The Gin & Tonic of… THE FUTURE!

A fair bit has been written about the history of the Gin & Tonic and I’ve written previously on its variations, but what you see less of in blind speculation is regarding its future! So I’ve peaked at the tea leaves and carefully analysed the shapes formed by the condensation on my cocktail shaker to provide some suggestions.What follows is a list of three tonic innovations behind which I have noticed have a growing following.
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Pioneers: 6 O'Clock Gin and its Companion Tonic Water

Pioneers: 6 O'Clock Gin and its Companion Tonic Water

1) Companion Tonics

This is where a gin producer also creates a tonic water that has been specially designed to harmonise and be the perfect partner to their juniper spirit.I first heard about this from Michael of Bramley & Gage with his 6 O’Clock Gin and I’m pleased to have been one of the first to write about it on this very site. That was a year ago and since then the popularity of the drink and the concept, as well as its availability, has increased. There have been a few enhancements of the packaging and the tonic is now available in a handy four-pack of individual bottle serves.

When combined, 6 O’Clock Gin and 6 O’Clock Tonic create a soft, yet flavourful drink, which is probably one of the most relaxing Gin & Tonics I have ever had. That is not to say that it doesn’t have much flavour, as there is, without a doubt, a distinctive mix of juniper and quinine. It really is very good.

Gin Mare and 1724 Tonic Water

Gin Mare and 1724 Tonic Water

Since then, the idea has taken of a little, with rumours of other boutique gins following suit. The folks behind Gin Mare have brought out 1724 Tonic and, whilst not designed solely for Gin Mare, its mixability with this gin was a consideration.

Broker’s Gin (who seem to be on a bit of an award-winning roll of late) have a companion tonic water available in Spain. This isn’t actually created/produced by Broker’s, but rather by a third party that decided to do to it on their behalf, with the gin company’s blessing. I’ve yet to try it, but am looking forward to doing so.

Eighteen months ago, there were no companion tonics and now there are at least three, with more in development; this is a trend if ever I saw one.

Broker's Gin, Spanish G&T Goblet and the Tonic Water

Broker's Gin, Spanish G&T Goblet and the Tonic Water


2) Tonic Syrup

A bottle of John's Premium Tonic Water Syrup

A bottle of John's Premium Tonic Water Syrup

This comes in two forms: in-house bar creations and commercial products, but the premise is the same in both instances: you take a quinine tonic syrup and then mix it with soda water to create your tonic water. Various bars create their own now, although I first encountered it in Purl.
There was a limited run of a Battersea Quinine cordial made by Hendricks, which was a similar concept.

But, interestingly enough, it has been in America where this idea has really taken off; I have already reviewed John’s Premium Tonic Water and one by Tomr. I am also aware of one made by The Jacy Rudy Cocktail Co. and there are probably others. One of the advantages of creating these as concentrated syrup is that it is easier, cheaper and greener to ship (250ml will make a litre and half of tonic), but also it means that it can be shipped further without the tonic loosing its fizz.
A third advantage is that you can use the syrup in other drinks such a Purl’s GT Turbo.

All of the various tonic syrups I have tried have been brown in colour, creating an orange-brown tonic water when mixed. They also tend to be more bitter and more herbally intense than other tonic waters, but, as someone with a palette accustomed to the flavour of quinine, I quite like this. Here is my favourite Tonic syrup cocktail.

With a plethora of home-made recipes also available, people have started to make their own non-quinine syrups and as even the Wall Street Journal has picked up on this trend, yet again I feel that this is a development well-worth watching.


3) “Final Touch” Gin & Tonic


An innovation from the gin-drinking country of Spain, this was pioneered using Sacred Gin and distillates; the idea was initially relayed to me by Ian and Hilary of Sacred. The premise is simple: you make a Gin & Tonic (something like a 3:1 ratio, tonic:gin) and then layer 5-10ml of botanical distillate on top of the drink. This results in a double drinking sensation and more intense drink: firstly, you get the nose of the distillate and then, on tasting, you get a burst of that flavour, followed by the usual fresh Gin & Tonic flavours. As the two layers reduce proportionately as you drink, the effect remains until the end.

I made up a Gin & Tonic with Sacred 47%ABV Gin and Waitrose Tonic Water – 1 part gin to 3 parts tonic – and then added 10ml of distillate on top.

i) Grapefruit
Initially, the nose is more subtle, with a hint of extra citrus. In terms of taste, there’s some fresh citrus to start with, followed by strong, clean juniper and a dry bitterness from the tonic. Although the pink grapefruit is there, it seems to accentuate the juniper more than anything.

ii) Cardamon
There’s an initial scent of cardamon; this is repeated at the start of the taste, then the more refreshing Gin & Tonic notes come through; juniper, citrus and quinine flavours are rounded off with a finish of dry juniper and a lingering hint of cardamon. This is my favourite “Final Touch” Gin & Tonic. From speaking to Ian of Sacred the general public seem to share my opinion.

iii) Cassia Bark
Very lightly louched at the top. There’s a warm, creamy earthiness at the start, followed by a more mellow Gin & Tonic. Rather than being a distinct, separate flavour, the cassia flows into the G&T to create a much softer drink.

