The gin and tonic was born in British India in the 19th century. The colonial forces there had to take daily quinine doses to protect themselves from malaria, a parasitic infection common to the tropics. The problem with quinine is that it’s very bitter and unpalatable. The solution to this problem was to mix it with sugar, soda, lime, and gin. Today’s tonic water has much less quinine in it and one would have to drink a considerable amount to get a therapeutic effect. Even though both gin and quinine are bitter, the chemicals that make them so combine when mixed to create a more palatable flavor, similar to the way red wine and steak complement each other. Winston Churchill said of the gin and tonic, “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.”
- Use top-shelf gin. Using the bargain gin is only going to leave you with a burn, whereas a nice gin will leave you feeling warm. Also, pay attention to what goes into the gin. Hendricks adds cucumber essence to its gin and is traditionally garnished with cucumber. Bombay Sapphire has lots of flavors in it, including almond, coriander, and liquorice.
- There’s more to tonic water than just Schweppes. While the major name brands taste just fine, there are a number of other options that add more than just sugar and quinine to their soda. Fever Tree is a popular option that mixes exotic botanicals into the basic formula as does John’s Premium Tonic, which contains agave nectar.
- Pair your garnish with the flavorings of the gin. Since Hendricks is made with cucumber, garnishing it with one is only natural. Beefeater has orange in it, so instead of a lime, try garnishing with an orange rind. Bombay Sapphire is made with lemon peel, et cetera.
Wisdom is a place to get cocktails first and a place to get food second. With the largest gin selection in the area, it’s no surprise they’re one of the best places to get a gin and tonic. Their signature gin and tonic is made with rosemary-infused gin.
Jaleo might be best-known for their sangrias, but they also have seven signature gin and tonics on their cocktail menu. Stop by their Penn Quarter location on 7th St. and try their London Dry gin and tonic with grapefruit, mint, lemon, and white pepper.
Gin Joint at New Heights Restaurant is an obvious choice to get a gin and tonic in D.C. In addition to their large selection of gins, they also have at least eight house-made tonics. With more than 50 gins available, there are over 400 gin and tonic possibilities with just their house-made tonics!
Spain is the world’s largest consumer of gin per capita, so it’s no surprise they have some of the best gin and tonics. Xixbar in Barcelona is one of the best; with more than 200 gins available, they have a dizzying array of gin and tonics and gin cocktails to try.
Philadelphia and New York City
Amada is a restaurant specializing in Spanish tapas and, like Jaleo, they have an extensive selection of sangrias. Also like Jaleo, they have a sterling reputation for their gin and tonics. They have a make-your-own gin and tonic menu with six gins, six tonics, and a bevy of garnishes to make your perfect cocktail.
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