorunn: Pronounced “ka-roon,” this small-batch Scottish gin is named after the Rowan berry, on of the five Celtic botanicals that helps give this spirit its superb flavor. You also find notes of heather, bog myrtle, dandelion, and coul blush apple, all native plants to the region that are used by the gin master at Balmenach Distillery to impart a floral, crisp, and well balanced liquor with a clean, dry finish.
Few Barrel-Aged Gin: If you are lucky enough to see a bottle of this bourbon barrel-aged gin by Illinois-based Few Distillery, scoop it up. The barrel aging adds hints of vanilla to the nose, but the coolness of the gin remains on the palate with refreshing bits of pine and spruce. It will give any gin-based cocktail a special kick, not to mention confuse your guests!
Nolet’s Silver: This dry gin is seductive and pleasing. Just take a sip and you will get traces of the added botanicals like rose, peach, and summer berries, a combination that creates a bright and happy flavor perfect for summer cocktails.
Tomr’s Tonic: This rust-colored concoction tips the hat to how tonic used to be made with quinine-filled cinchona bark, lime and sugar—a far cry from the clear and bubbly stuff found on your grocery store shelf. Try it in your next do-it-yourself gin and tonic and be prepared to have your world turned upside down. Just remember, it’s supposed to look a little like dirty water, not the crystal-clear cocktail you are used to.
Uva y Naranja, Courtesy of Boqueria
Place two grapes, cut in half, and one large orange wedge in the bottom of the glass, preferably a stemless wine glass. Pour 2 ounces of gin and let settle for about 30 seconds, and then place one large ice cube in glass. Pour half a bottle of tonic water in the glass.
Nolet’s Silver Upgraded G&T
Combine ingredients in a highball glass or Burgundy wine glass with ice. Garnish with both a large orange and grapefruit peel.