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Classic Gin and Tonic
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Difficulty: Easy

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Makes: 1 drink

Gin and the quinine-derived tonic may be at the heart of a Gin and Tonic, but there is much more in its soul. In his book On Drink, Kingsley Amis quips, “It would be rather shabby to take money for explaining that, for instance, a gin and tonic consists of gin and tonic, plus ice and a slice of lemon.” Money matters aside, the lack of preparation details in most cocktail books takes the Gin and Tonic—or other tonic drinks—for granted. But who among us has not had an appalling G&T? A good Gin and Tonic, Gin Tonic, or Gin Tonny must be cold and not overwhelmed by tonic, as is the case in most printed recipes.

Historically, quinine has been taken as an antidote to fevers for hundreds of years. In seventeenth-century India, the British mixed it with gin and lemon juice to reduce the quinine’s bitterness. Schweppes, a company that perfected carbonated mineral water in the 1780s, introduced their tonic water in the 1870s. It soon became popular with British troops as a premixed, curiously refreshing alternative. The fact that Amis and much of the world prefer lemon to lime is another issue entirely.

Sadly, most bars gush gallons of tonic from a multi-beverage hose, and residue of cola or ginger ale can linger. Look for a bar that still serves individual bottles of tonic with each drink.

As distinctive as every brand of gin can be, so, too, is the Gin and Tonic. Many agree that it is a waste of money to use imported gin when a domestic will do just fine, so let budget and taste be your guide. But never skimp on the tonic! Unless you are hosting a party, only use 10-ounce bottles. Few abominations compare with flat tonic. European Schweppes, which has more of a quinine taste to it, makes a superior G&T, but good luck finding it elsewhere in the world. Bubbly effervescence is paramount, and one or two gentle stirs is enough to blend the flavors.


  1. 1Fill a chilled old-fashioned glass halfway with ice cubes, and pour in the gin. Gently rub the lime wedge around the rim of the glass, squeeze in a few drops of juice, and drop the lime into the glass. Top with tonic, and gently stir once or twice.


Vodka and Tonic: Substitute vodka for the gin.

Rum and Tonic: Substitute light rum for the gin.

  • Classic Gin and Tonic

This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.
Copyright Quirk Books

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