Today, it’s not uncommon for a simple Gin & Tonic to boast a laundry list of ingredients meant to elevate the simple highball. Improving upon the tried-and-tested formula while retaining the inherent simplicity of the original, however, is no easy task.
Balancing that maximalist impulse with a minimalist build, New York bartender Sarah Morrissey packs rosemary, juniper berries and a lime twist—embellishments that often garnish Spanish-style versions of the drink—into a large frozen ice cube for her take. Also working with ice, Dan Sabo, director of food and beverage at Los Angeles’ Fairmont Century Plaza, puts an unexpected twist on cucumber, a common G&T garnish. Rather than floating slices of the vegetable in the drink, his G&T&C&R incorporates a cucumber juice ice cube that allows the drink to evolve over time and play off the cucumber notes that define Hendrick’s Gin, his preferred brand for this recipe.
Other takes add complexity by swapping or splitting the two-part recipe’s prescribed components. At the now-closed New York cider bar Wassail, bartender Jade Sotack replaced the typical tonic water with Spanish sidra and added an ounce of tonic syrup, to recall the effervescent ingredient, in her Gin & Juice. Our house recipe, the Soft Shock, takes a similar approach, lowering the proof by splitting the base between gin and fino sherry, and kicking up the aromatics with a dose of both lime and mint.
Chaim Dauermann, of New York City’s The Up & Up, meanwhile, focuses on the characteristic bitterness of the cocktail, which he achieves by adding a measure of Suze, an herbal French liqueur, to his Insanely Good Gin & Tonic.
Lastly, the most unorthodox take—which was also the winner of Punch’s blind tasting of recipes—is Toby Cecchini’s Gin & Tonic. In his recipe, julienned lime skins are muddled with gin until “the aromatic oil has clearly emerged and the whole has taken on a translucent green from the juice.” When the gin-lime mixture is floated atop tonic water, the lime strips eventually act as a garnish. Despite its unconventional look and build, the extra steps are worth it, with the result described by the tasting panel as “crisp, bright and deeply flavorful.”