Anyone who has spoken to me about tonic water, the natural partner of gin, in the last year or so will have heard me sing the praises of Thomas Henry, a German soft drinks brand. Thomas Henry was an apothecary from Manchester, England. He is attributed with the first production of carbonated water (the first fizzy drink/soda) in 177.
Not only do Thomas Henry make great traditional mixers (Tonic, Soda, Bitter Lemon, Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer), but they are also tonic innovators, starting with their Elderflower Tonic and continuing with two new products: Tonic Bitters and Companion Cookies.
These were developed along with The Bitter Truth, who are well-known for their range of historical bitters, liqueurs and waters.
The Pink Gin & Tonic (a Gin & Tonic with a few dashes of bitters) is a popular variation on the classic drink that I was quite a fan of for a long time (it was my go-to drink after a long day in retail).
“What are Companion Cookies?”, I hear you cry. Well, they are little biscuits that have been designed to accompany a Gin & Tonic. They contain neither gin, nor tonic, but are meant to complement the drink.
A small batch were originally made by a bakery-confectioner near Thomas Henry’s HQ and such was their success that multiple batches have since been made.
I tried them out at a recent Juniper Society and they went down well; I also tried them back in the SummerFruitCup tasting room.
I decided to try both the Bitters and Cookies with a few different gins:
1. Classic London Dry (Hayman’s)
Rather tasty – the bitters add some hints of spice, such as nutmeg and cloves. Also, an extra gentian-like bitterness. This adds something to an already classic Gin & Tonic, complementing the strong juniper notes.
The biggest contrast out of all of the gins that I tried, but it still works well. The very dry flavours are the exact opposite of those of the cookies, but they nonetheless pair well with the dry, piney juniper of the Gin & Tonic.
2. Classic Style from the USA (BIG Gin)
A lovely, mellow drink with an extra spicy flavour. A really, really tasty drink; rather luscious. The Bitters add a slight sweetness to the drink, but not too much.
The gin has a fair dose of juniper and then some cardamom; this spice works well with the cookies in a take-a-sip, have-a-bite and repeat function.
particularly if you try taking a sip of the gin, then having a bite of cookie, and repeating.
3. Contemporary American Dry (Bluecoat)
Even with only three dashes, the Bitters really changes the character of this drink, making it much more bitter, as well as more clean and crisp. The citrus of the gin is still very present. I think that this drink, more than any of the others, illustrates the difference that Bitters can make.
This is a different sort of gin, being very heavy on the citrus, and the synergy with the Companion Cookies just isn’t there to the same extent as it is with the others; the cookies almost seem too sweet for it.
4. Contemporary New Western Gin (Aviation)
The smokiness comes through much more with the Bitters, as do the lavender and cardamom, and the sarsaparilla (nutmeg and cloves) on the nose come through a lot less. The Bitters certainly seem to modify and enhance, rather than add, flavour in this drink.
The rather intense flavour of the gin is balanced nicely by the simple, but tasty flavour of the biscuits; they manage to contrast, but complement at the same time. The sweetness works well, just as olives do, with Aviation; you could even try a mixture of the two.
5. Austrian (Lebensstern Dry)
The Bitters create a more herbal and jammy Gin & Tonic, along with a balancing bitterness towards the end. The sweet spice in the Bitters works subtly with the gin’s jamminess, making for a well-rounded drink.
This gin is quite rich and so the buttery cookie, with a hint of chocolate, balances out the rich, jammy notes of this drink. After tasting the cookie, the Gin & Tonic refreshes the palate, readying you for another bite! There’s a very pleasant symbiance between the two with this gin.
A rather interesting bonus product “glorious milk” which has created some intrigue online, it turns out that is is a sort of energy drink with 32mg of caffeine per 100ml and it is made in Austria. As I don’t speak German I am unsure if it has any dairy in it but (perhaps it is just suggestion) I do get a little creaminess towards the end. Overall the drink tastes like a cross between RedBull and Crema Soda.
Thomas Henry tonic water Bitters are available for around £15 for 200ml from TheDrinkShop.com