This is a trend in its infancy, but awareness of it in the UK is growing and both Mrs. B and I think that it’s great; I hope it continues.

UPDATE: Since this article was posted last week lots of folks have mentioned this to me and how much they like it. I know it was tried out at a very consumer-focused tasting with great success. It seems it’s moving along more than I thought.

Large bottles of some of the distillates are now available here.

In Conclusion

These are just three possible future ways that the classic gin drink could progress; there are others, and if you think of any, please let us know, but I wholeheartedly believe that they all have their merits and I’d like to see them all succeed. The future certainly looks bright for this 200 year old drink.

Cocktails with… 6 O’Clock Gin

Here is a gin that was made to go with tonic; so much so, that it even has its own tonic specifically designed to match it. I know that some gin distillers have produced their own tonic for their premixes, but this is the first time that anyone has released their tonic water separately; new ground for the tonic world.

6 O’Clock Gin and its matching Tonic Water

6 O’Clock Gin and it’s accompanying Tonic are both made by Bramley & Gage in Bristol, who are famous for their fruit liqueurs and sloe gins. 6 O’Clock Gin is bottled at 43% and contains seven botanicals, including orange peel and elderflower. As for the Tonic, along with natural quinine, it also contains essence of lemon and lime. I think this gives the tonic that extra zestiness that I like and, when I make my own, I use lemongrass to the same effect, just like John.

Why Six O’Clock? This was the time when inventor & engineer Edward Kain would enjoy his gin, but not before; in essence, this was his “cocktail hour”. In honour of his Great Grandfather, Michael, the creator of the Gin named his new spirit after this.

The Taste

#1 Gin & Tonic:
There is no other way I could start this edition of “Cocktails with…” than with the drink of this Gin. When combined, 6 O’Clock Gin and 6 O’Clock Tonic create a soft, yet flavourful drink, which is probably one of the most relaxing gin & tonics I have ever had. That is not to say that it doesn’t have much flavour, as there is, without a doubt, a distinctive mix of juniper and quinine. It really is very good.

#2 Martini:
A classic Martini with a fine balance of juniper and citrus, full of flavour and more engaging than those made with many other gins.

#3 Gimlet:
Quite a good drink, but the gin is rather hidden by the lime cordial and so it doesn’t really complement it as best as it could. There is a little juniper at the end.

#4 White Lady:
A nice little zip to this, the citrus of the gin goes well with the citrus of the lemon. It’s quite tart but rather tasty.

#5 Aviation:
6 O’Clock produces a more gin-dominant Aviation than many, with the flavour of the gin really coming through. There is a little violet at the end, but, again, not the best use of the gin.

#6 Tom Collins:
A good Collins where each main ingredient plays an equal part: refreshing and easy to enjoy.

#7 Bramble:
I really like 6 O’Clock Gin in Bramble. Each individual flavour within the drink is apparent and it’s a very easy cocktail to drink. I think it would interesting to try this using Bramley & Gage’s Blackberry Liqueur instead of Creme de Mure.

#8 Sloe & Tonic:
As this post is also about 6 O’Clock Tonic, I thought I would try it with some Bramley & Gage Organic Gin from our sloe gin tasting. I’m not usually a fan of sloe gin and tonic water, but in this case I certainly make an exception. The tonic brings out the juiciness of the gin and it’s sweeter almond flavours.

In Conclusion:
There is no question what the best drink made with 6 O’Clock Gin was: it was the gin and tonic, as you would expect. Nonetheless, it would be hard to ignore the crisp and delicious Bramble that this gin makes, or how well the tonic went with sloe gin.

6 O’Clock Gin is available for £15.99 (35cl) and £23.65 (70cl). The tonic is £3.00 for a generous 730ml bottle. Both can be purchased from Bramley & Gage’s website.

 

Tonic Tasting

Tonic Tasting

A Bitter Sweet Truth

The Gin & Tonic is one of, if not the most popular way to consume this juniper spirit. Much has been written by prolific authors (at least in the drinks world) of the relative merits of various Gins within this context, and in fact some Gins have been specifically designed to make a great Gin and tonic. But what about the other key ingredient? No, I’m not talking about ice, as crucial as it is, nor will I dare to breach the world of garnish and lemon vs. lime; today, I’m talking about tonic water.I found critique of tonic to be sparse and, with an increasing market of premium mixers, I thought it was time to discover whether I was fond of Fevertree, barmy over Britvic, smitten with Schwepps or fanatical about Fentimans.

