The idea of adding 6 blueberries and 3 basil leaves into a Gin & Tonic doesn’t instinctively get me thinking, "oh Joseph get ready this is going to be soooo great!" Then it is. A sip that totally catches me by surprise will always be one of my favorite things about cocktails, when something incredibly simple adds up to so much more in the glass than it does in my head. It’s the sense of a totally new and slightly incomprehensible result that makes me think mixology-mixschmology, this is some alchemy shit. AND with Gin Tonics you don’t even have to muddle, squeeze, shake, or strain a single thing.
I’ll chalk this particular wonder up to the extractive properties of alcohol, creating an instant infusion between gin and whichever fruit, herb, bitter and spice you’ve chosen. Order of operations comes into play here, first a 20-30 oz goblet is filled with ice, botanicals are added next, and finally a healthy pour of gin is poured over them - 2 oz at least. These steps tend to happen at a bar and the result is served alongside a mini bottle of Fever Tree or East Imperial, which means the “infusion” time with pure alcohol is stretched out until you decide to add the tonic.
Upon sipping, the aromas of your botanicals and gin are born up on the effervescence of tonic, and you’ve found yourself with a cocktail that evolves on each sip as the flavors continue to diffuse and the mound of ice everything is built on dilutes. The result is a bright, crisp, and refreshing drink with nearly limitless variations.
Three of the most memorable versions I came across were at the cocktail bar and restaurant Milk. They’re a great place to start, but certainly not where the mixing should end.
- The Dandy: gin, blueberries, basil leaves, tonic
- Bee’s Knees: gin, orange peel, vanilla bean, tonic
- Sticky Nights: gin, candied ginger, juniper berries, lime peel, lemon peel, tonic
- To assemble, fill a roomy glass with ice, add your botanicals, then 2 oz of gin. After a moment, top with 4-6 oz of chilled tonic.
The Spanish-style Gin Tonic is the perfect cocktail for taking a no recipe stroll through your grocery store or farmers market to grab whatever catches your eye, or perhaps even a walk around the block to borrow a few sprigs of rosemary or lavender from a neighborhood bush.
For more ideas try mixing with these:
- Botanicals: grapefruit, kumquat, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, watermelon, cucumber, olives, chile peppers, rosemary, thyme, mint, sage, lavender, cardamom, clove, peppercorn, star anise
- Bitters: Bitter Housewife Lime Coriander, El Guapo Cucumber Lavender, Hella Bitters Ginger, Portland Bitters Project Woodland, Crude Rizzo, Bittermens Burlesque
- Tonics: Elderflower, Yuzu, Grapefruit, Spiced, Tea-infused
- Spirit (yup, doesn’t even have to be gin!): Blanco Tequila, Agricole Rhum, Pisco, Vodka