With gin, tonic and a twist of lime, G&Ts are not the most exciting cocktails—in the U.S. In Spain, the G&T is practically an art form, as bartenders there pay attention to which gins they use with which tonics, and add thoughtful garnishes and thick ice cubes, serving the drink in goblets.
When Sable bartender Mike Ryan visited Madrid spring of 2013, he learned about Spanish-style gin and tonics, and upon his return, added his renditions of them to the menu. Since then, he’s changed the the gin and tonic offerings a few times to try different garnishes and gin and tonic pairings. We asked him some questions about his G&Ts.
What makes Spanish-style gin and tonics different from regular G&Ts?
First off, there’s a higher ratio of tonic to gin, so it’s lighter and more refreshing and more approachable. And then, gins and tonics are paired based on their properties and flavors and those in turn are paired with garnishes to build on those flavors.
How many gins and tonics are there at Sable?
Right now we have in the neighborhood of 65 gins and 5 tonics. There are not a ton of different tonics on the market here. In Spain, they have a dozen or so different tonics and a lot of companies make them. Here we just have a couple, like Q and Fentimens. We’ve made our own tonic syrup as well and carbonated that.
What makes a gin and a tonic work well together?
Some of it is that if we know if a gin has a lemon or citrus taste, we’ll ask, "Are we going to add citrus peel or are we going to offset that by adding woodsier notes?"
Why are these served in goblet glasses?
Part of it is that it’s a larger vessel, so there’s more tonic in there and more ice, so it stays colder and lighter.
What type of ice works best in these?
We use Kold-Draft, since the idea is that you want larger, denser ice. Kold-Draft produces ice that has less air trapped in there, so it melts slower. It keeps the drink colder longer and there’s less dilution, which is ideal for something you’ll be sipping on.
Gin and tonics are summery drink—are you going to keep these on the menu indefinitely?
We do year-long spirit focuses, like spring is gin, and then we’re in the middle of a rum focus, with tiki and stuff, and fall will be brandy and winter will be whiskey. So initially this gin thing played into the gin focus, but the response has been really fantastic, and I think it’s going to be an additional section on the menu. We’ll keep rotating through different gins and tonics as the winter months approach, and play with root vegetables and other seasonal accompaniments.
Do you think this style of gin and tonic will start catching on at other bars in the U.S.?
I hadn’t come across this style of gin and tonic before I went to Madrid. When you walk into a corner bar there, this is the style of gin and tonic you get. But here, it’s just like every other highball. I think this style of gin and tonic is the wave of the future. When we were over there, literally every bar we went into, from a cocktail bar to a crappy little sports bar, had 25 to 30 gins. There just wasn’t that fear of gin that you see so often here. Once you’ve had a few of these drinks, you’ll lose your fear of gin in general.