Thursday, December 25, 2014

Gin 401: Dissecting the Gin and Tonic

I once read that some Japanese bartenders and bar enthusiasts regard the gin and tonic as the face of the bar. Some students of mine may remember a few stories I told featured in this manga: Bartender. The story I'm referring to, however, takes a slightly less melodramatic approach than the first chapter. This chapter explains how every little detail of a Gin and Tonic affects how it ends up.

  • What is the water source? Is it filtered or purified?
  • Is it machine made or natural?
  • How clear or cloudy is the ice?
  • What is the size of the chunks?
  • What shape are they?
  • How many pieces do you use?
  • Do you keep it 2:1 or go a bit stronger or weaker?
  • What brand do you use?
  • How much do you use?
  • Do you use a syrup or go prepackaged? 
  • What brand do you use?
  • How much do you use?
  • Do you just build it in the glass?
  • Do you stir the cocktail?
  • What garnish do you use?
  • How do you cut it?
  • Do you extract any juice or flavor from it?
  • If so, do you add another bit for presentation

Most places, of course, use machine-made ice and it's typically not the largest size. Typically the glass is filled. The Gin, more often than not is whatever the customer requests or whatever is in the well. The tonic is often dispensed by the gun, Schweppes is the most common brand. Most bartenders don't mix it and just slide a lime wedge on the side, maybe a sip stick as well.

Try this drink with harder ice.
Try different gins. Bombay Sapphire East has a nice peppery note. Bluecoat is more citrusy
Schweppes is quite sweet. Try something citrusy or herbal like Fever Tree or Fentimans
See if your guests stir their G&T's. Some like keeping things separate.
Try squeezing in your juice or use the skin oils on the rim, or use some cucumber or lemon grass

For my new guests, I make my G&T's like this:
A tall thin highball glass is filled with hard, large, cubed ice
Add 1 part Tanqueray gin and then carefully float 2 parts Fentimans tonic water on top
Place a lime wedge (1/6 lime) on the rim of the glass and slide in two sip sticks
This is for a number of reasons. Hard ice melts much slower than cubed ice so the drink waters down slower. The guest can wait for there to be more water if they want. Tanqueray is a very popular gin but remains quite well rounded, not very citrusy or herbal. Fentimans is a nice herbal change of pace not everyone is used to. This is where I sort of make my mark. A guest will usually note something fairly unique about this and either smile curiously or require something sweeter or more acidic. I layer it so the guest has the choice of how to drink it. Some guests prefer sipping the gin straight through the straw and sipping the chaser from the rim. The thin glass helps keep the fluids separate as well. The lime I offer, and if the guest discards it I know not to offer it again. If they drop it in or squeeze it in I learn more about their tastes, that they like some acidity.

For myself, I usually make my G&T's like this:
A large rocks glass with a clear massive king cube that I crack with a bar spoon, maybe two. 
Add 1 1/2oz Bombay Sapphire East and then float 2oz Fever Tree Indian Tonic
Squeeze a lime wedge in, discard it, and put another one on the rim, take a sip stick and stir
I know I like my Gin and Tonics mixed. My choice of product has a nice Indian spice to it, in the gin and the tonic water. The cracked ice gets it cold quickly enough but will melt more to my liking at the end of the drink. I like to linger with my drinks and I like some variety in a drink. It starts with a nice spice and a dash of citrus and slowly gets easier to sip as I stir and the ice melts. If I want I can take the lime and zazz up the drink if it gets dull at all. 

"I exercise extreme self-control. I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast." 
-W. C. Fields

Photo Credit: wikimedia

1 comment: