So I’ve survived Snowpocalypse 2010. There’s still two feet of snow on the ground, and I plan to distract myself from the big dig-out with a warm-weather drink: a cool, crisp gin and tonic.
Not long ago, a distiller confided to me his recipe for a “perfect gin & tonic.” Sure, it features his gin…but still, I love meeting (and drinking with) distillers. They tend to be intelligent people (often with advanced degrees in engineering or chemistry) and passionate about what they do and what they drink.
So when a distiller makes a cocktail suggestion, I listen.
The distiller in question was Alexandre Gabriel, president of Cognac Ferrand. I’ll spare you the details of our interview, but it’s important to note that his portfolio includes rum (finished in Cognac casks, natch) and Citadelle gin.
Gabriel mentioned that Spain is the number one market for Citadelle, and as a result he travels there frequently.
“Only Spain knows how to make a gin and tonic,” he insisted. “They use a big glass, like a tumbler or a Riedel burgundy glass. They use a full mini bottle (about 1.6 ounces) and then the full bottle of tonic, so the proportions are correct. And lots of good ice, so it refreshes the drink but doesn’t dilute it down. They add lemon, lime, or around Christmas they add a little cinnamon, anise, or nutmeg.”
Say WHAT? To me, a G&T is served in a tall glass, maybe a squeeze of lime, and that’s it. But…nutmeg?
“Oh yes,” Gabriel assured. Further, he continued, in Madrid, there’s a restaurant named Padre, which brings around a G&T cart loaded with different gins (over 200 brand are available in Spain, according to Gabriel), and an array of spices for you to select for your drink. A good gin & tonic, Gabriel said, “should be like being in a garden of spice.”
The verdict: It’s very good. Those who groove on the botanicals in gin will especially love the extra kick and aromatics that fresh spices add to the drink (note – skip the straw so your nose is all but immersed in the pretty fragrances). However, I’m not sure I’d describe this as the ultimate gin & tonic for me. I still prefer the long, tall, cool version.
That said — I can see the potential for adding fresh herbs and spices to G&T’s, Spanish style. I’m still dreaming about the cilantro-and-muddled-lime G&T I recently had at Bar Basque. (They don’t have a G&T cart, but they do have an intriguing G&T menu.)
Alexandre Gabriel’s Recipe for the Perfect Gin & Tonic
1.6 ounces Citadelle Gin
200 ml Fever Tree tonic
Lime or lemon skin (for just a little oil from the peel; not the full wedge)
Grated nutmeg, star anise, or cinnamon stick
In a large tumbler, stir together gin, tonic, and ice. Twist citrus peel over the drink and add to the glass. Garnish with spice and drink (no straw). And as per Gabriel, “Toast to the Spanish!”