The gin and tonic is a beautiful thing. Refreshing, anti-malarial, and fixable by even the least confident home bartenders. However, malaria rates are at an all-time low in the UK and over-reliance on old favourites is a sure-fire route to monotony and disenchantment. There’s a whole wide world of ways to knock back gin so why not give the tonic water a rest and try something different when 5pm rolls around?
American lobbyist ‘Colonel’ Joseph Rickey liked his rye whiskey and soda with a squeeze of lime for extra zip. He was an influential man in Washington DC and in the 1880s his signature drink became something of a phenomenon in the city’s bars. At the time, it wasn’t unusual to see variations made with brandy and Bourbon. However, it was the Gin Rickey that earned the colonel a mention in the cocktail history books. Ironically, he wasn’t a fan himself as he believed gin unmanly and conducive to loose morals. The world, it seems, did not share his concerns and by the time the 20th century rolled around you could order a Gin Ricky from New York to Los Angeles.
The simple combination of gin, lime, and soda without added sugar might sound a little austere but it really works. It’s also significantly lower in calories than your G&T and basically as easy to make. Your best bet gin wise is something traditional and dry. Tarquin’s from Cornwall (£35; Direct) works perfectly here, bringing some nice florals, spicy cardamom, and balancing earthiness.
50ml Tarquin’s Cornish Gin
Half a lime
One of the advantages of the Rickey is it’s simple enough to whip up in those situations when you need a strong, cold drink absolutely immediately. Just squeeze half a lime into a highball glass and drop the shell in. Then fill the glass with ice, add your gin, and top with soda. Nice, ripe limes are essential – as is a fresh can/bottle of soda water.
The British, being a nation of pint drinkers, tend to overdo it on the mixers – but the Gin Rickey has to be short, sharp, and refreshing. Don’t go to the fussy lengths of measuring your soda water or anything, just eyeball it and make sure you’ve got about a 2:1 ratio of soda to spirit.
Gin & It
A member of the extended family of European café drinks that also contains the Spritz and the Americano. You can think of this combination of gin and sweet vermouth as a lazy Martini, better suited to slow sipping, or an easy-going Negroni, without the boisterous Campari. This is the kind of drink that suits a pre-dinner snack and makes good backup for cheese, posh crisps, and olives.
50ml No.3 London Dry Gin
35ml Sweet Vermouth
1 Dash Aromatic Bitters
Pour everything into a tumbler with ice, stir to chill and dilute slightly, top up with more ice to keep things cool, and garnished with a wedge of orange. In the recent past vermouth options in these parts were limited, but the golden age of cocktails in the UK has brought with it many more options to experiment with. Newcomer Hotel Starlino Rosso (£19.84; Master of Malt) works well here, being warm and citrussy with rhubarb and a little vanilla from light American Oak influence. Scarpa Bianco (£29.95; MoM) will make a Gin & It that’s nicely golden in colour. It’s more old-school than the Starlino, nicely bitter and herbal with a base of muscat grapes supplying honey and orange blossom. Once you’ve opened your vermouth remember to keep it in the fridge. It’ll last a good month or so in there but remember it’s wine based so it won’t last at room temperature.
Porto tonico with gin
The Porto Tonico cocktail is traditionally made with white port, tonic, mint and ice. Award-winning Gin maker Arthur Miller from the Isles of Scilly has discovered the addition of his Island Gin puts a great twist on this classic. Add Island Gin to Graham’s White Port, then tonic, ice and sprigs of mint to deliver a zesty, refreshing cocktail.
50ml Island Gin
35ml White Port
Ice and sprigs of mint
One of the oldest gin cocktails still made today, the Collins affords a little more wiggle room than the Rickey. What you’re dealing with here is basically a stiff lemonade, made with gin, lemon, sugar, and soda: Simple enough and quick to put together in a pinch. The orange bitters aren’t strictly traditional but they do bring things together nicely. German firm The Bitter Truth (£14.75; The Whisky Exchange) makes a great example that’ll add a little something extra to your sours and Martinis.
50ml Porter’s Tropical Old Tom Gin
25ml Lemon Juice
10ml Simple syrup
1 Dash Orange bitters
You can shake your ingredients, minus the soda, but this is supposed to fill a G&T shaped hole, so it’s best to keep things simple. Throw the first four ingreidents into a highball glass and fill it to the brim with ice cubes. Top with soda, stir gently to combine everything without killing your fizz, and garnish with a lemon wedge. Some sources attribute the Tom Collins’ first name to the inclusion of old tom gin, a slightly sweeter style that makes a rounder version of the drink. Porter’s Tropical Old Tom (£34.25; Direct) is a nicely modern version made with guava, passion fruit, and white tea. It’s not too sweet and shows really nicely with a bit of fresh citrus to lift it up. You can use London dry of course but you should up the sugar syrup by 5ml-or-so to help marry things together in that case.
The nice thing about this drink is that each element can be subbed and switched to suit your tastes. You might use a more floral gin, drop the simple syrup for a nice elderflower cordial, reduce the citrus content slightly to compensate for the extra tartness, and throw in a complimentary flavour of bitters like cucumber or bergamot. It pays to be creative and you can always drink your mistakes.