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The Sipsmith Blog

Around the World in 50 Classic Cocktails: The Gin and Tonic

in Articles May 10, 2016

Now that we’ve had our first taste of scorching summer temperatures, it’s time to move on to one of our favourite gin serves: the timeless, classic gin and tonic.

A perfect gin and tonic is simple to make, requires few ingredients and is enjoyed by most. But did you know the classic cocktail has quite the history? It was first created in the 19th century by sailors in search of a cure for malaria.

The G&T isn’t alone when it comes to cocktails-as-cures. Many drinks and spirits that we enjoy today were first taken medicinally. But while medical evidence may not back up old-timey claims that bitters will cure stomach ailments or that Fernet-Branca gets rid of parasites, the G&T’s anti-malarial properties are renowned.

It isn’t the gin that does it, though. Rather, the tonic water is the key: traditionally made with bark from the cinchona tree, which contains bitter, malaria-fighting quinine, tonic water was first made commercially available in the middle of the 19th century. Back in those days, malaria was a serious concern. As Winston Churchill once quipped, “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.”

The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.

Of course, it wasn’t long before a daily G&T became more than just a cure – it became a very pleasant way to take advantage of a long, sunny afternoon. The G&T made its way back to Europe, where, mozzies aside, its popularity only grew. And we’ve been enjoying them ever since.

In many ways, the gin and tonic is always evolving, endlessly modifiable, a reflection of changing trends in contemporary cocktail culture. In recent years, the G&T has grown more baroque, its typical highball-and-a-wedge-of-citrus serve giving way to Spanish-inspired preparations, complete with balloon-like copa glasses and all manner of unusual garnishes.

And now, newer trends are governing the G&T, from the rise of artisanal, house-made tonic syrups to frozen G&T serves to gin and tonics topped with extra savoury garnishes. We certainly advise experimenting – you have all summer long to perfect your special serve, after all – but for now, toast the impending arrival of the season with the classic recipe below. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything more refreshing.

In many ways, the gin and tonic is always evolving, endlessly modifiable, a reflection of changing trends in contemporary cocktail cult

The Gin and Tonic

50ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin

Tonic water (preferably Fever-Tree)

Lemon twist or wedge of lime

Fill a chilled highball glass (or Spanish-style copa) with very cold ice. Pour in the gin and top off with tonic water to taste, gently stirring once or twice to ensure that the G&T is blended. Garnish with a lemon twist or a wedge of fresh lime if you’re after something classic; for something contemporary, feel free to get creative with your garnishes – think spices, fruits, herbs, even edible flowers.

Feature images © hfmhula/iStock; angelsimon/iStock

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