The gin and tonic is one of the world’s great cocktails. It’s flavorful, crisp, refreshing, and, best of all, it’s delightfully simple: It contains little more than the ingredients that compose its name, served over ice and garnished with a lime wedge.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the gin and tonic shouldn’t be experimented with. According to Elie Hannouche, the Dubai-based gin connoisseur behind the popular gin-centric Instagram account @gintonicologist, the gin and tonic actually begs for modification and transformation.
“The G&T, to start with, is quite easy: one part gin and two parts tonic for a strong drink or three parts tonic [for a weaker one]—I don’t believe in the 1:4 ratio,” Hannouche tells Men’s Journal. “Having said this, the vast profiles of gins and tonics make it fun to switch things up.”
Gin has five main categories, Hannouche says. There’s classic London Dry gin, Old Tom (which is sweeter), Navy strength (which has a much higher ABV), aged (which is great for the whiskey fans but doesn’t mix too well with tonics), and new age (which includes all the new types of gin with more avante-garde flavors). Sampling the varieties, as well as mixing and matching them, is where things get fun.
“I always say there’s a gin and a tonic for everyone.”
The gin and tonic can be tweaked and transformed any number of ways while still maintaining the complexity and bubbly crispness of the original drink. Hannouche, who has been drinking and experimenting with the cocktail “since the vodka-cranberry died,” has a few of favorite variations on the drink. He decided to share them with us—with the caveat that the author owes him a drink on his next visit to Dubai.
All of these drinks should be served with ice, using the largest, clearest ice cubes available.
The Best Twists on the Classic Gin & Tonic
1. Gin and Soda
Although it sounds simple, the gin and soda is one of Hannouche’s favorite variations—especially if you use a new age gin. These bottles trade in traditional gin’s dominant juniper profile for other flavors that would be diminished by the bitterness of tonic water.
“Take the tropical profiles that we are seeing nowadays,” says Hannouche. “The soda is neutral and the effervescence accentuates the gin profile.”
Instructions: Fill a highball glass with ice. Add gin and soda. Stir and enjoy.
2. Gin, Rose Lemonade, and Pink Pepper
This cocktail, which Hannouche also calls “The Gink,” works best with a floral gin.
“The rose lemonade goes hand-in-hand with the gin, and the pink peppercorn isn’t just for decoration—the pepper will add spice to the drink, leaving a longer taste,” he says. “It’s a very good drink to start the night.”
Instructions: Fill a balloon glass with ice cubes or one large ice cube. Add gin and rose lemonade. Stir, garnish with pink pepper, and enjoy.
3. Gin, White Port, and Tonic
“This is the secret recipe to take a blah, bottom-of-the-shelf gin and still turn your gin and tonic into ‘wow, that’s good,’” Hannouche says.
It uses white port—essentially fortified wine with a citrus, floral, and nutty flavor profile—and it’s similar to the porto tonico, a popular drink in Portugal. Hannouche prefers something a little stronger, so he added gin to come up with this variation.
- 1 oz gin
- 0.5 oz white port
- 2 oz tonic
Instructions: Fill a balloon glass with ice cubes or one large ice cube. Add gin, white port, and tonic. Stir and top with a garnish that compliments the flavor of the gin you’re using, such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, juniper berries, or raspberries.
4. The French 75
The French 75 is a classic gin cocktail in its own right—and also one that rewards experimentation.
“To make it a little sweeter, try adding a liqueur of elderflower or something similarly sweet and floral,” Hannouche says.
- 1 oz gin
- 2 oz champagne
- 0.5 oz lemon juice
- 0.5 oz elderflower liqueur
- Lemon zest
Instructions: Add ice, gin, elderflower liqueur, and lemon juice to a shaker. Shake well and serve in a champagne flute. Top with champagne, add lemon zest, and enjoy.
5. The Gin Paloma
“The original recipe calls for tequila,” Hannouche says. “You want a gin that has grapefruit as a dominant botanical [such as Tanqueray No. 10 or Sacred’s Pink Grapefruit Gin]. You can also use a sweet liqueur instead of simple syrup.”
- 1.5 oz gin
- 1 oz grapefruit juice
- 0.5 oz simple syrup
- 2 oz soda
- Pink salt to taste
- Grapefruit wedge
Instructions: Start with a highball glass rimmed with salt. Fill it with ice cubes or one large ice cube. Add gin, grapefruit juice, and simple syrup. Top with soda and stir. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge and enjoy.
6. Sloe Gin and Lemon Tonic
“Sloe gin is more of a liqueur, not so much a gin, so it’s only 28 to 29 percent ABV typically,” Hannouche says. “And lemon tonic is not as sweet as lemonade. It’s a perfectly citrus tonic to go with the sweetness of the sloe gin, which resembles a fortified wine or red port.”
Instructions: Fill a lowball glass with ice cubes or one large ice cube. Add gin and lemon tonic and stir. Garnish with orange zest and enjoy.
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