While some countries’ love affair with gin started several centuries ago, the Spanish are relative newcomers to the spirit but have quickly made their mark with the ground-breaking gin tonica. Swapping highball glasses for a balloon-shaped copa, bars from Barcelona to Bilbao started experimenting with flavour profiles and botanicals. As a result, making a simple gin and tonic has been elevated to an art form with precise instructions outlining how to keep the bubbles bubbling and the botanicals shining. Here’s what you can learn from the experts.
1. KEEP YOUR COOL
Bartender Nacho Zamora – of Gin Club in Madrid – says one of the most important things is to keep it cold. “Keep both your gin and your tonic in the fridge so that the ice isn’t immediately watered down,” he says. That also means using large ice cubes as these will hold their temperature for longer. Having served your icy G&T, it’s important to hold the glass by the stem so you don’t transfer heat from your hands to the drink.
As for the garnish, Nacho says: “Twist lemon or lime peel over the glass, or throw in a few slices, but never add lemon or lime juice as the acidity will break the bubbles of the tonic water and make it flat. And finally, don’t add too many trimmings – it’s a gin and tonic, not a salad!”
His favourite gin tonica to make features Nordés Atlantic Galician gin, which has an Albariño grape base as opposed to a grain base, and is topped off with a twist of orange peel, a few halved grapes, samphire and sprigs of mint.
2. EMBRACE THE FIZZ
Overseen by Rafa Martín, the creator of a number of internationally award-winning drinks, the team from Brassclub in Mallorca say their number-one tool is the long teaspoon that they pour tonic water down into the glass before giving the gin and tonic a very gentle stir. Why? To preserve those all-important bubbles.
By avoiding splashes, using a swizzle spoon means the tonic water doesn’t lose its fizziness, however, there is another school of thought that says pouring the tonic over the back of the spoon is just as effective when it comes to keeping things effervescent. We’ll let you be the judge. Either way, make sure you always use a fresh bottle of tonic for every G&T-drinking session to ensure the bubbles are at their best.
3. USE LOCAL INGREDIENTS
While Hendrick’s revolutionised the gin and tonic world by adding cucumber to their spirited concoction, Spanish bartenders have been taking a more experimental approach to gin garnishes. The region is no stranger to putting local herbs and flowers to good use – chamomile, basil, marjoram and thyme have been made into traditional herbal liquors over the years.
Sound advice from the team at Valencia’s Café de las Horas is to celebrate provenance. When drinking an Australian gin, take inspiration from what’s around you and use native ingredients like lemon myrtle, mountain pepper or finger lime as a garnish.
TOP TIP: Ordering a gin and tonic is one thing, but what about getting the ratio right when you’re at home? The Spanish usually serve 50mL gin with 200mL tonic water. That said, it will always depend on your taste or the moment when you’re drinking it… Experiment with a ratio that works for you.