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On the Bar: Gin and tonic doesn't have to be basic

on the bar gin and tonic

A gin and tonic doesn’t have to be just a boring old gin and tonic.

Everyone knows how to make a gin and tonic; the recipe is right there in the name.

But not everyone knows how to make a really good one. Mostly it’s in the ingredients. You need a good, sturdy gin, something that will be complemented rather than overwhelmed by the bittersweet flavor of tonic water. And you need good tonic, something with a healthy dose of quinine, good carbonation and no high-fructose corn syrup. Also, you need a lime or a lemon. Well, you don’t need one. But it helps.

I think Beefeater works really well with tonic. But whatever gin you like will work. (My father in-law swears by Hendrick’s and tonic, which is made with cucumber and rose and has a very specific flavor. I like it, too. But I don’t expect it works as universally as a good ol’ London dry gin. My point is: Use what you like.)

As for the tonic, we’re well beyond the days of just Schweppes and Canada Dry. There are plenty of good, widely available brands on the market, including Fever Tree and Q, which are at stores all over Yakima. The former is my preference when cost is no object. But it can run as high as $8 for a four-pack of 6.8-ounce bottles, so I look for it on sale. When it’s not, Q is a nice, highly carbonated (if somewhat less flavorful) standby.

Once you’ve got your gin and tonic, you’re ready to mix up a, uh, gin and tonic. I generally go with about 2 ounces of gin and about 4 ounces of tonic. Simple enough.

But there are some finer points based on personal taste. My wife, for instance, prefers hers with a splash of St. Germain elderflower liqueur (accepting Fever Tree elderflower tonic as a pale substitute when we don’t have St. Germain on hand). And she likes her lime muddled in the glass with a bit of the gin, which releases bitter, fragrant oils from the peel in addition to the juice. I tend to just squeeze my limes, and I omit the St. Germain, but I do sometimes add a dash of Angostura Bitters.

These things, of course, are all optional. The important thing is using a gin you like and springing for a decent tonic. If you’ve got those, you’ve got what you need for a gin and tonic. And, brother, with August in Yakima upon us, you’re going to want one.

Gin and tonic

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 4-6 ounces tonic
  • Lime or lemon wedge(s) to taste

Add gin and tonic and squeeze of citrus to highball glass with plenty of ice. Stir gently. (If you’d like to muddle your citrus rather than just squeeze it, add a half ounce of your gin to the glass first and muddle it in that. Then add ice and build the rest of the drink. Additives such as a splash of St. Germain or a dash of Angostura Bitters can be added at any point.)

Reach Pat Muir at

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