Class In A Rocks Glass.
Gin and Tonic: Maybe Not As Simple As You Think.
By Blake on Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Everybody has what they consider to be "their" drink -- and that doesn't include beer, which really is a category unto itself. Furthermore, every region has its own answer as to what is the most commonly ordered well drink in the land.
In Texas, it's all pretty obvious: Men love their whiskey and women love their vodka. And I respect that. But when I order a drink, unless I'm forced into sampling something unusual for the sake of novelty, I go a slightly different route. Me, I like a good gin and tonic. The best thing about this tried-and-true classic? You can order it straight from well most of the time, and you won't even notice a difference.
Basically, a gin and tonic is like a vodka soda with character. And that character can vary vastly from bar to bar as the quality of levels of both tonic water and gin go up and down -- from pleasantly decent one like the one offered at Sundown at Granada to the downright bizarre, "Is there cigarette juice in this?" vibe in the one you'll get at j. Pepe's.
Surprisingly, the best in town is the so-called "Perfect Gin & Tonic" offered at Renfield's Corner in Uptown. There, the drink is served with Hendrick's Gin in a glass, with a bottle of Fentiman's Naturally Brewed Tonic Water. The bartenders want you to mix the yourself, which not only makes the drink a unique purchase but also gets me excited just thinking about it.
It's not the only good gin and tonic in town, though. Over at The Bar at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, they make their own tonic water with powder and soda water and mix it with No. 209 gin and simple syrup. That's just straight-up class right there.
And it's a spot-on process, too: Surprisingly, the quality of the tonic water is truly what makes this drink work. And that's been the case since its origin in 19th Century British India.
Tonic, as you may or may not know, is an interesting beast unto itself. Have you ever really looked at a bottle of tonic water? It always comes with that little warning label on it with the words "Contains Quinine."
You can pretty much ignore that warning; the level of quinine found in tonic these days is so negligible that you'd need to drink gallons of it before you ever noticed any sort of symptoms.
But quinine, it should be noted, has a pretty interesting back story.
It was the first chemical found to help treat and prevent malaria way back in 1630s Rome. Back then, you had to gnaw on the bark of cinchona trees to get your medicine. Later centuries' options weren't much better. In 19th Century British India, malaria was a big scare, and the thousands of British soldiers occupying the land were finding it incredibly difficult to deal with the mosquito-infested marshes of southern India -- especially as compared to the cool sunless drear of England. So British doctors mixed the medicinal quinine, at this point a 200-year-old entity, into water as treatment method. The British soldiers, loving their gin, began mixing their liquor into the tonic water in order to make the medicinal concoction easier to drink.
Allow me to emphasize that last point for a moment: British people are so amazing that they actually mix liquor into things to make them easier to drink.
These days, tonic's not nearly that harsh. Go back to that bottle I mentioned earlier and check the ingredients. It's not just quinine and water. It's soda water, sugar, potassium carbonate -- you know, ingredients that work really hard to hide the bitter and unpalatable taste of what was once quite literally tree bark.
And, overall, liquor and tonic water are just made way better now than they ever were back then. But, regardless, the history of this drink is still pretty amazing. The same just can't be said for something boring like a vodka soda.
Plus, tonic water glows in the dark under black light. So there's that.