For many a gin and tonic is the perfect summertime drink. Urvashi was lucky enough to receive a lesson in making the perfect G & T along with a insightful background to the origins of gin. She also made a refreshing summer dessert of gin and tonic granita.
Ever since I had my first gin and tonic on the terrace of the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, I’ve been hooked. There are few drinks that can sate that thirst on a hot and sunny day. So when I was invited along to the Ultimate G&T Experience by Bombay Sapphire at The Hoxton Hotel earlier this week I was delighted to say yes.
The evening was led by Sam Carter – Bombay Sapphire’s Mixologist and UK Ambassador and held in one the quirky rooms of the hotel’s Library. It was small, cosy and full of gin – bottles everywhere with a bar where he talked us through the history of gin and then gave us a lesson in making the perfect G&T.
How the G&T came about
The G&T is 500 years old. During Queen Victoria’s reign in the days of the British Raj, soldiers serving in India would be given tonic water with quinine to ward off malaria. They added gin and lime juice to make it taste better and so it became known as a “healthy drink” and the G&T was born. There are many variations of this story – indeed you can find a comprehensive history on the Sipsmith website or the Plymouth Gin website.
It starts with getting the ice right
I learned a very important fact at this workshop. Ice absorbs flavours from the freezer. Logically this makes complete sense and if I had ever stopped to think about this before, I would of course know that you should wash the ice before using it to rid it of these inherited flavours – or better still keep your gin and tonic ice in a completely separate freezer bag. The latter is now my preference. I’m not taking any chances with that perfect taste!
Quality tonic water is essential
If you’ve ever had a G&T in a student bar, you’ll know what a bad G&T tastes like. Good quality tonic water without quinine is the key to balancing the flavour of the gin.
There are four main types of gin. Cold compounded gin is made by infusing cold spirit with juniper and other botanicals and infusing them without any heating process. This method is quick and cheap.
Distilled gin as the names suggested is where the spirit goes through a distillation process. The alcohol vaporises, hits the condenser and then turns back into a liquid when water, flavouring and botanicals are added. This gin will have a slight colouration because of this.
In the 1700s the ports of Plymouth, Bristol and Liverpool started to brew their own versions of gin. Plymouth Gin is an appellation controlee gin which must be made within the walls of Plymouth and is all that remains of the portside breweries that were in place at the time.
Finally we have London Dry Gin – this is a high-proof spirit which is distilled to a base spirit and then flavourings are added in a redistillation process – these always contain juniper and then a blend of other botanicals depending on the brand. These botanicals give different “tones of flavour” to the gin. These include coriander seeds, lemon, orange, orris root, angelica, cinnamon, cassia bark, bitter almonds, liquorice, cubeb berries, anise and grains of paradise. I guess this is why gin pairs well with so many foods from spicy to zesty salads.
London Dry Gin is the gin most bartenders will use for G&T.
And finally the glass
I’ve always been served G&T in a tall tumbler. Sam explained that 95% of what we taste comes from our sense of smell and so a wide or bowl type glass is much better to drink gin out of as the smells reach your nostrils better. I think he’s right or perhaps I was just mesmerised by his words of gin wisdom!
If you are a G&T purist and only have your drink with lime, don’t read on. I thought I was most definitely a purist until I tried experimenting with the various infusions the experience offers. You can choose from peardrop, lavender, blueberry and basil, jasmine, vanilla and bayleaf, rhubarb, orange and clove, carrot and coriander, sweet pepper and cardamom. I chose kaffir lime and a tiny bit of ginger. To this I added a sliced red chilli and a sprig of coriander. It was really bloody good!
Another variation is a granita. Perfect if you have a little gin leftover and want a refreshing summer dessert. I made Marcus Wareing’s Gin and Tonic Granita this afternoon when the sun poked it’s head out and added a splash of elderflower cordial along with a fresh sprig. It was lovely out in the calm of my allotment. Very British botanicals paired with a very British summertime drink!
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