how to make the best gin and tonic

If you are going to make a gin and tonic, you may as well make it right.

What seems like a perfectly simple drink consisting of 2 ingredients and a garnish, deserves a little more attention. Of course this is all a matter of my opinion but let me give you a bit of background.

The background

I come from a family of gin and tonic drinkers and the smell of it with slices of fresh lemon brings on a flood of childhood memories. I think of lazy Sunday lunches at my parents Johannesburg home. I think of running down to the bottom of the garden to pick lemons off the tree. I think of sneaking big gulps when they weren’t looking because it actually tastes delicious even to children.

My father taught me how to pour the perfect gin & tonic many years ago to ensure that if I ever made him a drink it would be just the way he liked it. These tips form the basis of where I am going on this.

Then a friend, who is very particular about his G & T poured me a drink and I immediately realised that there was such a thing as the ‘perfect gin and tonic’. He used Hendrick’s gin.

Having never tasted this delicious tipple before, it was love at first sip. Well actually it was love at first sniff, because when you smell it, the infusion of coriander, juniper, citrus and rose petal hit you with full force, you know that this is something special.

He gave me a bottle because he bought a whole case, and clearly wanted to share the love. (Thank you Chris).

Anyway, I’m not here to advertise Hendrick’s gin, but check out their website it’s a total trip. They claim that their gin tastes different to other gins because of the rose petal and cucumber infusion, as well as the small batch distillation process. The Wall Street Journal voted it the best gin in the world in 2003.

So with all of this in mind, I decided to write about how to make the perfect gin and tonic.

Oh, and its the best drink to drink when you are in the bush. The heat, refreshment, mosquito’s etc.

The elements in the mix:

1. The Gin

Choose your favourite gin or the best quality and best tasting gin you can afford. It makes a big difference.

2. The tonic

Use tonic that is ice-cold and freshly opened from the can or bottle. You want as much carbonation as possible, there is nothing worse than a flat G & T.

3. The ice

To make this drink perfect you need a lot of ice. The downside here is the drink gets watered down as the ice melts. To overcome this I did some experimenting. I made tonic water ice cubes. Makes sense right? It certainly intensifies the flavour, but the carbonation and sugar in the tonic creates a slightly fluffy, only 95% solid ice-cube. I think this is cool, but perhaps freeze slightly less fizzy tonic to make the cubes, like the left over bits at the bottom of bottle a the end of the party.

 4. The citrus

Here you have 2 choices: lemon or lime. Both are awesome, but I now prefer lime. As does my friend who gave me the bottle of Hendrick’s. He has grown 2 lime trees in order to support his gin and tonic habit. If possible, pick the fruit off the tree just before serving. It’s these little things that add to the overall outcome.

The pouring.

Once you have all the above elements in place, use either a tall or a short glass. I quite like a short fat glass because you use less tonic, thus the drink is less sweet and has a stronger gin flavour. If you are wanting a ‘thin’ gin, go for a tall glass.

My dad recommends pouring the drink as follows:

  • first add the gin to the glass (desired quantity)
  • then add the tonic slowly so as not to lose too much of the fizz
  • leave a big space for the ice
  • gently drop as many ice cubes into the glass as possible, once again in an attempt not to lose too much fizz
  • gently squeeze a lemon or lime wedge over the drink and drop a second unsqueezed wedge or slice into the glass
  • using a swizzle stick or your finger, gently press down on the ice so as to lightly mix the citrus juice through the drink

And there you have it, my take on the perfect G & T.

Cheers!

PS ~ check out how to make the perfect Paloma cocktail

I look forward to connecting with you again in the future.

Visit my Drizzle and Dip Facebook page to get updates of all my posts.

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67 Responses to how to make the best gin and tonic

  1. kate October 3, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    Where did you find those lovely glasses?

  2. Nicole October 3, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    Hi, love the photos! I use (and drink) Hendricks all the time at work (bartender)and home and have discovered that mixing Hendricks and tonic with either cucumber OR rose petals adds a completely different dimension.
    Both enhance the rose and cucumber flavours that Hendricks is so famous for. 😀

    Just thought i’d pass that along to a fellow G&T drinker.
    N

  3. Sam October 3, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Hi Nicole, thank you so much for dropping by with your expert opinion, I am now wanting to try cucumber and rose petals too.
    I think they would look so beautiful in the glass.
    Sam

  4. Sam October 3, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    Hi Kate, I cant remember exactly, but would think it was from the Milnerton flea market.

  5. Gina October 3, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    Oops!!
    I almost drank the cup through the computer screen, so this drink refreshing and inviting. I loved the explanations of each item. Beautiful pictures. Kisses Gin

  6. S October 3, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    i thought i liked hendricks best – but then i tried sipsmith, a fantastic gin made in hammersmith, london. if you can get it where you are, i highly recommend.

