Cocktail of the week: Gintonica

Put on your yalmulka, here comes gin-tonica,
Its so much fun-akkah to celebrate gin-tonica!

With all due respect to Adam Sandler and his holiday chuckles, a well crafted Gin & Tonic is one of my favorite cocktails.  The wide Gin tonic isolated on white background. Stock Photo - 7066244variety of gins available these days is far reaching, and goes beyond hte bathtub varieties of Prohibition, and past the mass market varieties that resemble little more than nail polish with a fancy label.

Blade Gin

Before I delve in my three favorite Gin & Tonic recipes for your Friday enjoyment, let’s look a little bit at the history at gin.  I first became fascinated with gin when I first went to Spain, where the Gintonic has long been held as a sacred ritual and art form.  As it turns out, filed under the heading strange but true facts about booze, Spain boasts the third highest per capita consumption of gin around the world, after (oddly enough) the Phillipines and the United States.  Britain, which is what pops in to most minds when you say gin, falls fourth in line.  Considering that Spain produces world class wine, this is a pretty crazy statistic – but this Luscious Lushes is happy to have stumbled in to the country where a gin & tonic is a creative outlet for even the most back country bartender takes pride in.

Gin was originally derived from juniper berries in the Middle Ages, and was used as an herbal medicine.  Today, gins are any clear spirit that is made from botanicals, and can be floral, herbal, woodsy, or juiper-y.  The key difference here, is that while vodka is a flavorless spirit, gin has a ton of flavor, and distillers pride themselves on a unique and secret combination of herbs, flowers, and spices, to give their own special twist to their version.

legance in a glass.  There are two distinct types of spirit that can be called gin:Today, with the craft cocktail craze sweeping the US and the world, gin is no longer a medicinal beverage or a poor man’s drink – it is e

  1. Gin – This is a juniper flavored spirit made by adding natural flavors to a neutral spirit.  The predominant flavor must be juniper.
  2. London Gin – must be at least 70% ABV and cannot have any added sugar beyond .1 grams per liter.  Because there is not
    added sugar, London Gin is usually called London Dry Gin.

My favorite gins are all quite different, and I continue to explore and disvoer new versions that are as widely varied in falvvor as a Bordeaux is from a California Pinot Noir:

  • St. George Spirits Terroir Gin – St. George Spirits, the makers of Hangar One Vodka, is across the bay from me and prouces three gins.  Terroir is my favorite, with earthy, forest flavors, minty goodness and cedar notes.
  • Old World Spirits Blade Gin – fruity and spicy, with ginger and hot pepper notes this is a citrus driven gin with earthy bones that really sing.
  • Hendricks Dry London GIn – clean, crisp, dry.  The perfect classic London gin.

Now on to the cocktails!  The key to a good cocktail is having the right flavors, blended together perfectly.  In this case, for my three favorite Gin & Tonics, I like to use bitters to enhance the flavor of the gin, along with different tonics which highlight key notes in the gin.  Tonic makes all the difference!  There are so many craft tonics out there these days, step away from the mass market brands and branch out to Fentimans, Q, or Fever Tree.  If you’re very adventerous, try making your own tonic!

First up:

Terroir Terror

  • St George Terroir Gin
  • Fentiman’s Tonic Water
  • 1 dash lime bitters
  • dash lavender bitters
  • dash cardomon bitters
  • slice of lime

The aromatics of the lavender bitters plays particularly well off of the Terroir; the herbal notes of the bitters and the forest floor qualities of the gin are a stunning combination.  The cardamon adds a hint of exotic spice that you wouldn’t otherwise expect, dancing off of your tongue, while the lime enhances the natural compliment of a fresh slice on top.  The tonic of choice for this is Fentimans, as Schwepps is to flat in flavor, and the Fever Tree, while a tasty tonic, doesn’t pack the punch that makes this Gin & Tonic speical.  I prefer the Fentimans for the lemongrass notes and citrus burst.

