“In 1825 clever British officers in the Indian Army improved the bitter medicine quinine by mixing it with soda water, sugar, and gin. Instead of drinking the medicine with their troops at dawn, the officers figured out how to enjoy it at cocktail hour. The original gin and tonic was born, and it soon became the quintessential drink of the British Empire.”
I’ve never been a great wearer of sunglasses. However, during this particularly lovely unexpected early sunny snap in London, I have had a personal Renaissance
The sun kissed crispness of the early April weather allows one to pop on sunglasses – vintage tortoiseshell wayfarer Ray-Bans in my case – and not look like a cheap rock star or a tuneless hooker.
In this sort of weather we dare, in trepidation, to wear a blazer outside or switch from ale to lager. Perversely I have just acquired my tickets for the final day of the horse racing jumps season and the first classic on the flat, which take place on consecutive weeks.
In these nascent days of Spring, the gallant sun begins to cling on to the end of the day, helped by the clocks going forward one hour and an early evening gin springs to mind. But, get the day wrong and you will shiver like a scared puppy and the ice will form a deathly bond with the cruel April chill.
Get it right and you will feel like summer is joyously upon you like a empathic hug from a Swedish model.
Like any drink it is all about the location and how it is served. I prefer to take a simple gin and tonic outside at home, rather than submit myself to those awful concoctions thrown together at bars; the latter are more like a high ball stuffed full of ice, a slug of tonic, a stingily sliced exhausted lime, and a precise measure of gin (even a double is measured precisely enough to keep you sober).
I am very particular about how I make my g and t, as I know many chaps are, but I am yet to receive any complaints. I won’t, like many pompous bloggers, call my mix the ‘perfect gin and tonic’ but it definitely slips down well and will certainly put hairs on your chest!
There are five basic ingredients that make up my gin and tonic. And the minor players are just as important as gin, which inevitably takes the starring role.
The first– one that is sadly neglected by many – is to serve this wonderful drink at the correct temperature. So the freezer must have its full complement of ice.
Secondly there is the lemon. Most will have only a pre-cut one, but I swim against the tide and using squeezed lemon as well.
Thirdly there is the tonic. I prefer cans of airplane sized, fridge-cold Schweppes tonic water (bottles will suffice if you are in it for the long haul but lose their nap quickly).
Fourthly, my receptacle of choice is a large tumbler; chill it if you want to but this is really not a necessity.
Finally there is the gin itself. Sipsmith’s, Tanqueray or a humble Gordon’s are my usual suspects. Hendricks is divine but must have cucumber and, even with tonic, this creates a different kettle of fish – wonderful drink though it is, it should not, in my eyes, be classified as a gin and tonic!
When it comes to assembly, start by putting a child’s handful of ice – about five cubes I suppose – into your glass. Add two slices of lemon and squeeze more lemon juice over the ice. Keep a further slice of lemon to one side.
Then it is time for the gin. I don’t measure my gin pour – but we are looking at around a two and a half second slug – which is probably just over a statutory measure quadruple.
I take my second lemon slice and rub the rim and again pop in to the glass. Pour the tonic to just below the top and stir ever so slightly with a spoon.
I often take a crossword to the garden – the thrilling crackle and clunk of the ice and the sprinkle of exited tonic spraying on ones wrist are often an inspiration to an extra clue or two.
Indeed, international gin and tonic day lands on the 9th April so one must mixing!