Gin and Tonic Cocktail

The Gin & Tonic is of course an extremely simple drink to make, but is that any reason to avoid it? Heck I don’t think so, especially when you are using one of the new premium brands of tonic water coming onto the market, like “Q Tonic”.


2 oz gin

tonic water


Pour gin over ice.

Top with tonic water.

Garnish with lime wedge.


Kimberly Patton-Bragg 24 Mar 2008
9:26 am

Thank you for praising Q tonic! I’m a bartender at Blue Smoke in New York City and we were fortunate enough to be one of the first restaurants here to use Q tonic. The guy that makes it is also one of the nicest guys so it warms my little heart that he’s doing so well with it. Here’s hoping the trend for sodas, tonics, and juices will step in his footsteps and walk away from their corn syrup addiction.

Andre 24 Mar 2008
9:33 am

I’ve been buying Q tonic at Dean and Deluca for a while now, and paying out the nose.  Your sponsorship pointed me to a better/cheaper place to buy the product, so I appreciate the effectiveness of the advertising.  Keep up the good work—been enjoying the show in HD on my Media Center PC.  :)

Robert Hess 24 Mar 2008
5:17 pm

Kimberly, I’ve eaten at Blue Smoke several times, you guys do a great job! Should have known you’d be using something better than run-of-the-mill tonic :->

Andre, Dang, going to have to get me a Media Center PC one of these days so I can see what I look like in HD! Glad we got you a better source for your tonic!


Max Heusler 24 Mar 2008
10:19 pm

I love Blue Smoke!

On a side note, Q tonic is really good, Stirrings and I think it’s called Fever Tree or something to that effect also make really good products that don’t rely on corn syrup and ginger ale and bitter lemon soda as well (it’s what they use at Pegu Club). It’s so true about how underrated a good gin and tonic is though, right now my favorite gin to use with tonic is bulldog, have you tried that one out Robert?

Jas 25 Mar 2008
1:35 am

Thanks again Robert. I’ve managed to get through all the episodes now and all, its got to be said, are excellent. Generally insightful and instructional, although it would’ve been nice to hear a little more about the history of the G&T in this installment. We stock over 36 different gins in our bar in Edinburgh so its imperative we have the option of mixing our premium products with premium mixers. A sector of the market which has been greatly neglected until now I’m sure you’ll agree. We use Fevertree and Fentimen’s tonic and are continually looking for others to add to our offering. Thanks for the heads up.

Berkana 25 Mar 2008
1:44 am

Hello Robert,

Would you do an episode on how to properly prepare a Sazerac? I’d like to see your interpretation on this drink.

Robert Hess 25 Mar 2008
7:12 am

Max… I’ve heard of Bulldog gin, but haven’t seen it yet here in Washington State, I’ll keep my eye’s open for it.

Jas, G&T History… it would have been around 1870 in India, where tonic water was being used as a Malaria medicine. Tonic water then was even more bitter then it is today, because it was specifically intended as a medicine as opposed to a “refreshing” drink. Folks found that adding gin to it helped the taste, or at least helped them forget how bitter it was.

...can’t wait until my next trip out to Edinburgh to check out your gin selection!

Berkana… A Sazerac episode is definately on the calendar :->

Jonathan Stout 25 Mar 2008
6:24 pm

What a great web series. Very Informative.

I’d love to know what kind of gin to tonic ratio you end up with, because the size of the glass and the size of the ice really make a difference. Eyeballing, it looks like 50/50, although perhaps quite a bit less tonic. I tend to go more tonic heavy, and generally measure out both the tonic and gin.


Berkana 25 Mar 2008
6:51 pm

I also noticed that you topped off the drink with tonic water, which I found curious; I thought you measured everything for optimum cocktail goodness, and to control for variables that could lead to inconsistency (such as the size of limes, etc).

Robert Hess 26 Mar 2008
7:28 am

For me, I have a certain aversion to measuring carbonated beverages. It might just be me, I feel that on each pour the carbonation get’s reduced, and so a pour to measure, than a pour to the glass results in a lesser drink. So my preference is to just “top off”. And since I like my G&T’s a little on the gin-heavy side, I usually use about a 3 to 2 ratio of gin to tonic, which is “close” to what you are seeing here.

I’d be interested in hearing what others feel about how best to use/measure carbonated beverages (which includes sparkling wine) in their drinks.


Berkana 26 Mar 2008
3:51 pm

The agitation that comes with pouring does release the carbonation, but carbonation is a matter of concentration, and since you’re diluting the carbonated beverage with gin and melting ice, the loss of the concentration of carbonation in the final drink via pouring is very little compared to the loss via dilution.

The solution is to use a more potently carbonated beverage, however, just about any quality tonic water will be potently carbonated if you serve it cold. (Heat reduces the solubility of carbon dioxide in water, and hence, warm soda goes flat.) For optimum carbonation retention, use the carbonated drink as cold as possible. Most refrigerators only chill to about 40˚F; carbonation is best maintained at ice cold temperatures, such as in a bucket of ice water. The drink must be kept at that temperature long enough for the carbon dioxide to absorb into the water completely; I don’t know how long that is, but I’m guessing that’s until the drink is thoroughly chilled through.