Blade Trinity

  • Blade Gin
  • Fentimans Tonic Water
  • Slice of lime

A simple classic, the lightness of the Fever Tree enhances the Blade gin.  Pure and simple.

Sliced Blade

  • Blade Gin
  • tonic syrup, mixed with sparkling water to make tonic water
  • dash grapefruit bitters
  • C&B Old Fashioned Quinine syrup, mixed per directions
  • Antica Fomula vermouth, a premier sipping quality vermouth

The tonic syrup is a unique flavor, and naturally brown, as quinine turns when it ages.  The adition of the grapefruit bitters pop the flavors up in this mixture, and the touch of vermouth brings a roundness and a caramelized sweet note that is pleasing on the palate.  Make sure you don’t use white vermouth or an inferior quality!

I hope these drinks inspire you, and I encourage you to go out and make up your own drinks!

Happy Friday!


Did you know that Spain drink more gin per capital than even Britain?  No, it’s true!  Everywhere you look, there were gintonics.  Every restaurant and every bar, has a special touch, and there are gintonic bars popping up that specifically focus on these beverages.  In one bar, which we found ourselves taking over, had 2 pages of gintonics listed.

Spain, it appears is a gin nation.  Wine, although much loved and much consumed, is really secondary to the cocktail culture of the big cities.  Here, you will see craft gin of all sorts, sizes, and flavors.

One important factor in Spain is the use of craft tonics as mixers for this elixers.  Gin, distilled from the Juniper berry, has always been one of those beverages that I shied away from because it seemed like an old man’s drink.  It smelled odd, and it was oh so very British.  Tonic water, which has quinine dissolved in it, began an an anti malarial tincture.  Now, with the invention of synthetic quinine, and the lower amounts in the mixer, tonic is used for a distinctive bitter taste in mixed beverages.

Our second night in Villafranca (just outside of Barcelona, where our press trip started)  as we gathered in the bar, I saw pages of gintonics staring back at me from the menu.  The night before, having tasted someone else’s drink and stared wistfully a the tiers of gin on the wall in the small but elegant hotel bar, I knew I needed to explore this.  Next to them, there were several tonics.  These were not your generic Schweppes tonic mind you but they were special edition infusions:  pink peppercorn, orange blossom & lavender, ginger & cardamon.  What were these delicious fizzies behind the bar?

I promptly let myself get talked in to my first gin & tonic.  These botanical tonics intrigued me, and the art of making the beverage is as beautiful as the beverage itself.  Depending on the gin you order, you will get a different additon to your drink.  Most often, gintonic (in Spain, forget the “and”), you get will get lime wedges or slices.  However, if you order a Bombay Sapphire I found, you would get cucumbers.  These might be curled, or sliced, and each bartender had a specific art.

The botanical tonics added a complexity to the drink, which allowed the bartenders to be more creative.  One night, as I was now hooked on the gintonic idea, I had a Hendricks with pink peppercorn tonic.  With that, I had cucumber and dried juniper berries in my bowl of cold refreshment.

One other such craft tonic is Fever Tree, which fortunately is available here in the states.  Fever Tree is a delicious tonic, that sets Schweppes (the regular kind) on it’s head with it unique slightly citrus flavor or which counteracts the bitterness of the quinine.

After tasting a different gin every night, and in fact, more than one gin on some nights, I determined that my favorite is Hendricks.  I also enjoyed Bombay Sapphire, though not Bombay or Beefeater.  Here in San Francisco, our local brewery (which also houses a small distillery) makes two gins.  I suspect those will make an appearance in my bar shortly.   Much like scotch, there are hundreds of gins of all flavors.  Some are more intense, some are more mellow, but all are from the same mold.


I plan to continue experimenting!  A friend of mine makes tonic, and maybe I can talk her in to teaching me the secret to her art, and make some infusions of our own.  What flavors would you like to see in an infused tonic?

Happy drinking!