Gin and tonic’s “ori-gin” story dates to the 19th-century when British soldiers were each given a daily ration of quinine powder to combat malaria during India’s colonization, and at some point, they thought to stir in some gin. (via Escape)
Jump to the early 2010s where the bubbly ‘gin tonica’’took off in Spain, starring in sobremesa, “the Spanish tradition of relaxing at the table for quality time after a beautiful meal,” describes Diego Nuñez, assistant general manager at Casa Dani. “[It] can last two or three hours, and is often accompanied by live music and a good Gin and Tonic.”
The copa de balon glass—pronounced koh-pa and roughly translated to “balloon cup” from Spanish to English—best fits the Gin and Tonic. Its distinctive shape, with a long, slim stem and wide bowl, helps to collect the natural gin aromas, maintain the tonic’s fizziness, and enhance the overall flavor of the drink. With more space, several garnishes can be added rather than the typical lime wheel.
“More and more [imbibers] are understanding and trying new variations from other countries. You can find a lot of gin flavors and spices from all over the world that can fit different kinds of profiles based on tastes—from the more classic to the most modern and experimental,” Nuñez mentions.
The following four city spots explore craft gins, herbal tonics, and liqueurs (through balancing techniques) in their latest G&T offerings—all always served copa style.
Casa Dani is the culinary home to renowned chef Dani García serving avant-garde fare (inspired by Spain’s Mediterranean south) and multi-step cocktails. Like García’s culinary style, the bar team mixes surprising flavors, textures, and temperatures without losing sight of traditions. “[We] use plenty of ice rocks to help dilution and temperature control, the more ice the better [G&T],” suggests Nuñez.
Drink temperatures can drop quickly over time or from constant touch of a warm hand, so a “bigger glass helps to swizzle the [chill] mixture and keep the tonic ‘bubble’ lasting longer,” he adds.
Casa Dani celebrates sobremesa during dessert with a list of signature G&Ts. The Mediterraneo matches Gin Mare, homemade rosemary-olive essence (combining high-proof vodka, briny olive juice, and rosemary sprigs), and Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic; topped with a rosemary speared manzanilla olive, and recommended with the slow roasted pineapple dessert dressed in passionfruit and “refreshing candy” as it highlights Mediterranean scents of basil and thyme within the gin.
P.S. “We always serve the tonic in front of a customer and like to give them that option by first pouring ¾ of the bottle (for us, it’s more than enough),” Nuñez finishes. Top-offs are up to them.
Valerie emphasizes elevated American eats and gin cocktails in an art-deco-y space with brass and tile touches. Known for its lengthy ‘Gin Library,’ several gin and tonic varieties (from spicy to herbal, and more) are presented on the menu.
“Our signature G&Ts are curated cocktails that are meant to jump off the page and onto your taste buds while you’re reading them,” explains bar director Marshall Minay.
Titled after a flavor profile, each copa cocktail is built using a specific gin, modifier, and tonic “to perfectly complement one another and help build a rounded, complete cocktail experience.” Looking at Minay’s Spicy G&T, we ask where the spice is coming from…
Outside of the jalapeño garnish, the real “heat” radiates from the added Ancho Verde with powerful vegetal notes. “The back bone of the cocktail is gin. We use St. George’s Terroir that is macerated with Douglas Fir pine needles for five days before distillation and is an absolute palate bomb, in the best way,” he chuckles. “Using the heavy herbaceous quality of the Terroir gin, we are able to manipulate it to amplify the spice while the refreshing quality you gain off of the cucumber bitters and light tonic [alike].”
“An ingredient I have not yet brought to the Valerie program, but I see gaining more traction in cocktails that really intrigues me is pandan,” he brainstorms. “I definitely want to dive deeper into pandan, which offers tropical notes with heavy herbaceous quality from southeast Asia, and I know it would be a great modifier to a gin and tonic.”
“[It] is not meant to compete with your standard spicy Margarita variation, but it is meant to entice those imbibers, as well as a classic G&T drinker, and make them think ‘can these flavors really work?” Minay remarks.
- 1½ oz. St. George Terroir Gin
- ½ oz. Ancho Verde
- 2 dash Bitter Truth Cucumber Bitters
- Fever-Tree (Refreshingly Light) Tonic
- 3 Cucumber Wheels
- 2 Jalapeño Wheels
Preparation: Add gin, Ancho Verde, and bitters to a goblet filled with ice. Serve and pour 6 oz. of tonic to the top. Garnish with 3 cucumber wheels and 2 jalapeño wheels.
Sereneco is an all-day restaurant nestled in a light-filled corner space integrating locally sourced ingredients into dishes and drinks alike.
“The ‘New York Made’ section of our cocktail menu is a nod to our focus on seasonal, local ingredients – featuring two botanically-inspired gin and tonics,” explains owner and beverage director Billy Van Dolsen. Spotlight on the Greenhook G&T, combining Greenhook Ginsmiths gin and Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic; lime wheel, grapefruit peel, and pink peppercorns on top.
“[Greenhook] adds a natural botanical quality to the cocktail with a unique balance of floral, herbal, and citrus aromatics like elderflower, cinnamon, chamomile… It’s very much a new-age style gin with unique and bold aromatics,” he shares. “The gin category is broad and allows for a lot of creativity between different producers (unlike bourbon or Scotch which have restrictive guidelines for distilling).”
“[It] is light, refreshing, and bubbly. The additions of aromatics – bright grapefruit and fruity pink peppercorns – highlight the unique botanical notes already present in the gin,” Van Dolsen points out.
- 2 oz. Greenhook Ginsmiths American Dry Gin
- ½ oz. Fresh Lime
- 5 oz. Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic
- Grapefruit Peel Twist
- 1 tsp. Pink Peppercorns
Preparation: Combine gin, tonic, and lime in a glass with ice and stir to mix. Garnish with grapefruit peel and pink peppercorns.
Le Crocodile is a sprawling spot at the Wythe Hotel delivering fine French fare, wine and cocktails, including ‘Les Tonics’ aka G&Ts.
“The idea was to have some lower ABV options. Gin and tonic menus, in general, are making a comeback, [but] we thought it would be fun to introduce something new – not just a traditional gin and tonic,” states beverage director Jarett Karlsberg.
And so, Karlsberg went for a Lillet and tonic – giving guests the option of Lillet Blanc or Lillet Rosé, the pink-hued apéritif perfuming berry, orange blossom, and grapefruit aromas.
Another playful pink offering is the Dorothy Parker Rose Petal-Infused G&T celebrating the elderberry botanical. Made by New York Distilling Company, the steeped rose petal gin provides natural coloring and characteristics. “It has a beautiful, pearlescent glow when you use it in a gin and tonic,” Karlsberg confirms. “We use 2 oz. of gin to 200 mL of [elderflower] tonic water. If [guests] want it to be sweeter, drop down to 1½ oz. of gin. Stronger… use about 5 oz. of tonic water.”
Karlsberg closes on the exploding craft gin category. “Gin can represent a region in a really cool way expressing the botanical profile of where it’s made, if the producer chooses to go in that direction. [Because] there are so few rules… [they] can really choose whatever profile, as long as it contains juniper.”