Campari & Tonic

Last week, I think it’s fair to say that I had more than my fair share of Gin & Tonics; over the course of two days, I tasted over 70 (I was judging at a competition). However, tonic does go with other liquor: the Vodka Tonic is another popular choice, and I developed a penchant for the Big Ben (Benedictine & Tonic) when I visited their distillery a few years back.

One base that I hadn’t previously considered, though, was Campari. Upon reflection, this is a bit surprising, given that one of my favourite mixed drinks is the Americano (Campari, red vermouth, and soda water). Thankfully, the folks at Campari are encouraging people to try this summer tipple and thus introduced me to the drink.

On the face of it, it seems like quite a likely combination; what I like in particular is that it’s simple, with ingredients that are easy to come by.

Camari Tonic

The recommended recipe calls for lime as the citrus garnish, but, having a host of citrus on hand, I wondered if the garnish would make much of a difference. For this experiment, we mixed 50ml Campari with 150ml tonic water* (the new Fevertree mini cans), and served each drink in identical glasses with the same quantity and shape of ice. The only variation was one wedge of the various citrus fruits, which were very lightly squeezed before being dunked into the glass.

Orange
Tangy with some sweet citrus which balances out much of the bitterness from the Campari. A good introduction to the drink for those that often find Campari too bitter.

Lime
The suggested recipe and the one with the most well-rounded character. Hints of vanilla and chocolate come through along with a little zesty tartness and a dry bitter finish.

Lemon
Extra tartness and zest with the lemon and some bitterness comes through too although overall as a drink it is more tart than bitter, lively and refreshing.

Ruby Grapefruit
Fragrant with some floral notes on the nose, a more complex and sophisticated drink with bright citrus oil as well as a focus on a long, extra bitter finish.

In Conclusion
Even though the citrus was a relatively minor change it had a remarkable impact on the flavour of the drink. whether you are looking for extra complexity a lighter sweeter offer or to beef up the bitterness it can all be done simply with the garnish. Day-to-day I’d personally choose the lime.

*Approximate ABV = 6.25% ABV

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Gin Tonica Tasting – 15 Spanish Gin & Tonics for World Gin Day

The Gin industry, like almost any other, is subject to changes and trends over time. One such trend that I have recently noted with interest has come over from our neighbours in Spain and has been taking British gin bars and brands by storm. I am talking of the the Gin Tonica: the method of serving a Gin & Tonic in a large balloon glass (sometime known as a coupe glass), over either a copious amount of ice or a single, large ice ball.

With some gin bars now serving all their G&Ts in this style by default and with branded glassware becoming available from many big British brands, I thought it was time to take a closer look at what some call a phenomenon and others, a craze.

One of the purported advantages of using a balloon glass over a highball is that the drink has more room to breathe, allowing the aromas of the gin, mixer and garnish to be more concentrated and easier to enjoy. The larger glass also gives you a bigger canvas to be creative with the garnish. In addition, the increased volume of ice keeps the drink cooler for longer and helps to prevent ice melt.

I’ve spoken to a variety of different brand representatives to try and get the preferred Gin Tonica serve for their gins, although some of the following are of my own invention/modification.

Bloom
Nearly two years ago, this was the first gin that I came across that had specially-designed glasses for a Gin Tonica.
[40ml Bloom, 100ml Fevertree Tonic. Garnish with strawberry, lime & chamomile flowers.]
Summer in a glass! A lovely fruitiness comes from the strawberries and the lime stops the drink from being too sweet. The gin contains chamomile as a botanical, which the flowers in the garnish are a nod to. They look very unusual, but I wouldn’t suggest you  eat any of them; if you do, you’ll certainly have fresh (perfumed) breath.

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Plymouth
This recommendation for serving Plymouth Gin came from Spain.
[50ml Plymouth Gin, 100ml Fevertree Tonic. Garnish with lemon and lime twists and juniper berries.]
Although you can’t see it, the oil from the twist of lemon adds a great fragrance to the drink and gives it a little pizazz. The juiciness of the juniper berries works well with the juniper in the gin and makes that flavour seem even fresher than in a regular Gin & Tonic. This is a simple, yet effective serve and very easy to do at home (most supermarkets sell juniper berries; they can be usually be found in the herbs and spices section).

