Best Midwestern gins for gin and tonics

We tasted dozens of gin and tonics to determine which Midwest gin works best in the classic drink. We picked our four favorites.

Photo: Martha Williams
Gin and Tonic at Scofflaw

The gin and tonic is one of the simplest drinks—gin, tonic, citrus, done. Since it’s a snap to make at home (not even a shaker is required), we decided to start here in our tasting of 22 Midwestern gins.

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We chose Q Tonic, since it’s less sweet up front than other tonics (it uses organic agave as the sweetener) and it’s very clean. Plus, it’s easy to find—in fact, a large bottle of it came paired with the bottle of Death’s Door we bought at Binny’s. We made each gin and tonic using the same recipe: 1 oz. gin, 2 oz. tonic, 2 ice cubes, and a slice of lime.

So that’s easy, but here’s the hard part—what exactly makes a good gin and tonic? First, you need a good gin. The tonic isn’t going to mask poor gins (unlike negronis, which are a good way to use up a bottle of gin you don’t particularly like), so you’ll need to pick a gin that has appealing flavors. Our favorite gin and tonics used gins that have strong but pleasant notes that came through even after we poured in the tonic.

Also, we chose a tonic we liked, and realize that the results could vary based on whatever tonic you choose. After tinkering around with our proportions, we opted for one part gin to two parts tonic, since the ratio allowed a lot of gin flavor to come through. If you like less boozy gin and tonics, try Spanish-style gin and tonics, which use an entire bottle of tonic in each cocktail.

So which were the best? Letherbee Gin, which makes a very easy drinking gin and tonic and is a good choice if you're looking for a classic. New Holland Knickerbocker Gin has strong coriander notes that shine through, and it made a very pleasant, herbal gin and tonic. Journeyman Bilberry Blackhearts was the overall favorite—there’s corn in there, but unlike other corn-heavy gins, it’s subtle and the gin and tonic was nicely fruity and floral. And Letherbee Autumnal Gin, which was a completely unexpected addition to this list. The fall 2013 Autumnal Gin is smoky, and the gin and tonic amped up the smoky flavors, creating a really enjoyable drink.

Where to buy the gin: All four gins are available at Binny’s locations.

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