In spite of strenuous efforts to the contrary, Saucy Dressings often finds herself behind the curve. A few months ago I was treated to dinner at the brilliant Kyoto Kitchen in Winchester (the same restaurant lauded by Tom Parker Bowles in The Mail on Sunday). I was driving so rather than plumping for sake, I decided to go for’ just one, crisp Gin and Tonic.
I thought I knew what I was ordering, but it soon became clear that that was far from the case. For starters I had to choose between three types of gin: Jinzu – British gin with cherry blossom, yuzu and sake; a gin from Cambridge which incorporated flavours of shisho leaf, sesame seeds, cucumber, sansho; and Korkoro gin with liquorice and sansho.
And then there was the tonic to select…
When it came it was in a curvaceous, generous-bowled wine glass – not the classic Old Fashioned or High Ball glass.
I didn’t give it too much thought, and then my son took me to Spain as a birthday present. He’d organised a dinner at his club, the fabulous Casino de Madrid, but we agreed we’d prime ourselves first at a nearby roof top bar.
Again, the same thing happened. This bar actually specialised in different forms of Gin and Tonic. This time I had to choose between Hayman 1850 reserve gin with Haba Tonka, and lemon grass Schweppes; or Caorunn gin with manzana roja (red apple) and Bitter Schweppes. And it arrived in the same generous-bowled glass.
Clearly, I needed to get up to speed.
At least I was in the right place, because this revisited, revived, and let’s be honest, over-thought version of the classic G & T originated in Spain.
The main visual characteristic is the glass. This balloon-bellied, stemmed glass is known as a Copa de Balon What’s the advantage? The curved form captures the important aromas… and, after all, you need all the help you can get to distinguish between Hayman reserve and Caorunn…. I hope I’m never invited to a blind tasting. The theory is that the bowl shape of the glass also captures the scent of whatever flamboyant garnish has been added. You can easily find them on Amazon…or Riedel now produces a truly beautiful, non-stemmed version….or for heaven’s sake, if Michelin-starred chefs can make do with Bordeaux wine glasses – see The Ice below, so can you).
Alternatively you can decide that the whole thing about the glass is hot air, and take the advice of Olga Brit, head bartender at Decadence in Lisbon, who says she uses “thick, chilled, ribbed highball glasses which keep the drink crisply cold”.
Another argued advantage of the Copa de Balon is that it is capacious enough to contain a good quantitiy of ice – another identifying characteristic of the Gin Tonica (as the Spanish have renamed their version) – the glass should be anything up to ¾ full with cubes. The round shape of the glass is supposed to delay ice melt-down but to be honest on a searing hot day the difference must amount to just seconds. Clearly I have much to learn.
The Portobello Road Gin blog reports, “This ‘copa serve’ became more commonplace around seven years ago when the Michelin-starred chefs from the Basque area started drinking their ‘GinTonics’ in Bordeaux wine glasses to keep their drinks cool in the heat of their kitchens. When filled with large, frosty ice cubes, the ‘copa serve’ results in a drink that remains cold right to the end, with much less dilution.”
So that’s a relief – I was worried about the ice…diluting the gin and tonic.
“This ‘copa serve’ became more commonplace around seven years ago when the Michelin-starred chefs from the Basque area started drinking their ‘GinTonics’ in Bordeaux wine glasses to keep their drinks cool in the heat of their kitchens.”
The tonic and the gin
Again, tonic water is no longer just tonic water. Schweppes now produces a range of four: original (thank heavens), pink pepper (not hopeful for this, see Tom Alcott’s views on pink pepper), lavender and orange blossom, ginger and cardamom.
Premium brand, Fevertree, also offer a choice of four, and they give recommendations regarding which gins go with which tonics.
- There’s aromatic tonic for example, which goes well with ‘juniper rich and robust’ gins such as Hayman’s London Dry, Plymouth and Aviation.
- They also offer a lemon tonic which goes well with sloe and sweeter gins.
- Mediterranean tonic aligns itself with citrus and herb gins – Bombay Saphire, Bulldog and Portobello Road.
- And their fourth offering is elderflower tonic which pairs well with fresh and floral gins such as Hendricks, and the Jinzu I was offered at the Kyoto Kitchen.
And then there’s the garnish. As much thought has to go into the finishing touches. It can be orange peel, lemon grass, lime, or curiously a mix of pink grapefruit and vanilla which apparently magically fuses to produce the aroma of chocolate (I simply have to investigate that so expect a post to come).
Guidelines for making a Gin Tonica
David T Smith has recently published a book, Gin Tonica, and his broad recommendations are to:
- Fill a clean Copa de Balon glass with ice, stir with a long spoon for about fifteen seconds.
- Pour any water away, add more ice, to about three-quarters full.
- Add the gin, attempting to coat the ice as you pour it in. In our bar in Spain this didn’t present any problems as they simply commanded ‘say when’ and continued to pour with abandon until told to stop. How do you say, ‘Whoaa….’ in Spanish.
- Then you add the tonic slowly so as to keep it fizzy.
- Rest for a few seconds (David Smith recommends 30… seems a little hopeful…) to allow the flavours to meld.
For a post on the classic Gin & Tonic and its history, follow this link.
Parov Stelar – Gin Tonic