Bombay Sapphire
This was recommended to me by Sam Carter and Sean Ware of Bombay Spirits. Balloon glass serves were an integral part of their Ginbilee Celebrations.
[50ml Bombay Sapphire, 100ml Fevertree. Squeeze a lime wedge into the drink and add the wedge as a garnish.]
Rather limey, notes of vanilla and coconut also come out. Definitely thirst-quenching and is a drink that could stay cold for a long time; not that that should matter, because you can finish it quickly. Bombay Sapphire’s glasses are also relatively sturdy, making the drink easy-to-drink in more ways than one!

Hayman’s London Dry Gin
[50ml Hayman’s London Dry Gin, 100ml Fevertree Tonic. Garnish with a lime spiral.]
Fresh and zesty, with a crisp bitterness from the lime peel. Very pleasing visually, too.
Crisp and refreshing, the bold, classic flavour of the gin creates a simple, but very sippable drink.

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Bombay Sapphire EAST
In the Autumn of 2011, this cocktail accompanied the launch of Bombay Sapphire East in New York and Las Vegas.
[Slice 4 inches of lemon rind thinly and twist it around the inside of the glass, before dropping it in. Add one ice sphere, some juniper berries, one whole, edible flower (no petals), one very thin lime wheel and one verbena sprig. Pour 2oz gin over the sphere.]
The original recipe specifies lemon verbena, but I had none to hand; I thought that lemongrass was a suitable substitute. The lemongrass brings out the floral citrus of the gin, whilst the lime gives it a little zestiness that contrasts well with the gin’s peppery fire, coming from the black peppercorns in its botanical mix. Very spicy, but lovely all the same.

Tanqueray
To accompany their branded glassware, Tanqueray have developed the Quatro Serve:
[50ml Tanqueray Gin (43.1%), 100ml Fevertree Tonic. Take a slice of lime and wipe around the rim, before adding to the drink. Swirl and serve.]
A strong & powerful Gin Tonica. Very clean, with strong juniper flavours and some earthiness. The high chill-factor from the copious amounts of ice works particularly well with this particular gin and tonic mix. The lime adds a zesty liveness to the drink for the palate, nose and eyes.

It was whilst drinking the Tanqueray from the copa (balloon) glass that I realised the degree to which the glass cools down your hand and wrist, which obviously adds to its chilling effect.

Martin Miller’s
I spoke to some chaps from Miller’s at the recent Feather Gin World Record Event and their suggestions included lime and grapefruit (both of which work well), but I was most captivated by a recommendation to try strawberries and cracked black pepper.
[40ml Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength, 100ml Fevertree Tonic. Add three halved strawberries and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.]
On paper, this seems questionable, but, in reality, it was very good indeed. The freshness and crispness of the Miller’s gin works really well with the juicy strawberries, and the peppercorns add a contrasting savoury and peppery element. A very well-balanced drink, this is both imaginative and lovely.

Beefeater
[50ml Beefeater, 120ml Fevertree Tonic. Before adding the ingredients, add a twist of lemon peel oil to the bottom of the glass and garnish with a slice of lemon and orange peel.]
Quite a zesty drink, with the more earthy notes of the gin being apparent; there is a pleasant bittersweet (tonic-gin) character, making this more than your average Gin & Tonic. The zestiness stays as you sip (it starts at the bottom of the glass with the twist and gradually works its way up). The orange garnish is not essential to the flavour, but it does add visual appeal and its juicy smell provides hints to the orange in the gin.

Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin (43%)
A twist on the drink outlined by Fleming in the book Dr. No, this is a James Bond Gin Tonica.
[Add the juice of a whole lime, followed by the spent shells, to a glass. Pour in a double measure of gin, fill the glass with ice, and top-up with tonic.]
Superb; this is one of the best ways there is to cool down on a hot afternoon. The lime, surprisingly, does not overpower the gin, being balanced by the slight sweetness that comes from the elderflower in the gin. Fevertree Tonic works very well in this drink, as it is clean and doesn’t interfere with the other flavours. Served in the Gin Tonica style, the drink is even colder than usual; I think 007 would be impressed.

