The Difference Between Drinking Gin With Tonic Vs Soda

A delicious cocktail is all in the details. Especially for two-ingredient drinks like the gin and tonic, the careful selection of each component, along with the employed ratio, will result in a large pay-off in taste. Plus, it enables experimentation, with a new rendition emerging by a simple exchange of tonic for soda water.

Why bother tinkering with a gin and tonic? The beloved pairing emerged in the 19th century and has stuck around ever since. Well, those clear, bubbly waters of tonic water may seem relatively flavorless, but they actually boast a deceptively bold palate. Flavored with bitter quinine, along with sweet syrup and other botanicals, this beverage exhibits a dry, sweet, and floral taste.

Meanwhile, soda water is simply carbonated water, so it doesn't have a taste. Therefore, employing the soda water with gin turns the drink into an undiluted highball, allowing the flavors of the spirit to take center stage. There's no sugar nor botanicals to interplay with the liquor, so the rendition is defined exclusively by the specific gin — quite a stark difference. It's a surprisingly refreshing mix, with the carbonation really amplifying the gin's complex palate.

A gin soda crafts a refreshing cocktail focused on the spirit

If focusing specifically on the gin flavor is up your alley, the gin soda is the ideal launching point. The addition of exclusively water showcases the nuances of a gin, without the need to worry about a tonic's interference. It's ideal for sampling new gins, as there's no need to worry about pairing to specific tonics.

When a gin soda is made with a classic gin and tonic spirit selection like London Dry, it focuses on some of the citrus and floral notes. Tonic's bitter quinine notes may overwhelm these flavors, so the soda will showcase a different angle. For example, soda water mixed with a Plymouth gin brings out the style's intricate aromatic, earthy, and herbal notes. It's also delicious with complex, slightly sweet gins, like Beefeater. However, the sole water dilution will struggle with gins that have an overly juniper flavor. For such expressions, tonic water creates a more sippable flavor. And a rendition with a navy strength gin will be altogether too boozy without some of the tonic's sugar to temper.

Conversely, soda water opens up possibilities of employing gins that'll clash with tonics altogether. Old Tom gin, which is barrel aged, has a rich palate, upheld with citrus and honey-like notes. It'll be a strange mix with tonic; however, with soda water, it makes for a delightful whiskey-highball-like creation. The same also applies to unique infused and unorthodoxly flavored gin expressions.