London’s Best Gin and Tonics
The gin and tonic is the perfect summertime drink. It’s frosty, perfectly balanced and has just enough complexity. At least, that’s how it should be. Gin and tonic were first combined by British officers in India in the 19th Century, in order to mask the taste of their daily ration of quinine, which was taken for its anti-malarial properties. The G & T is a simple drink, really, yet there are many who quibble over the correct choice of glass, booze, tonic, ice and garnish. Here are 6 of London’s best.
The American Bar at The Savoy
The American Bar is legendary for its string of famous bartenders and celebrity guests; everyone should go at least once. Sit at the bar and watch while your superb G & T is put together by staff in immaculate cream three piece suits. In fact, the service at The American Bar is probably some of the best you’ll experience. There’s also a chap tinkling on a piano, and he takes requests. The G & T is as frosty as you like, due to lots of very good quality ice, something which The American Bar considers to be essential.
Bob Bob Ricard
The signature drink at this Soho pleasure palace is the rhubarb gin and tonic. It’s pretty as you like, made with a poached rhubarb syrup, and gin that isn’t too heavy on the botanicals, meaning the fragrance of the rhubarb really comes through. One of the best things about it however is the light, frothy top, which is apparently made without the use of egg whites. Skills. Bartenders match the drinks in pastel pink jackets and the room is so glamorous you’ll feel like a million dollars and never want to leave. www.bobbobricard.com
Bars don’t come more British than that above Rules, which claims to be London’s oldest restaurant. It’s as old school as they come, with taxidermy, heavy carpets, open fireplaces and a bar that positively glistens with love and care. Mike Cook heads the team now, and they turn out some perfectly balanced G & T’s, with Tanqueray Export as standard. The glass is rimmed with a lime wedge, and they only use Schweppes tonic. Mike says, “we are a classic bar, and we serve it the classic way.”
69 Colebrook Row
This award winning cocktail bar in Islington makes a stunner of a G & T. Owner and bar whizz kid Tony Conigliaro is a big fan of Beefeater gin, as am I. The flavours of Seville orange and juniper match well with the tonic, and it’s an excellent all-round gin. The G & T here is as good as they come: highball glass filled to the very top with ice, a double serving of gin, an individual bottle of tonic, and a slice of…lemon. The lime versus lemon debate rages in the world of G & Ts as some feel that the lime kills the flavours of the botanicals in some gins. Whichever fruit is used, the juice should never be squeezed into the glass - it’s overwhelming. A garnish should be primarily for the nose, not the tongue.
This 13th Century Georgian townhouse also has an excellent cocktail lounge. If you like to sup your G & T in the comfort of a velvet-covered armchair while admiring the stuffed cat in Victorian attire in the corner, then the Zetter is the place for you. It feels like a very British, very eccentric guesthouse more than a bar or hotel, but the attention to detail in the G & T is first rate.
London Gin Club
If it’s a variety of gins you’re after then you can’t beat the London Gin Club. They also pride themselves on “serving one of the best gin and tonics in London” which, in case you’ve not noticed, is what this is all about. The garnishes are individually matched to the botanicals in each gin, and the come in a ‘copa’ glass - a balloon atop a stem which not only allows for the botanicals to really circulate, but it means more ice can be packed into the glass. There is one thing a G & T should never be, and that is warm.
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Helen is a food and travel writer based in Peckham, South East London. She is the author of the book 101 Sandwiches and the blogs Food Stories, and The London Review of Sandwiches. She has written for The Guardian, The Times, The Evening Standard, Sainsbury’s Magazine and various other publications. Her writing and recipes are inspired by the diversity of London and her travels and she is a sandwich and jerk chicken addict. She spent six years perfecting her recipe for jerk marinade, which is available to buy via her blog and in various shops in London. She won the fresh faces in food writing award at the Young British Foodie Awards in 2013 where judge Ottolenghi praised her ‘jaw droppingly foul mouth’. She is also studying for a PhD in psychological medicine. Follow Helen on Twitter @FoodStories.'