I confess to being something of a creature of habit and routine. If I don’t sing “I locked the door and the door’s locked” to the tune of ‘I Fought The Law’ when I lock up in the morning, I worry all day I’ve left the house unsecured. If I don’t have a coffee between 10 and 11 of a morning, I get a bit grumpy. And the weekend hasn’t started until I’ve had my Friday evening G&T.
It took a while for this ritual to become fully established. The bewildering array of Gins and Tonics available on the average supermarket shelf leads, in my experience, to decision by discount, the gin and tonic of the next few weeks being determined by what’s on offer at the point of purchase. This can lead to some interesting discoveries, but more often it just gives disappointing or undistinguished results.
So, as you’d expect, I set out to get myself an opinion. I generally prefer my cocktails sharp and dry, so was looking for a combination of spirit, mixer and garnish that would stand up to each other without introducing any unnecessary sweetness.
My go-to gin is classic Tanqueray Export. It’s ginny enough to stand out in a cocktail; more aromatic than a Gordon’s or Bombay Sapphire, but not as overpoweringly so as some of the specialist or premium gins. I love the Botanist, from Islay distillery Bruichladdich, but found it overcomplicated a G&T. I also really like the cold-distilled Oxley Gin, which has a wonderfully clean ginniness, but I don’t think it justifies the £50/l price tag.
I don’t know why I was surprised that the majority of the name-brand tonic waters are really quite sugary. Schweppes and every supermarket own-brand I tried were too sweet for my taste. Of the supermarket own-brands, only Waitrose’s didn’t have a horrible artificial aftertaste (but it was still too sweet). Britvic was slightly less sweet, but the driest (and therefore the favourite) by far was Fever Tree. It’s definitely more expensive than the big brand alternatives, but it’s not like I’m having them every day. Yet.
Finally, a note on garnish. Purists tell me that lime is the traditional slice for a G&T, but in my house lime is for rum- or cachaca-based drinks. I like a lemon slice, with a small squeeze of lemon in the bottom of the glass before I build the drink.
Since this original taste test, Fentiman’s brought out a tonic water, for about the same price. We were given some as a substitute for the Fever Tree in our online shop, but weren’t impressed.