Now, don’t chill it so much that the drink starts freezing, since the freezing process also drives out carbonation as the ice crystals form, but just before freezing, at 32˚ water will retain the most carbonation.

As for pouring a carbonated drink, gently pouring down the side of a glass (such as when serving beer without creating too much head) or easing the pour into a drink with a spoon will reduce the turbulence that causes the release of the bubbles.

I believe that if you keep your tonic water chilled in ice water, and pour it gently, the loss of carbonation will be negligible, permitting measuring, if measuring a precise amount would result in a more balanced drink.

Mike S. 27 Mar 2008
3:29 pm

Another great episode!  I could not agree more about the difference quality tonic makes in a G&T or any other tonic-based drink (dry rum and tonic is another of my favorites).  If you’ve only had G&Ts; and the like with mixer-gun tonic or the common grocery store brands (you know the ones), you can’t imagine what you’re missing.  I’ll definitely try to find some Q Tonic and give it a try, but for now I’m absolutely hooked on Fever-Tree Indian Tonic—along with the other Fever-Tree products currently available in America (Ginger Ale, Club Soda and Bitter Lemon) they’re the only mixers I use.  Outstanding in every respect.

As for proportions, you definitely like these more gin-heavy than I do.  I think there should be slightly more tonic than gin, but without drowning the drink and making it a “tonic and gin”.  I use a large rocks glass (double old-fashioned) filled with ice.  2 ounces of gin and exactly one-half of a bottle of Fever-Tree tonic, which is about 3.3 ounces.  That’s a perfect ratio to my taste.  Squeeze in a fresh lime wedge and it’s altogether my favorite drink.



Peter V 27 Mar 2008
5:03 pm

In Hemingway’s “Islands in the Stream” Thomas Hudson has G & T’s with a dash of Angostura bitters; in another chapter of the book, he drinks G & C’s——gin with coconut water.

Hemingway lovingly describes the bitters as “varnishy” and the coconut water as better than any “charged water.”

Has anyone tried any of these two variations?

(And to properly drink them, Hemingway style, the glass must be wrapped in a paper towel which is secured by rubber bands.)

Mike McSorley, Tini Bigs Cocktail Lounge 1 Apr 2008
3:06 pm

Another great episode Robert!

Given the current cocktailian renaissance, the increased availability of boutique mixers is truly a great thing for the home bartender. The better quality of the ingredients in these premium tonics makes them stand a cut above the corn syrup-laden beasts that have been passing for tonic for decades.

However, the mad scientist in me is always wanting more control over the various layers of flavor and the intensity of each of those layers (something that using a pre-mix simply does not permit).

To those of you who feel the same way, I highly reccommend experimenting with the base ingredients of the Gin and Tonic;  to make one that is truly akin to the wonderfully balanced (and a bit more rustic) version that was being used medicinally and recreationally by the soldiers and sailors of the British crown over a century ago.

Quinine powder (available online from various retailers), lime juice, simple syrup, a classic london dry gin, and some nice sparkling water are all you need.

You all will be truly amazed at how perfectly balanced this cocktail originally was (especially when you make it yourself!)

Of course, all of you who live in Seattle can come down to Tini Bigs and have me make you one… ;-)

Keep on drinkin’ (and tasting while you do!).

Jas 1 Apr 2008
3:55 pm

Agree on all fronts Mike. De-constructing drinks is a great way to learn about all elements and flavour profiles, etc. We plan on doing DIY G&T’s at my bar but I’m only able to source brown quinine powder. We break this down to make quinine water but unfortunately it still remains a dirty, unappetising colour . Any suggestions where I can get an alternative? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Mike McSorley, Tini Bigs Cocktail Lounge 2 Apr 2008
2:20 pm

The approach I have been taking involves mixing all of your non-carbonated ingredients into a mixing glass and giving these a good shake without ice.
The gentleman who taught me this method said that the glycerin in the gin helps to break down the powdered bark and acts as a solvent for all of the quinine alkaloids. Whether or not this is scientifically-accurate is up to question, but it is a good story nonetheless ;-)

...Then add ice, give a good stir or shake until very cold. At this point, one could let the mixture sit for just a second to let all of the remaining particulate matter fall to the bottom of the mixing glass.  A careful pour into your ice filled old-fashioned glass can exclude much of this “stuff” from finding its way into your serving glass. Top with a nice sparkling water, garnish however you would like (a lime wedge is not necessary if you have included a balanced portion of lime juice in the original mixture; I like to use a lime wheel).

As for the color, I haven’t been able to completely eliminate the brown hue, but with the added lime juice the finished product comes out a nice greenish-buff. Describe the cocktail as “rustic” and you’re in business.

Perhaps one could take their gin of choice and infuse the quinine for a period of time, coffee straining the result to achieve a better clarity???


Thomas 4 Apr 2008
7:57 pm

No bitters in this G&T (Hemingway aside), is it truly a cocktail?  One answer might be that the quinine in the tonic water fills the bitters function. 