Boodles
[40ml Boodles Gin, 100ml Fevertree Tonic. Garnish with two slit cardamom pods and a lemon spiral.]
I’m a big fan of both the cardamom notes of this gin and the slit cardamom pods in this drink’s garnish, which gradually make their presence known. The drink is lively, with the citrus and herbal garnish accentuating the flavours of the gin. It is also quite dry and sharp for a Gin & Tonic, with a touch of bitterness, partly due to the character of the gin, but also the earthy quinine of Fevertree. You know you’re drinking a proper, adult drink without a trace of soda pop sweetness or fizziness.

The Gin Tonica originated from Spain, so it only seems right to also feature some Spanish Gins:

Port of Dragons 100% Pure

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This is recommended by Port of Dragons; the recipe can be found here.
This was very enjoyable: the gin seemed more lively and the tonic more crisp than in a normal Gin & Tonic. The high volume of ice helped considerably, too. The cardamom was still there, but more balanced with additional zing. Very good, indeed.

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"Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication."Port of Dragons 100% Floral

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Recommended by Port of Dragons, this recipe can be found here.
Fresh, floral and fruity. This was very refreshing and reminded me of a spring or summer garden. As well as being visually attractive, the flavours of the gin were really enhanced by the luscious fruits in the garnish, which are an excellent alternative to the usual slice of lemon or lime.

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Number Zero Gin

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This had a bitter, earthy start, courtesy of the quinine in both the tonic and the gin. Dry juniper notes followed, then the sweet, floral and citrus notes: lavender and violet, and, finally, the dry, slightly bitter, tannins of the tea. This was really a rollercoaster of flavours that left me rather impressed. Mrs B described it as a “Perfect combination of a Gin & Tonic and iced tea”.

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G’Vine Floraison
This serve actually came from Munich, so it’s German rather than Spanish. I’ll let this video explain:

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Emperor’s New Clothes?

I’ve been researching this article for a little over a month now and the subject matter has been met, in the UK at least, with mixed reactions. Evidently, some gin folks remain sceptical about the Gin Tonica’s application in the UK and I can see why.

Over the past six months, the enthusiastic acceptance of the serve has bordered almost on a craze (Bloom were way ahead of the curve), but questions have been raised on the practicality of the glassware in bars and at home (some of the glassware is very delicate). The point has also been made that few households will have sufficient quantities of ice or stocks of exotic garnishes to make the drinks at home.

But maybe that is a strength of the Gin Tonica? It DOES provide folks with something that they can’t easily get at home and, as a result, it makes having a Gin & Tonic out-and-about special again and makes the experience more unique.

Some folks are certainly behind it; I noticed in the supermarket (Sainsbury’s) the other day that, if you buy a 70cl bottle of Bombay Sapphire and send off the tag to a specified address, they will send you two free balloon glasses (they are good and sturdy, too). One London Gin Bar have even switched to serving all of their Gin & Tonics in balloon glasses by default (you can, of course, request a highball or tumbler if you’d prefer).

So is the Gin Tonica a fad? I don’t think so. It’s done well in Spain and I think that, in the high-end gin bars, this serve could become a star, particularly with some more imaginative garnishes. For folks drinking at home, I’m not so sure that it will become commonplace, but the glasses are certainly talking points (so long as they don’t break!).

Epilogue

The sharp-eyed amongst you may have realised that I have only covered fourteen Gin Tonicas. Number fifteen is a bit of a wildcard and has been included because I have drawn a similarity between this new way of serving Gin & Tonic and the old 1970s, English-pub style. Notably, both are served in wine glasses (big or small), rather than tumblers. Sarah Mitchell, The Modern Madame Genever, was kind enough to provide a recreation.

