What are your first cocktail memories? If you were brought up like the kids on Mad Men, it was learning to make the perfect Martini or Manhattan long before you could drink them. Though I am not quite that old, I had a similar experience in my childhood. My French mom was not a big cocktail drinker, though there were a few she did enjoy, like a Bloody Mary or a Screwdriver or her real favorite, a Gin & Tonic. Because my mother was blind, I did become a Mad Men-style bartending minor for much of my childhood, and I was known for my Gin & Tonics in particular, though I never tasted them. I learned to make them as my mom liked and then was very clever at repeating the exact ratio. Since my mother’s birthday was May 20, I am honoring her by addressing her favorite cocktail a Gin & Tonic (G&T) with some recommendations and even some interesting twists off of that theme.
My mother liked a classic dry gin, like Beefeater, replete with juniper flavor. Her tonic water of choice was always Canada Dry, and G&T was the reason we always had fresh limes. Some people prefer a more botanical gin, but since the tonic water has its own flavor profile, I think keeping it simple and using a dry gin works better for a G&T. Balfour Street Gin has that clean and bright flavor with hints of citrus gelatin candy along with juniper and lemon curd flavors. On the palate there is good intensity and viscosity with a satiny entry, medium body and a dry, yet fruity finish with just a hint of peppery spice. Juniper is the main note with these other clean flavors providing harmony, but the final finish is quite dry.
That dryness of classic gin helps balance the sweet minerality of tonic water. To upgrade a little from Canada Dry, try one of the new, artisanal tonic waters like Fever-Tree, which touts on their bottle, “If ¾ of your G&T is TONIC, make sure you use the BEST.” That’s also why I source the best Persian limes I can find. My secret was to squeeze in a little bit of the lime juice as well as the zesty peel. Here you have your recipe: ¾ to ¼ ratio, tonic water to dry gin, with a squeeze of lime and a lime zest garnish.
An interesting twist on this theme is a drink I discovered recently called a French Hound, and one I think my mother would’ve liked very much. One part of a classic dry gin, like Beefeater, Bombay Dry, Balfour Street or Boodles (Sir Winston Churchill’s favorite gin) with one part St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, fresh thyme, simple syrup and grapefruit juice over ice, topped with club soda and garnished with a lemon peel. Refreshing in our Florida heat, yet complex and subtle, this cocktail mellows the juniper character of the gin with a soft elderflower note and bright citrus to bring it zing.
There are more and more artisanal gins (and locally distilled options like the delicious St. Augustine Gin) that can minimize the juniper flavors that define gin by offering a pleasant range of softening botanicals, but there has also been a popular resurgence for classic dry gins. Believe me, there is a gin out there for you, just waiting for the right tonic, a squeeze of lime and a bartender in training.
Dan Eddy, Wine & Spirits Supervisor
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