Your cautionary remarks in favor of measuring (and moderation) are well-taken, Robert.  And cracked me up!  “Paying more attention to walking across the room.” Indeed! 

Thanks for another great installment.  I’ll be on the lookout for Q when I go to Louisville this weekend.

Roy Wagner 5 Apr 2008
2:19 pm

I also was rather amazed when you just poured the tonic water into the glass.  I am glad someone else asked, and you explained the reason you just pour in carbonated beverages and the ratio you use.  That does make good sense to me.

I think the great variable in so many drink recipes is the size of the glass and the to some extent, the size of the ice when the recipe just says to add a carbonated .  It would help to mention or specific the size in ounces of the glass being used, e.g., an 8 ounce high ball glass.

Robert Hess 5 Apr 2008
8:27 pm

Technically, a G&T isn’t a “cocktail”, but instead is a Highball, or Mixed Drink. But you do raise a good point, in that originally, and for at least the first hundred years, in order for something to be recognized as a cocktail, it was expected to include bitters. Today however this is no longer the case. Frankly, I’d love it if the awareness of “Mixed Drinks” and its various individual categories were such that it allowed people to properly know and understand the differences between a highball, cocktail, sour, etc. I’m sure that bitters manufacturers would also love for folks to be asking for cocktails which accurately used bitters in their construction.


Dominik MJ - the opinionated alchemist 6 Apr 2008
6:31 pm

Hm - I think here we have a good example, for the difference of making drinks at home and serving those [in a bar].

Boutique tonic waters are great… but I will serve the G&T like a highball in a highball glass - further I would serve the tonic separate for the guest - that he can choose his own proportion.
Some like it more like Robert; the others prefer a more refreshing drink…

Making self made tonic? Messy and for me not practical (and consistent) enough…

Funny is the coincident: I just wrote a post on my blog about tonic, without knowing about this latest entry…

Robert Hess 7 Apr 2008
6:28 am

I agree, serving the remaining tonic-bottle alongside the drink is the way to go. This way you make sure the customer gets the drink exactly as they like it.

Martin 16 Apr 2008
3:03 pm

Hey Robert,
i need to know where to get these sip straws, they look way better than the ones I used to use.
Thing is, I live in Germany, so an U.S supplier wouldn

Robert Hess 16 Apr 2008
4:45 pm

I very much prefer this style of small sip straws, and I also prefer the solid color ones over the red/white striped ones purely from a presentation standpoint.

You can often find red ones, but for some reasons the black ones (my preference) are a little more difficult to find (at least in the stores I check with). I get mine from a Restaurant Supply store here in Seattle, but don’t have any supplier information which might help you in Germany (I’m currently on the road).

Maybe someone else does?

I do see that Kegworks does appear to have a similar (but red) straw, but their details don’t indicate how wide the straws are, and from the picture presented I can’t quite tell.


Alex 4 May 2008
10:23 pm

Hey Robert,

I live in Seattle.  Which restaurant supply store do you get those straws from?


Robert Hess 5 May 2008
6:36 am

I get my straws from Bargreen Restaurant Supply in South Seattle.


Ian 11 May 2008
5:20 pm

As an ex-pat Brit living in America, nice to see so much discussion of a wonderful drink.

I’m glad to see Fever Tree and other products allowing an escape from the bane of high fructose corn syrup in so many carbonated beverages. My local Bevmo stopped re-stocking Fever Tree because “it didn’t sell”, but fortunately they can still special order it for me. If you don’t find it in-store, try asking them to order it.

I once tried making a G&T with US made Canada Dry tonic, and it might have put me off the drink for life. Avoid.

When I’m making the drink for myself I squeeze the lime wedge over the ice and drop it in before adding the gin. The lime juice adds an important note to the drink. I use a robust gin like Beefeater and a whole bottle of Fever Tree. l like a tall refreshing drink and don’t want to waste that hard-to-find premium tonic water!

Someone above mentioned bitter lemon. Bitter lemon soda is rarely found in the US, but a gin and bitter lemon is a drink also worth trying.

Andrew Janke 12 Jul 2008
7:52 pm

This is great! Best gin & tonic advice I found while searching the web tonight. And lo and behold, it’s from the same guy who does DrinkBoy, where I found the excellent Southern Beauty idea and other good stuff. Thanks to Robert for his contributions to the quality of my leisure time.

Adam 14 Jul 2008
3:30 am

I can confirm that Angostura bitters in a Gin and tonic tastes great. I guess I like mine more tonic heavy because I usually add 1.5 oz of gin in a rocks glass filled with ice then add a couple dashes of Angostura bitters. Then top it off with tonic, and lastly add a bit of lime juice.

Charles Purvis 21 Sep 2011
10:37 am

Terrific episode, Robert.  You asked about gin to tonic ratios, and mine is actually much different from yours.  My tendency is to fill the glass up about 2/3 or the way with Tonic, and then “top off” with Plymouth Gin. 

I’ll have to try your approach this weekend.  Also, my personal gin preference is definitely Plymouth, as you use here, but my fiance’s preferred gin is Hendrick’s.  As is so often the case with spirits, there’s no wrong choice here . . . it’s all good!

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