It’s hard to imagine, but the quintessentially British drink of gin and tonic started its life in the 16th century as a medicine for kidney problems - thank you Dr Franciscus Sylvus. Despite its beginnings, though, the drink’s past wasn’t always so worthy.
Gin became notorious as the drink of the poor bringing madness and starvation to the streets of England in the 18th century as depicted by William Hogarth in the print Gin Lane. Thanks to the Tippling Act in 1751 small gin-shops were eliminated, and the distribution of gin passed to large distillers and retailers which improved not only the quality of the drink but also raised its profile and gradually gin became known as a gentleman’s drink.
The successful marriage of gin to tonic is thanks to the British colonisation in the Indian subcontinent. Malaria was a huge problem and adding quinine to tonic water for prevention may have helped, but the taste was vile so the addition of gin helped mask the flavor - the rest is history.
Making the perfect gin and tonic is, and probably always will be, a subject guaranteed to create debate and argument amongst the British. Which Gin - lemon or lime - the proportion of gin to tonic - to stir or not to stir? Everyone has an opinion.
My husband is the G & T-mixer in this house, and this is his preferred combination Lime in the gin and stir.
His Favourite Recipe
Fill a high-ball glass with ice, add 1 part gin (50 ml) he likes (Bombay Sapphire the best) to three parts tonic water (Fevertree if possible) (150 ml), 1 slice lime and mix well.
The Rise of the Gin Menu
In recent years, and we are not talking above around 5, there has been a massive surge of new craft gins. These are gin distillers working on a pretty small scale and working closely with different botanicals and styles.
These craft gins are much sought after and vary so much in style and flavour that they have formed their own sub-culture of the where; why and what's of the gin world. Fall lucky with a bar stocked with gin and they will usually let you taste a number to sample before you buy. There is no risk if the gin you like is there, otherwise it is the ones you buy they are dependent on.