Gin and tonic has long lost its reputation for being mother’s favourite 5pm tipple. Jeremy Shipley, group bars manger at Solotel, is reinforcing this with the new, 14-strong gin-and-tonic menu at the Clock Hotel. Shipley was inspired by ‘tonicas’, bars in Spain dedicated to this classic combination. “[Tonicas] serve 30 different types of gin, with 20 different garnishes and 15 types of tonic. We’ve scaled it down but we’re still doing something fun,” Shipley says.
Shipley is out to dispel the myth that drinking gin makes you depressed. Gin is not the culprit. But it could be the tonic water making your head pound. “Tonic water has more sugar than Coke,” Shipley explains. “So after, say, three gin and tonics, you’ve got alcohol and sugar in your system and you’re having a good time. Then the alcohol wears off and the sugar kicks in. You’ll have a headache and will be feeling pretty rubbish because the sugar content is so high.”
To counter this, Shipley only uses Quina-Fina, a boutique tonic water from New Zealand which contains a third of the sugar other brands do. This tonic water also uses organic lemons and hand-harvested Cinchona Bark from Ecuador. The result is a very dry, much fresher version, without the sickly, sugary aftertaste. “If you’re going to drink nice gin, you want nice tonic,” Shipley says.
Another assumption is that gin and tonics are best served with London-style, dry gin and garnished with lime. “Garnishes are really changing,” Shipley says. Hendrick’s started it with cucumber about five years ago. Since then, people have been experimenting.” When making gin, there is no limit to the combinations of botanicals that can be used to infuse it. They can be anything from dried herbs, fruits, spices and fresh herbs, from anywhere in the world. The garnish can enhance the individual botanicals in the gin.
Below are five of Shipley’s favourite combinations on the list at the Clock Hotel.
1. Gin Mare, Spain
The botanicals used in this gin are really unusual: basil, olives, citrus peel and rosemary. We’d never smelled anything like it in a spirit before. So we chose a green olive and a basil leaf as a garnish – it’s like a pizza in a glass.
2. The Botanist, Scotland
This one is a small-batch gin with 22 different botanicals, all grown wild on the side of a hill, so every ingredient is from Scotland. It is infused with apple, mint and the wood sage and chamomile gives it a woody, heavier taste. The fresh mint we serve with it brightens it up.
3. Prairie Organic, America
Prairie Organic is made by three families who grow organic corn. They had a lot of corn leftover so came together to distil a gin (and vodka) out of it. It’s a light gin, gently enhanced by fresh lime wedges.
4. Aviation, USA
Aviation was created by a bartender and it’s a 100 per cent neutral rye-based spirit. You would never think of gin coming from America. It contains anise and orange peel so we decided to serve it with dry lavender and fresh orange to complement the flavours.
5. Sipsmith, England
This one is made by a very fun, crazy bunch of guys in the middle of London. They only have a tiny space so it is a very small-batch gin. It’s a London, dry style of gin so we decided to add a slice of grapefruit with it to heighten those classic botanicals.
How to Make the Perfect Gin and Tonic
30ml Bombay Sapphire
Handful of ice cubes
100ml of quality tonic water such as Quina-Fina
-Start by prepping all ingredients. Cut the lime in wedges (eighths) and put two wedges aside. Cut the orange in half down the middle, then in half again, then cut a 1cm thick slice. Put aside.
-Pour exactly 30ml of Bombay Sapphire into a tumbler.
-Squeeze the wedge of lime into the gin and place in the glass. Place the orange slice in the glass.
-Fill the glass with ice to the top.
-Pour in tonic water, so there is 1cm left at the top.
-Place the second wedge of lime on top to garnish.
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