As we Spring into Summer - thoughts turn to that quintessential drink - the Gin and Tonic. Long summer days, ice clinking in the glass, bubbles of tonic bursting with flavour - - and yet finding a bar that serves a great gin and tonic can be hard work.
We asked Diana Dredge to give us the 'heads up' on making the Perfect Gin & Tonic & give us a quick 'How To'... We caught up with her in her at Gin Central Headquarters (GCHQ) Pembrokeshire - surrounded by her Gin Collection...
"This British staple is utter perfection when done right. But it seems that no two bartenders can agree on how to make the perfect gin and tonic. Add to that everyone's got a view - how can you agree - What sort of ice do you use and how much? What’s the best gin-to-tonic ratio? For a garnish, is lemon or lime better? Which glass is best to serve it in? And - what gin should you be drinking?"
With over 20 years experience in the drinks trade, Diana guided us through the theories of what makes the perfect gin & tonic. "These are not small things", she said. "Done right, the perfect G&T is wonderful - it 'hits the spot' - refreshes and revives. Done wrong and it's a tepid disappointment"
Diana explained that gin is frequently referred to as 'history in a glass'. With over 900 years of documented uses from monastery to the battlefields, we have seen how this juniper gem has superseded it's somewhat murky history to become a favourite of drinkers around the world - prized for it's fresh, clean taste and subtle complexity. Add on to that the rise of craft gins and there is a story in every bottle.
Mostly, the Question people ask - is 'Lemon v Lime' - and there are many different takes on this. Some say lime is bright an zesty, whilst others claim lemon's zing cannot be equalled and it won't overpower the gin's botanicals. However - Diana's view is different. With the range of craft gins and differing botanicals on offer the sheer range of flavour profiles for gin have changed. "We're not limited to a few well-known brands anymore" she says. "With the world of gin shaping up to be every bit as complex as the world of whisky - you need to seek out the garnish that will enhance the flavours in the bottle - sometimes it's lemon, sometimes it's lime - or it could be grapefruit - or kumquats, rosemary, cucumber or rose petals ... "
"If your garnish can be chosen to match your style of gin, the complete experience is enhanced" says Diana. “Match your garnish to the specific or highlighting botanicals in the gin - orange works well with Whitley Neill, Limes with Taqueray, Lemons with Gordon's, cucumber with Hendrick's for example"
High-quality ice is also essential. "Gone are the days of 'One lump or Two' as frequently seen in the Queen Vic on Eastenders...." explained Diana - "it is essential to use good quality hard ice & packed to the brim. You are trying to keep the drink cold - not melt the ice. If you use less ice, it melts & it waters the drink down. Keep the glasses in the freezer too. As the ice will melt slowly, your drink will remain ice cold, not watery "
Then there's the tonic. Diana explains "We have seen the rise and rise of craft tonic waters - hot on the heels of Fever Tree who, quite rightly, said - if a three quarters of your drink is tonic - make it a good one. Avoid pubs that use 'on-tap' tonics - each tonic should be fresh from a bottle or can - there's a complete science behind it. Jacob Schweppe understood this as he developed his carbonation techniques 234 years ago". Then there's the ratio of gin to tonic -- 1:1 1:2 1:3 .... Most folk prefer a 1:3 ratio of gin to tonic - but experiment - it's a personal choice ...
And - the glass! 52% of folk drink in the traditional highball glass. More of a trend is the Copa - large goblet shaped - like a fish bowl! The advantages of this glass is the 'swirling' - a good swirl and the aromas hit the nose before the drink reached the lips - lovely! "There is now a craze for Gin-stagraming" says Diana "making your drink look like a picture & snapping it for your Instagram or Social Media Feed. It adds to the experience", explains Diana "Me? I prefer to drink it rather than look at it!"
5 Steps to the Perfect Gin & Tonic.
1. Glassware. Pick a thin-rimmed highball or a Copa glass. Ideally store in the Freezer. A good quality glass makes the difference.
2. Ice - hard cubed ice - no wishy washy melty stuff - you want the ice to stay frozen & keep the drink cold. Lots of it!
3. Gin - 50ml Your Gin of Choice (we'll be trying some belters at The Big Retreat!)
4. Tonic - a good one - single small can or individual bottle - it's all in the carbonation - there's a lot of science goes into those bubbles!
5. Garnish - gone are the 'lemon or lime' days - read the back of your Gin bottle for a guide - follow their advice (then experiment on your own!)
We did as she said ...... ..........Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Diana will be joining us at The Big Retreat Wales and hosting the following:
Friday 25th May 6pm - The Perfect Gin & Tonic. 60m Learn about the murky history of Gin, the grip it had on the country for over 200 years, it's golden age as a cocktail ingredient. Get to know your way around Botanicals & unravel some of the mysterious language on the gin bottles. Learn about the rise of Craft gin - and learn the secrets of a Perfect G&T. Everyone will get a taste - some more than others! Over 18's only. 30 places
Saturday 26th May 6pm Around the World with 80 Gins 90m. Pack your passports for this global journey on the hunt of Gin Botanicals - stopping at global destinations for a snifter or two (5 sample sizes included) and finally - return to our Welsh roots for one of the best craft gins around
Sunday 27th May 5pm Gin-stagram & Tastings . Sampling some of the loveliest Gins on sale today - and looking at the trends on Gin-Stagram...