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Gin cocktails are everywhere at the moment, but can they really compete with a good old G&T? Leading mixologist, bar operator and author, Tristan Stephenson, explores this classic serve and reveals innovative ways to give it your own signature twist.

A match made in heaven

For me, a gin and tonic works thanks to its perfect balance of bitter and sweet. Many of the botanicals found in gin are inherently bitter and some, namely the juniper and liquorice, are also naturally sweet, but the distillation process removes a lot of these flavour compounds from the final product. So, when bittersweet tonic is mixed with gin, it reintroduces these essential flavour components and the effect is almost like a rediscovery of old values. Spices are restored, roots rekindled, and fruits and herbs reanimated to their original form.

Nowadays, customers are increasingly concerned with the provenance of produce. When it comes to gin, it is hard to talk about a brand without talking about what it is made from, making it a compelling opportunity for the flavour-conscious customer. The potential for customisation is another aspect that makes the G&T so attractive. For us as bartenders we can experiment to suit the needs of our guests or create bespoke variations of the classic drink which link in with our food offerings. With a growing demand for flavoured gins, countless flavours of tonic water and endless garnish options for the G&T, the only limitation is your imagination!

How to make the perfect G&T

The humble G&T might seem like a walk in the park, but don’t be fooled by its simplicity! With only a handful of ingredients, every flavour is exposed and must be balanced and combined to perfection.

Gin – Opt for a gin that tastes like gin (juniper) and isn’t overpowered by the other ingredients in the drink – Tanqueray and Gordon’s have got you covered here. For an interesting twist try Tanqueray Rangpur, which has a great zesty flavour, and complement this gin with a citrus tonic water and lime garnish.

Tonic – This should be bittersweet (but not too bitter or too sweet), fresh and fizzy. Keep it chilled as this will limit dilution when you make the drink. I favour citrus-based tonic waters (Mediterranean variants, for example) as these pair well with classic, juniper-forward gins like Tanqueray, but there is a huge variety out there to get creative with. I recently tried a delicious basil-infused tonic which would work well as a palette-cleansing aperitif or provide the perfect accompaniment to a savoury meal.

Garnish – Keep it relevant. A garnish should either directly contrast or accentuate the flavours of your G&T – if it’s just there to look pretty, it’s not doing its job. Don’t feel limited to traditional food garnishes – herbs, spices and even flowers can also be used to great effect. Vanilla pods work well with sumptuous, buttery gins; lemongrass beautifully complements delicate, floral gins like Tanqueray No. TEN.

Ice – Cubed and plenty of it – you can never over-chill a good G&T. The best examples also require at least a minute of stirring for perfect dilution and temperature.

Glass – This is down to personal preference, but I would avoid highballs that ‘stack’ ice cubes as these drinks are seldom cold enough due to insufficient surface area between ice and drink. I like to use an extra-large rocks glass as it chills the drink faster and preserves some of the fizz.


The Classic

You’ve undoubtedly made it before, but my-oh-my is it hard to beat. You really can’t go wrong with TANQUERAY LONDON DRY GIN mixed with a premium tonic and garnished with a wedge of lime. The lime adds a spark of acidity to the drink, lifting both the juniper and coriander botanicals in the gin.



120ml Premium tonic water

1 Lime twist


Add the gin to the ice filled rocks glass.

Stir to chill.

Carefully pour the chilled tonic in to the glass, stirring as you go.

Stir for at least 30 seconds.

Garnish with a twist of lime.

16.9 grams of alcohol*(according to mls of the serve)


Panama Gin

A favourite of British forces in India and West Indian workers digging the Panama Canal. This citrus blush tonic is a little sweeter than your classic G&T but delicious nonetheless. Grapefruit zest, or even a slice of grapefruit, works well with this drink as it bolsters the bitterness that is lost by adding sweet lemonade.



50ml Tonic water

50ml Pink lemonade

1 Pink grapefruit zest


Build in wine glass

Garnish with a strip of pink grapefruit zest.

16.9 grams of alcohol*(according to mls of the serve)

Bottled G&T

If you’ve got access to a carbonation rig or you’re handy with a soda stream or soda siphon, this is a great way to recycle tonic water that’s gone flat. You can even add your own herbal infusions in to the mix if you please (try a tea bag). Best of all, this method carbonates the gin too, so depending on the pressure you carbonate to, this could be the fizziest G&T you’ve ever tasted! With strong juniper-forward flavours, Gordon’s or Tanqueray will both work equally well here.


Makes 1 litre


350ml Any flat tonic water


Mix the ingredients and chill in the freezer until nearly frozen.

Carbonate using your normal procedure, making sure you vent the system.

Store chilled until ready to use.

Serve in chilled champagne flutes.

44.4 grams of alcohol*(according to mls of the serve)


Gin Cock-tail

Some would argue that the G&T isn’t a cocktail. I say it’s the very definition of a cocktail, a “bittered sling”, where sling refers to spirits plus water. When you think of a G&T in this way, customisation becomes easy. Pick a few classic modifiers and start experimenting with your next G&T! In this serve I’ve chosen absinthe and herbal liqueur - the absinthe gives a tickle of anise flavour while the herb liqueur gives sweetness with an herbal edge.



5ml Absinthe

5ml Herb liqueur

100ml Tonic water

Thyme (to garnish)


Build the ingredients in to an ice filled mixing beaker.

Stir for a minute

Strain in to a small, chilled highball glass.

Serve with no ice and no garnish.

Garnish with thyme

17 grams of alcohol*(according to mls of the serve)

(*One standard drink contains 8g of alcohol)

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