  7. Tina October 3, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    I love Hendricks but prefer to drink it with a cucumber! You should try it:) It’s yummy!

  8. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com October 4, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    New fan! I love your photography and styling. Thanks for the wonderful how-to! :)

  9. lou October 4, 2012 at 5:54 am #

    my english mum is a hardcore g&t drinker, is obsessed with hendricks and only drinks it with cucumber.

  10. Sam October 4, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Hi Lou, yes it seems that cucumber is very popular with Hendrick’s and I must try this on my next one :-)
    Sam

  11. Sam October 4, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Thank you Kiran, I’m glad you like and I hope I see you in these parts again.
    Sam

  12. Sam October 4, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    Thanks Tina, seems that cucumber is a favourite garnish for Hendrick’s. I can picture beautiful long ribbons folded through my drink.
    Sam

  13. Sam October 4, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    Hi S, have never heard of Sipsmith, but when next I’m in London I will check it out. I’m quite fascinated by gin now and want to get a full exposure to a variety of brands.

  14. Sam October 4, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    Hello Gina / Gin :-) *waves* – nice to see you again and ching ching

  15. Louise October 4, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Stunning photos! Such a pity I am at work…… 😉

  16. Sam October 4, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    Hi Louise, just keep thinking about it all day and then have one tonight #phuzathursday

  17. ally October 4, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    Can I add: rubbing the rim of the glass with the lemon or lime. yum scrum!

  18. Sam October 4, 2012 at 9:18 am #

    Great tip All, thanks :-)

  19. Kristy October 4, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    Beautiful post Sam, the photos are absolutely stunning. I do love a good G & T — thanks for the great tips.

  20. Carole October 5, 2012 at 5:49 am #

    To make this the perfect gnt a slice of cucumber is out of this world!!!!!

  21. Norma October 5, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    I love the photos, but what caught my attention was the your LOVE of Gin as I do Love it as well. I have never tried Hendricks, but have been drinking a Gin by Ketel One Vodka called “NOLETS” it has the essence of Turkish Rose in the Gin and I must say I absolutely LOVE, LOVE this Gin. Please give it a try and let me know what you think. Again, beautiful pics!

  22. Sam October 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    HI Carole, so its seems that Cucumber is a favoured garnish and one which I will definitely re visit.

  23. Sam October 5, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    Hi Norma, I’ll keep an eye out for Nolets too, it sounds like they have also infused rose with it which must be wonderful.
    Thanks
    Sam

  24. Tessa October 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    love this Sam! – A family friend of mine freezes lemons and then grates some zest into his G & T just before serving. The fragrance that it gives off is out-of-this-world amazing!!

  25. Meg October 5, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    Beautiful photography and I, too, love Hendricks for special, and appreciate the original Bombay for “every day.” (Sappire is too bland, IMHO.) But a giant omission? Tonic water is key! Leave off any made with corn syrup, which is way heavier in calories and leaves an unpleasant coating in the mouth. Blech! Find a favorite among those produced with a little sugar or agave. The difference is striking, although it might take a few attempts to find your perfect flavor fit. Look for Fever Tree, Q, Stirling, Fentiman’s, the Whole Foods store brand (great value), White Rock (good value, but read the label because some WR is made with corn syrup).

    We’re lucky to have a key lime tree in the yard. When the fruit is ripe, the gin starts calling!

  26. Sam October 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Hi Meg, unfortunately we don’t get all those tonic water brands in South Africa, we essentially have one main brand, Schwepps, which is nice enough.
    Great tips to add to this post, much appreciated.
    sam

  27. pete October 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    amazing pics sam … am so going to give hendricks a try

  28. Sam October 7, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    Thanks Pete:-)

  29. Karin November 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    Hi Sam,
    Just bought your book – can’t wait to start cooking from it! Am also a G&T fan – can you get Hendriks locally?
    Karin

  30. Sam November 19, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    Hi Karin, excellent and thank you very much :-). Yes you can, although I am not to sure where my friend purchased it from. Let me know if you get stuck.

  31. Amber December 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    Hendricks is the absolute best hands down….and I now take mine with cucumber garnish since its infused that way. Best drink ever!

  32. STACY January 10, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    This look DEEELISH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cant wait to try it!

  33. Sam January 11, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    Cheers Stacy :-)

  34. manny February 15, 2013 at 2:21 am #

    Thanks for the Tip with the tonic cubes. I don’t have any leftover-tonic because i just buy small bottles, but nice tip though!
    Best GT in my opinion is
    4cl Hendrick’s Gin
    1 small Bottle Fentiman’s Tonic
    1 Slice of cucumber or some slices of cucumber skin (natural cucumbers, otherwise it may have a chemical taste)
    1-2 pinches of fresh ground pepper

  35. Sam February 15, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    Thanks for the awesome tips Manny – cheers :-)

  36. Kari October 8, 2013 at 2:48 am #

    Hendricks is my favorite too. Using Fevertree Indian tonic kicks it up another notch.

  37. Cory February 12, 2014 at 1:07 am #

    If you ever enter the Pacific Northwest, get your hands on a bottle of Aviation gin (http://aviationgin.com/). Made in my little town of Portland, OR. Maybe being from the area I am a bit biased, but this is THE BEST batch distilled gin I’ve ever encountered. No joke. A second close is Dry Fly Gin made in Spokane, WA. (http://www.dryflydistilling.com/gin/)
    Just wanted to share, as I am an avid G&T drinker myself, and thought this article was a lot of fun!
    Do you know much about tonics? I’d sure love to read about different brands, just because I think that can makes a world of difference all on its own.
    Cheers!

  38. Sam February 12, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    Hi Cory sounds great, thanks for letting us know.
    best
    sam

  39. Marie February 13, 2014 at 2:08 am #

    Hi, Love your pictures. This is my favorite drink and always looking to make it even better. You have got it down pat. We freeze some lime slices and use this idea to cut down on a little ice. It works well and love the lime. Going to try cucumber and tonic cubes as well. Thanks again for all the tips.

    Cheers!!

  40. Sam February 13, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    Hi Marie – thanks for the comment and the frozen lime tip. love it!

  41. Candi March 25, 2014 at 11:19 pm #

    Just made a perfect G&T. I used fever tree tonic key limes and baby cucumbers! So deelish on this snowy afternoon in DC as I dream about summer!!

  42. Sam March 26, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Awesome Candy. I have also been buying Fever Tree tonic lately as we can buy it in South Africa now. Really stunning. I also thnk G & T’s are fabulous all year round.

    sam

  43. Luz April 28, 2014 at 2:43 am #

    Girl…you had me at hello! No seriously…I must commend you on sharing what I already know. Hendricks is the answer. Oh…what’s the question? Thee best in the world is right. Love??

  44. Sam April 28, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    Hey Luz, indeed. I love the stuff. made a new cocktail with it going up soon.

  45. Rebecca May 8, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

    I love Gin and nothing beats a cold G&T on a hot summer’s day imo. I’ve played around with flavors and such and found that my fav is with fresh grapefruit juice and cucumber.

  46. Sam May 8, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    I love grabefruit Rebecca so must try this next time. In my opinion it needs citrus.

  47. Niels May 27, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

    Try to use Thomas Henry Tonic waters like the Elderflower!

  48. ck July 27, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    Marvelous! What a delightful post. Many thanks from the untamed, rugged wilds of Western Australia? cheers dears

  49. Sam July 28, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    Thanks Grant

  50. Patrick August 15, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    Hi all Hendrick’s Gin adepts,
    early Summer this year we were in Porto and discovered a quality restaurant that had a very good score on their reviews list: a satisfied client wrote that they knew well how a Hendrick’s gin has to be served ! And… the only way to discover that was to drink it as an apero! It was served indeed with a lot of skill and love by the weighter at our tabel with a long cocktail spoon! A slice of cucumber was in the big glas and I remember , although I’m not sure, that there was also added some…..pepper! Now months later ( having switchen to Hendrick’s gin as apero) I scanned The internet but can’t find traces or confirmation of my strong believe that it was pepper. Can anyone help me?

  51. Yuvraj Zala October 4, 2014 at 9:17 am #

    Pictures are amazing. Cocktail sounds delicious too!

  52. Claire May 1, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    Sam, I highly agree with your statement that there is nothing worse than a Flat G&T!
    Can’t wait to try cucumber. Luckily I have one in my refrigerator just waiting!

  53. Alan May 15, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

    Thank you, great article, this is the gold standard recipe for gin and tonic

  54. THESHUTTERWHALE May 22, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    Those images are beautiful!!!

  55. cj June 26, 2015 at 11:37 pm #

    Hey Sam. Great pics! G&T, simple but so delicious. Hendricks will be on the next shopping list. Curious, but have you ever tried a couple of mint leaves along with the lime?
    cj

  56. Sam June 28, 2015 at 5:08 pm #

    Awesome cj, I have tried mint but not mint and lime. I feel it needs to citrus, but will give it a go.

  57. Jane July 1, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

    To Patrick, yes, black pepper!! We were in Spain recently and were introduced to Hendricks with cucumber and black pepper, served in a “goldfish bowl” type glass full of ice. I think they may have used sparkling water rather than tonic as it didn’t taste sweet. Absolutely delicious! “Normal” g&t seems so boring now!

  58. Sam July 2, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    HI Jane – wow I live the addition of black pepper, and I too have had a G & T served in a big fish bowl type glass. I must try with soda, but also love the less sweet tonics we can get now.

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