Gin and tonic and I go back a long way. My first G and T, I’ll have you know, was taken on the balcony of the Serena Mountain Lodge in Kenya, at dusk, as a family of elephants took their evening libations. I was seventeen years old. Doesn’t that sound like a terribly sophisticated set-up? It really wasn’t. I’d just spent three days driving around Nairobi, all the while throwing up out of the car window or into my father’s terry towelling hat, from a combination of period pain and teenage angst, and was then offered an alcoholic beverage by my parents. My drinking experience at that point consisting of the occasional half-glass of wine at the family table or Brandy Alexanders at the bar of the Intercontinental Hotel (no one ever checked our IDs there), I ordered what everyone else was having. I drank my gin and tonic with the grownups and promptly fell asleep, thereby missing out on seeing all the baby rhinos and cavorting lions that visited the waterhole beside the hotel later that evening. But a love affair with a cocktail was nonetheless born that night.
As much as I love a gin and tonic I am surprisingly unfussy about how they are prepared. As long as it has gin and tonic water in it, I’ll drink it.
Having said that, it does have to be proper tonic water, not diet. And recently my dad took as stand against the big 1.25L bottles of tonic water, and I do agree with him there. The bubbles in those are too big. I can’t explain why, but I expect it has to do with science. Anyway, they’re wrongly bubbled and half of the tonic always ends up going flat in the fridge. So no to big bottles of tonic. Small glass bottles are the way to go.
I confess that in a G and T I can’t really the difference between different brands of gin, so Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks, Beefeater, Gordons – all are fine with me. The only time I’ve discerned the effects of a special type of gin was when a friend made G and Ts with Bombay Sapphire East, which has extra botanicals and is a few per cent boozier. I could tell that was different because after we’d had two or three drinks, we tried to to round up some escaped calves and found that our legs didn’t respond very quickly to our instructions and had a tendency to buckle, leaving us lying helpless on the grass while the calves gave us the finger and ate the roses. That gin should definitely be reserved for occasions when no livestock or child wrangling is expected.
I like ice in a G&T, and lime. A lot of lime. I like my G and Ts like I like my Doctors Who: not too tall and quite limey. (Here’s a strange thing: three of my deepest actor crushes have gone on to play Doctor Who, and yet I have no desire to watch that show at all. Ever. I’ll watch Peter Davidson in All Creatures Great and Small until the cows come home, and I’d listen to David Tennant or Peter Capaldi read the shipping forecast, but I’ve never willingly watched Dr Who. Huh. How ‘bout that? That’s the sort of irrelevant anecdote gin makes me tell.)
But back to the making of a gin and tonic, about which I seem to have more opinions than I first thought. Always pour the gin into the glass first, so you get your amount of gin correct. If you put in the ice first, you risk overestimating the amount of gin you need to add and thereby pouring yourself what is essentially a great big glass of gin into which you can only fit a splash of tonic. The effect of that is that when you drink the cocktail the gin will quickly start running out of your eyes and you’ll just want to lie in the bath all evening.
So, in my opinion, this is the way to make a gin and tonic. Start with an empty glass, add gin, then ice, then cold tonic water. Squeeze in the juice of at least half a lime, drop the lime half in, and stir the drink a bit with whatever implement is handy. Your index finger is fine. Then drink and imagine yourself to be on safari, or at the Algonquin or just relish the fact that you’re with your best friend, late on a rainy Tuesday afternoon in autumn, standing in the kitchen while you cook sausages* for your small children’s dinner.
*Variation: to make a dirty G & T, accidentally drop a piece of sausage in your drink while transferring cut up sausages from chopping board to children’s plates.