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The quest for the perfect gin and tonic, the perfect cocktail, taste, or recipe can be compared to the search for the philosopher’s stone (an elusive or imaginary key of metal transmutation), but this time applied to the purely subjective conscious interpretation of the “perfect flavor.”
The flavor decisions we make every day are personal, highly subjective, nonobjectifiable, and depend on multiple factors such as:
- cultural background
- age and sensory perceptions
- time of the day, etc.
Does that mean the perfect flavor does not exist? The answer can be both yes and no; if one is concerned with only personal experience, then yes, the ideal taste does exist as it is based solely on our expectations and likings. On the other hand, if one is preoccupied with finding the absolute perfect flavor liked by everyone, the answer probably is No.
That means that the only objective way left for us is to approach the perfect drink from a scientific point of view. I am not sure if it will make any difference and help us serve and make the best drink there is, but when I recently came across an article1 about Natalie Alibrandi and her scientific approach to discovering the perfect GT, it certainly grabbed my attention.
Natalie Alibrandi, a food industry consultant from the UK, discovered that a crescent-shaped ice cube is essential to ensure it melts as slowly as possible to avoid diluting the drink.
The expert’s perfect gin and tonic must be served in the right glass at the ideal temperature.
10-Step Recipe For a Perfect Gin and Tonic
- Chill your gin
- Chill a Copa de Balon (ballon) glass
- Chilled tonic water
- Make fresh crescent-shaped ice cubes
- Use small units of tonic water with higher carbonation from a single-serve can or glass bottle.
- Fill the chilled glass to the rim with fresh ice cubes
- Pour 50ml chilled London Dry Gin into the glass
- Pour 150ml chilled tonic water into the glass
- Garnish using a piece of lemongrass, dried mango, and a sprig of pine
- Gently stir and enjoy within 30 minutes
Ideal G&T Mesurements
- Glass capacity = 500 – 800 ml
- Glass stem length = 9.5 – 12.5 cm
- Glass rim diameter = 75 – 95 mm
- Ice = 0.5 x 1.13 x 1.5 inches (crescent-shaped)
- Tonic carbonation = 4.5 CO₂
- Tonic-to-Gin ratio = 3:1
- Gin temperature = -18ºC
- Glass temperature = -4ºC
- Tonic water temperature = 5ºC
- Number of stirs = Up to two
The shape of the ice is also essential – the larger the surface area, the more quickly it melts, and as more of it is exposed to the warmer liquid.
Behind each of those steps, there is a reason for which most people surely can agree based on their personal experience.
- A colder beverage reduces the sharp aftertaste from the alcohol. Have you ever tried ice cold grappa, rakia, or vodka served in chilled glasses?
- The ideal receptacle for the drink is the Copa de Balon, or balloon gin glass, which has a bulbous shape and thin stem, Alibrandi claims in a study commissioned by spirits company Quintessential Brands.
- Its large volume can hold plenty of ice, while the stem is designed to keep warm hands away from the cup, ensuring the ice is not melted.
- The balloon shape allows botanical aromas and vapors to be contained within the glass for a more aromatic drinking experience for the palate and nose.
Tonik Carbonation Level
‘A carbonation level of 4.5 CO₂ is ideal, as lower carbonation will have lower CO₂ retention and lose the desired bubbles and mouthfeel over time.
According to Alibrandi.
‘A tonic water with higher carbonation is best… ‘By opting for tonic water with a carbonation level of 4.5 it will have prolonged stability, allowing you to enjoy your G&T for longer.
Large plastic bottles do not maintain the carbonation of the liquid as well as cans or glass bottles, and they tend to have more permeability to air.
Single-serve, recyclable mini cans or glass bottles will produce the optimum drink, as the more times the receptacle is opened, the more bubbles are lost.
The tonic should be poured in slowly and never stirred more than twice, or else you run the risk of your drink losing the fizz too quickly.
It is also important the ice melts slowly and does not dilute the cocktail, so the more ice cubes, the better.
The optimal ice shape in a gin and tonic is crescent, which keeps its shape longer than a cube and melts more slowly not to dilute the cocktail as you drink it.
The shape of the ice is also essential – the larger the surface area, the quicker it melts, and as more of it is exposed to the warmer liquid.
While the most common ice shape is a cube or cuboid, easily made in ice trays, this has a large surface-area-to-volume ratio and melts faster.
The optimal ice shape is crescent, which is much more solid, so it keeps its shape longer and melts more slowly.
It is also more slender than rectangular ice cubes, allowing for more ice in the glass.
The liquid’s temperature is also significant and should be kept as cool as possible to prevent the ice from melting too quickly,
The gin should be kept in the freezer.
Gin contains terpenoid compounds which are responsible for its complex flavor profile.
Terpenes are scent molecules found in plants and add to the unique aroma and flavor profiles of different ingredients, including gin.
Alibrandi found that the most common terpenes in London Dry Gin were best complemented by the unusual garnish combination of mango and pine – instead of the traditional lime slice.
How To Drink It
Natalie Alibrandi adds it is also important not to drink your cocktail with a straw, as sipping from the glass provides more aroma and enhances the experience.
A neutral palette is best to enjoy the complex flavors of a G&T and it should always be drunk responsibly for optimal enjoyment. You shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach due to the speed at which it passes through your stomach and enters the small intestine and be careful not to drink it too quickly.N. Alibrandi
The Best Foods to have with a G&T
Floral or fruit gin – Citrus dessert, e.g., Chamomile and lemon baked apples.
Spice gin – Savory dish, e.g., Salmon or an herb-based pasta dish.
London Dry Gin – Cheeseboard, e.g., Smoked Gouda.
The perfect food to enjoy alongside your drink depends on the flavor profile of your gin of choice.
- A floral or fruity gin goes well with citrus flavors as they enhance the refreshing notes and the terpenes found in the gin.
- Spice gin commonly contains the terpene Myrcene, which pairs well with savory dishes as they enhance its herbal and citrus notes.
- A strong, smoky cheeseboard provides the ultimate combination for a classic London dry gin.
- The contrasting flavors of cheese and gin work as an excellent pairing, and the bitterness of the tonic acts as a refreshing palette cleanser for maximum enjoyment.
Whether we agree or disagree with the above experiment results is not that important, as we all have different flavor perceptions and expectations.
However, at the same time the conclusions of this experiment are also valuable as they give us different ideas and approach of enjoying a well-known drink.
We will never know until we try it. It might be just that elusive perfect taste we are all after.