This was a blind taste test, as all the best tests are. For each drink, I used two blocks of our “regulation” ice and a mix of, just over, two parts tonic to one part Gin. The gin we used was Plymouth.

6 O’Clock
This is made by Bramley & Gage, a fruit liqueur company from South Devon. This was developed to compliment their new 6 O’clock gin. I know that other companies make their own tonics to combine with their gin in canned premixes, but this is first time that I have seen such a tonic sold separately.

Anyway, back to something more important: the taste. 6 O’Clock was very pleasant on its own; lighter than most tonics and with more citrus flavours. The quinine character is still there, but in a more balanced way than some of the others.

It made a refreshing gin & tonic, with a hint of citrus and wasn’t too sweet. It was quite moreish and was easy to finish.

Britivic Regular
This makes a refreshing, sweet and juicy concoction. It is very easy to finish and leaves you wanting more, but still has the bitterness that you would expect from tonic water. On its own, this is quite nice to drink; it’s not too bitter, but still has the quinine character. This came out high in our final rankings and we were very surprised; if you would have told me beforehand, I wouldn’t have believed you. Oh, the perils of drink-snobbery!

Britvic Diet
This had a nice bitterness and wasn’t absolutely awful, but it did have a nasty tendency to cling to the mouth more than most of the other tonics and produced a drink that was rather flat. Not a patch on its yellow brother.

On its own, this was actually quite drinkable – it tasted a bit like a flat lemonade – and although nice, didn’t taste like tonic.

Fentimans Regular*
This gin & tonic was full of citrus flavour from the start, but it still had the bitter character of quinine. This is a gin & tonic that really improves with time, making a lovely drink with a little bit of ice-melt. The higher citrus flavour comes from the addition of lemongrass, which is a common component of home-made tonic and, I believe, from reading The Chap, that Fentimans is closer to the type of tonic drunk in the late colonial-era. The citrus quality almost makes a garnish unnecessary… almost.

Drinking this on its own is almost like supping lemonade, what with its strong citrus flavour, but the slight bitterness means that the quinine isn’t lost.

* Fentimans Diet is not yet (July 2010) available, but it is anticipated for the future.

Schweppes Regular
The old familiar, this produces a cool and refreshing compliment to the tonic with a delightful twang on the finish, although it was not as refreshing as some of its counterparts. We both enjoyed this tonic and it did very well in the rankings, finishing in at a close number four.

On its own, this tasted like a pleasant and good standard of tonic water but was not really refreshing.

Schweppes Diet
In a Gin & tonic, this had a flat flavour and was too bitter, which provided little in the way of a compliment to the drink; a mere shadow of its regular partner. When tasted on its own, it was very dry and very fizzy: it was somewhat reminiscent of Alka Seltzer or highly effervescent soda water.

Fevertree Regular
With Gin, this makes a cooling drink and is initially pleasant and refreshing. However, although flavourful, it has a sharp, bitter, and somewhat unpleasant, aftertaste. On its own, this was not too fizzy, nor did it cling to your mouth; it had a good strong flavour, with a bitter kick at the end.

Fevertree Diet
This was overly bitter and really masked the flavour of the Gin, so its definitely not one for a moderately delicate spirit. This did not refresh, and at the end I was left searching my gin & tonic for any flavour beyond the bitterness. On its own, this was very anonymous and very clingy.

Carters
This is okay, but not great. Nonetheless, it does represent reasonable value. This was fizzier than the others, a little clingy, and quite bitter, but after a couple of minutes it started to improve.

The extreme fizziness and the way it clings to the mouth does not make this a great option for drinking on its own.

Q Tonic
Produced in New York, USA, Q Tonic contains; Triple Distilled Water, Organic Agave, Handpicked Quinine, Lemon Juice Extract, Natural Bitters and it gets its fizz from champagne carbonation. The concept behind this tonic was that the creators went back to the drawing board to create a tonic from scratch that would “taste like tonic water should”.

So to the taste: Q Tonic certainly was different to everything else and so, in that respect, Q have achieved their goal. But in a Gin & tonic it doesn’t have much flavour beyond soda water; a little juniper does get through, but this drink is unrecognizable as a gin & tonic. The drink is unsubstantial and underwhelming, with a very short finish.

On its own, the tonic tastes predominantly like soda water, with a real lack of flavour.

As I said, it is different and maybe some people will love it, but it simply isn’t for me. With all the hype surrounding Q and its high price point, I was left bitterly disappointed.



And finally, this is only a matter of personal preference, but, by request, here is our top five ranking:

#1 – Britivic Regular

#2 – Fentimans Regular

#3 – 6 O’Clock Tonic

#4 – Schweppes Regular

#5 – Fevertree Regular