How to Make a Proper Gin and Tonic

a rocks glass of gin and tonic sitting on a wet black slate board, limes scattered around it

It really is about using the best gin.

by Erin Henderson

I was listening to a podcast with celebrated Israeli-British chef Yottam Ottolenghi

The host asked him about substitutions for his recipes, and he replied with the most refreshing answer: "If you don't like XX, maybe pick another recipe." 

He wasn't being rude; he said it kindly. But it was honest. 

While I have long championed using recipes as a guide, not a god, I also think, if you don't like chocolate, maybe flourless chocolate cake is not for you. 

bottles behind the bar
Which brings me to my point about G&Ts. 

We're gin drinkers in my family. Even when it was highly unfashionable, we remained steadfast to our spirit of choice, staying the course while friends and lovers turned up their noses at our resinous, herbaceous cocktails, and instead, ordered a lifeless vodka soda (yawn.

Related: Gin Hibiscus Collins

Now gin is back in vogue. Admittedly, it's an acquired taste and not for everyone. To combat this pesky detail, enterprising distillers are dialing back the required juniper (the biggest offender in the pine-like note of gin), as well as other spice and botanicals to make their gin more accommodating. In other words, more like vodka.  

My sister was gifted a nifty looking, boutique gin. It has a cool, old-timey, hipster label, and a neat, apothocary shaped bottle. We happily cracked it open for our daily G&T's at the cottage. 

What a bore. 

All we could taste was our tonic and lime. None of the true gin flavour that intrigues and captivates gin lovers. 

Bette Davis

So here's my plea: if you don't like gin, don't drink it. Find another cocktail. But don't water down a delicious drink in a desperate attempt to appeal to everyone. Like Bette Davis said, "If everyone likes you, you're pretty dull."

To make a really flavourful, fantastic, knee-slapping G+T, in my mind you need a flavourful, citrusy, London Dry Gin.

In big brands, Beefeater is terrific and holds its own in mixes. For those prone to local, boutique stuff, Niagara's Dillon's is fantastic and currently occupying centre stage on my bar. The stylish Broker's London Dry Gin, with its jaunty bowler cap perched on top of the bottle, is another reliable go-to at TWS HQ.

And a note on tonic water. You don't need to shell out the big bucks for the fancy stuff. My go to is the European standard, and very affordable, Schweppes. 

Also, a slightly rogue addition, which pushes my G&T into martini territory, is a healthy splash of white vermouth. I love how it adds a botanical layer of flavour and a little extra interest to my cocktail. This, of course, is optional, but highly recommended. 

Thanks for coming to my TED talk. Now, here's a solid recipe worthy of your cocktail repertoire.

Related: Why You Should Drink Porto Tonico

A proper and delicious gin and tonic only requires three ingredients, so make sure they're really good.

Makes: 1 drink
Bartender level: easy

  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 oz London Dry Gin (Beefeater, Broker’s, or Dillon’s)
  • ½ oz white vermouth (optional, but I'll take it in mine)
  • 3-4 oz tonic water 
  • Lots of ice

How to Make It: 

  1. Into a rocks glass squeeze your lime.
  2. Add gin and optional vermouth.
  3. Fill the glass with ice, give it a stir.
  4. Top with tonic water and gently stir again.

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