I drink a lot of gin and tonics. Mostly this is a function of the fact that I don’t drink beer, rarely drink wine and, while I like a good cider, am rarely in the mood for it.
That being said, I’ve always really liked the gin and tonic. It’s a nice drink.
When talking with Ryan Alexander over drinks one evening, he reported some experimentation he’d done, trying to find the best gin and tonic combination.
This struck me as a good idea. I must admit, most of the gin and tonics I’ve consumed in my life have been schweppes and bombay sapphire. It’s a perfectly serviceable drink, but surely with better ingredients it could be a better drink?
So I set forth and bought lots of nice gin and some nice tonic water and began to experiment.
As it turned out, what I discovered is that I really like gin without the tonic water. Once you use a decent gin, it has much more possibilities than just drowning out the flavour with quinine and sugar. Don’t get me wrong, I still really like gin and tonics, particularly if you use one of the more spicy gins, but I also really like neat gin, and martinis.
The following are the gins I have tried over the last few weeks:
- Whitley Neill
- Tanqueray No. 10
- No 3. London Dry Gin
- Sacred Gin
- Dry Fly Gin
I’d also previously had:
- Tanqueray export strength
- Bombay sapphire
Of the new ones, the only one I really didn’t like was the Dry Fly. It has weird overtones of whiskey and salt (really. It’s based on a wheat liquor and actually does have added salt). I feel like there might be something it’s good in (I keep meaning to try it in a ruddy mary), but I’ve not found it so far.
The ones I would recommend unreservedly are the Whitley Neill and the Sipsmith. The Whitley Neill is quite mild – don’t use it in a G&T, it will drown, but it’s very nice neat and quite good in a martini. The Sipsmith has a similar flavour to it, but much more of a kick (tastewise – they’re about the same in alcohol content with the Whitley Neill actually fractionally stronger). It seems to be very versatile – it produces good martinis, good gin and tonics and is rather nice neat. If I were drinking the gin neat I’d probably choose the Whitley Neill, but for the other uses the Sipsmith seems nicer to me.
(Side note: As you’re probably noting, this isn’t a proper formal alcohol review. This is more just “This is what I tried, these are what I liked”).
For gin and tonics, the combination I’ve been really liking is the Aviation with Fever Tree tonic water. The Aviation is quite spicy (though less so than the Tanqueray) and so the flavour is easily discernable through the otherwise quite strong tasting Fever Tree.
The Sacred gin is nice, but until today I’d not found anything I really liked it in – it has a bit of an odd flavour neat, and I felt that while it was nice in a G&T it wasn’t really living up to its promise. Today I tried it in a classic martini (about 3 parts gin to 1 part vermouth) with Noilly Prat vermouth, which was excellent. This may be my new favourite Martini (although admittedly I’m not yet a connoisseur of the subject).
All told, this has been a really good learning experience. Gin is much more interesting a drink than I had previously realised, and significantly more versatile.
The only downside is that I now have ten bottles of gin in my flat. Oh well. Bottoms up!
How would you compare those “new gins” (Whitley Neill, Sipsmith) to the Hendricks (my most favorite)?
I was recently pleasantly surprised with a gin from the Vom Fass franchise. It is half the price of Hendricks and tastes almost as good.
Great to see people experimenting more with gin.
I am surprised that you don’t make more mention of No.3 – this stuff blew my little mind when I tried it a few weeks ago. Incredible stuff and almost a sacrilege to mix with anything.
I am a great fan of Whitley Neill, Sipsmith and Tanqueray 10 in a G&T. You need a fairly mild tonic for Whitley Neill, but Fever-Tree works well. Try the “naturally light” Fever-Tree – it is less sweet and has a less dominating flavour than the normal variety.
Brecon gin is worth seeking out – about as good as Sipsmith, but about £8 less on the bottle price. Oxley is tremendous, but only comes in litre bottles, and isn’t cheap – well worth treating yourself though.
I think Sipsmith and Fever-Tree is about the best G&T I have come across to date. It really comes alive with a big ol’ wedge of lime as well.
I have yet to try Dry Fly or Aviation but from your description, I might leave the Dry Fly alone.
Have fun with those ten bottles.
cl: I’m embarrassed to say that I was so excited about all my new bottles of gin that I haven’t done a side by side tasting with the Hendricks (which I also really like). I shall endeavour to do so later this week and will post the results.
GinJourney: I actually read your blog as part of the decision making process! The Whitley Neill and the Sipsmith were both bought on the strength of it.
I have to say, I didn’t really like the No. 3. It’s not that it was bad, it’s just the flavour didn’t really grab me. Maybe I should have another go at it.
Thanks for the recommendation of Fever Tree’s “naturally light”. I didn’t realise that existed, and will give it a try. I like the fever tree tonic water, but it’s really got an overpowering amount of flavour for all but the strongest tasting gins.
Haha! I am flattered, and glad that my ramblings are of some use.
The Naturally light Fever-Tree can be tricky to find sometimes. Waitrose stock it and I think that Sainsbury’s might, but Tesco doesn’t (at least mine doesn’t). It is subtle enough that you can taste the underlying carbonated water.
Definitely of use. There was a lot to choose from, and having reviews of some good ones really helped.
I do all my shopping at Ocado these days (as part of my ongoing transformation into being a thoroughly stereotypical middle class lefty. Sigh), so fever tree is fortunately easy to obtain. They do seem to have the naturally light variety, so will be getting some of that as part of the next order. Thanks.
Oh, and RE the dry fly: It’s probably an acquired taste. I’m sure some people would really like it, but I just found it weird and off putting.
I’m a long way off being a connoisseur, and I know I’ve mentioned at least one of these to you before, but for reference my two favourites are Bulldog and Miller’s. Cheers!
I was at a bar the other night and was having a chat about gin with the bartender. At some point during this chat (I think when he was taking another bottle in front of it down) he pointed to the bulldog and said “By the way, if anyone tries to tell you this is a good gin, they’re lying”. This amused me. :-) I should have asked to try some to verify.
Miller’s is a recent discovery for me, but I do rather like it.