The Top Tip You Need For Properly Matching Gin With Tonic

The martini may be the quintessential gin cocktail, but a gin and tonic is probably the purest expression of the form. The clean-tasting mix of gin and tonic water has remained popular for over 100 years and is just as good for a newcomer to gin as someone who appreciates the spirit's botanical depth. According to Wine Enthusiast, the drink was invented as a way to get British soldiers to consume the anti-malarial drug quinine, which used to be found in medicinal "tonic" water. 

However, the combination of herby, dry gin and bitter, refreshing tonic water proved to be more popular from a taste standpoint than a medical one. The gin and tonic exploded in popularity and was quickly enshrined as one of the world's classic cocktails. One big appeal of gin and tonics is that you normally don't need to think too much when you order one; There aren't a lot of variations you can request at the bar other than the type of gin and if you want to swap the standard lime for another fruit — or forgo it entirely.

But as far as the tonic water is concerned, well, it's just tonic water, right? Doesn't it all taste the same? It turns out things are a little more complicated than that.

For gin and tonic brands match new with new and old with old

A wider selection of craft drinks is a nice thing, but with choice can often come complications. Your tonic water options for decades were probably Schweppes or Canada Dry, which were also the same options most bartenders had. Now, as the Michelin Guide reports, a new wave of craft tonic brands has swept onto the scene and brought with them some new tasting notes. Older tonics often have more sugar and acids in them, giving them a more overpowering flavor, while many of the newer brands are drier and feature more complex ingredients. So what's someone who doesn't have time to taste every gin and tonic combination to do? 

According to Michelin, a good rule of thumb is to pair older tonic brands with older gin brands. Both old-school gins and tonics have more powerful flavor profiles that can stand up to each other when combined. For example, in our classic gin and tonic, recipe developer Michelle McGlinn paired Schweppes tonic with Beefeater gin. Our ultimate bottle guide describes the flavor of the traditional London dry gin as clean and botanical with citrus notes. This pairs perfectly with Schweppes tonic, which The Gin is In explains has hints of lemon and a fairly strong bitter flavor, thanks to the quinine. If instead, you are drinking a craft gin, the kind perfect for sipping, then the more subtle craft tonic brands like Fever Tree will let their complexity shine.

New or old, you really can't go wrong either way, but by pairing trying the new generation of gins and tonics with each other you can rediscover a classic with more depth than you ever realized.