The Mitchell (Queen Vic) Gin & Tonic

Recipe
50ml Beefeater, one can of Britvic Tonic (preferably at room temperature and slightly flat).
3 pieces of partially melted ice.
Add ingredients to a large, smeary wine glass with a wafer-thin slice of 3-day-old lemon.
Serve on top of a lager-stained bar top.

This is the complete antithesis of the other 14 drinks that we have featured today, with quality not being key to the drink, but – perhaps it’s Sarah’s impressive mixing ability, or the use of a good quality gin – this was not that bad and, I’m afraid to say, was still a far cry from the worst Gin & Tonic that I have ever had.

Gin & Tonic Food – Jelly, Sorbet, Cake and Icing Flavoured with Gin & Tonic water

Gin & Tonic Food: a collective term for jelly, cakes, sponges, sorbet etc. that are flavoured with gin or gin & tonic. We write a lot about drink on the site (naturally), but what about some gin-soaked nibbles? Here is a selection of what is out there:*

Gin & Tonic Jelly, made with genuine Plymouth Gin

Gin & Tonic Jelly

Initially, I thought that this tasted just of lemon, but then I got a hint dry juniper and, at the end, I got some tonic water, or rather the fresh bitterness of tonic water. I didn’t notice the alcohol too much, but Mrs. B picked it up more than me. She quite liked it, saying it was “the best alcoholic jelly she had tasted” and that it was well-balanced.

Rather lost of the plate, the gin soaked raisin fairy cake with gin icing. This cake actually has two types of gin in it, rather tasty if not "rustic".

Gin Fairy Cakes

I cheated a bit here, using a pre-mix batter. I added some raisins that I had soaked in gin over night, baked them, and then added the icing, which consisted of a mix of gin and icing sugar with a drop of water.

Well, you can certainly taste the gin, both from the raisins (a rather subtle taste) and from the icing, which is more forthright. Once again, I used Plymouth Gin and I think the whole thing worked rather well. They are rather boozy (much more so than a Glenfiddich Dundee cake I had once) and so I wouldn’t advise eating too many, but one or two at a garden party would be, I think, a nice treat.
I found the flowers on the top rather a distraction, and from the picture it is obvious I haven’t inherited my family’s gift for cake decoration.

A scoop of Gin & Tonic Sorbet

Gin & Tonic Sorbet

Very fresh and crisp; the citrus comes through, but so does the juniper, along with some bitterness from the tonic. The aftertaste is that of a gin & tonic and, like the popular gin drink, is delightfully refreshing. The addition of fresh juniper to part of the process really increases the gin flavour.

Originally destined to be a swiss role this creation eventually ended up as a layered sponge cake.

Gin & Tonic Sponge

This was originally going to be a Swiss roll, but it didn’t quite work out, so I used some of the opera cake details from this recipe.

This is rather heavily gin-soaked and so the sponge almost melts in your mouth. The white chocolate & Earl Grey filling holds it together well, however. It is quite rich and so a small slice would suffice but, with afternoon tea, it would be rather delicious.

In Conclusion

This has been quite an enjoyable article to research and write and I’ve polished up on some of my culinary skills, especially when making sponge/swiss roll.

There is no question which of the Gin & Tonic treats was my favourite: the sorbet. It was certainly something I would try again. I’d also like to experiment a bit more with fruit cake with gin icing.

*N.B. Recipe haven’t been added yet but should be here on Wednesday.

RECIPES

Tonic Tasting Thanks

I’d just like to thank all those who cam to the Tonic Tasting @ Graphic yesterday and for Sarah, Adam and The Graphic Team for making it all happen.

For those who are interested here is the article I wrote in the summer on tasting Tonic:

www.summerfruitcup.com/tonic

I would also like to thank John of John’s Premium Tonic Syrup for kindly sending us some of his product from Arizona, USA and 6 O’Clock Gin whose tonic water went down very well. I shall be posting further notes on both before the end of the year.

Finally thank you for the unexpected response I got from all those that tried me Tea Liqueurs, a post on these should be appearing in the next few days.

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