The Gin & Tonic revels in its simplicity. The refreshing trilogy of gin, tonic water and lime provides familiar, pared-back comfort that’s free of fussy garnish and a laundry list of ingredients. This same simplicity, however, when deprived of thoughtful attention can lead to a perfectly ordinary highball.
Toby Cecchini’s take on the G&T at Brooklyn’s Long Island Bar does not fall into that category. The constants remain unchanged, but a twist in the execution makes for a standout rendition. Built in a 20-ounce glass over several cracked ice cubes, Cecchini begins not by adding gin, but by pouring 8 ounces of Schweppes tonic water into the bottom of the glass, reversing the usual order of operations.
The tonic is then topped with a muddled mix of gin and lime. The technique, borrowed from Cecchini’s father, calls for spent lime skins to be julienned into thin strips, then muddled with 3 ounces of gin and left to sit for 30 seconds until the oils have integrated into the spirit. The gin-lime mixture is then poured into the glass where it floats above the tonic water. Finally, the lime strips are retrieved with tongs and placed as the crowning garnish in lieu of the typical wedge or wheel. Though the components are hardly unique, Cecchini’s G&T presents the classic in exemplary form—fresh, bright and distinctive in flavor.
But if Spain’s approach to the Gin & Tonic is any proof, the drink’s basic formula leaves plenty of room for reimagining the plain-clothed highball. As for Chaim Dauermann of New York’s Up & Up, his Insanely Good G&T keeps true to its name and builds upon the bitter and botanical cornerstones of the original. Though his additions are unconventional for an otherwise minimalist cocktail, each ingredient plays to the G&T’s core strengths.
Sneaking in half an ounce of Suze and a dash of Angostura, Dauermann cranks up the volume on the G&T’s natural bitterness, giving the crystal-clear drink an amber glow. “Suze and gin are a match made in heaven,” says Dauermann, who also opts for a concentrated lime cordial fortified with unaged pisco for a deeper dimension of acidity and a touch of sweetness.
At the end of the day, a Gin & Tonic won’t ask much of you—but if you give it the attention it deserves, the results can exceed the sum of its parts.