This week, I’m celebrating what is, in my opinion, the most summery of cocktails: the gin and tonic. This cocktail got its start back in the halcyon days of the British Empire when its subjects — especially those in the more exotic, tropical colonies — would drink this cocktail for their health.
That’s right. Tonic water might taste like bitter citrus peel when taken alone, but this taste stems from the quinine in the water. Quinine is a powder that derives from the bark of the cinchona tree and proved to be very effective in combatting malaria — pretty important for England when they were running far flung parts of their empire.
Today, however, people drink gin and tonics because they’re delicious. What goes into a good gin and tonic? While this cocktail is relatively simple to make, using quality ingredients can make a difference. First off, you’re going to need gin. A trip to the liquor store reveals a kaleidoscope of gin choices, but here are some solid options:
Tanqueray: A gin mainstay of London dry gins, most liquor stores will sell Tanqueray. If you’re serious about making a good gin and tonic, don’t go any cheaper than this ($24.99 for a 750ml bottle at your liquor store).
Tanqueray Rangpur: If you find the regular Tanqueray a little dry for your taste, then grab a bottle of Rangpur. This has a strong citrus flavor thanks to the rangpur limes, while ginger and bay leaves added during final distillation further boost the citrus flavors that underpin the refreshing nature of the gin and tonic ($24.99 for a 750ml bottle at your local liquor store).
Hendrick’s: Let’s say you’re all about going big or going home when it comes to your cocktail — in this case, I’d recommend grabbing a bottle of Hendrick’s. Eschewing the usual citrus undertones, Hendrick’s adds delicate flavors of cucumber and rose to it’s gin ($34.99 for a 750ml bottle at your local liquor store).
Once you’ve selected your preferred gin, it’s time to figure out the other half of the equation: the tonic water. Luckily, tonic water tends to be a lot cheaper than gin. A one-liter bottle of Canada Dry tonic water will cost you 99 cents at Hy-Vee, and the generic brand costs 69 cents for a one liter bottle. But if you’re looking to up your game in the tonic water department, order Fever Tree tonic online, or pick up a bottle of Q Tonic Water from Bread Garden Market. Or you could even make your own homemade batch of tonic like they’re doing at the Motley Cow Cafe by combining cinchoa bark with lemon, lime and orange zests, all spice and a variety of other herbs and dried flowers.
Regardless of what kind of gin and what kind of tonic you decide upon, throw in a squeeze of lime and the combination will surely result in a refreshing summer cocktail.