Some prefer it classic, some prefer it garnished. But undoubtedly one of the most asked questions is: what makes a Spanish gin & tonic so delectably pleasant? It’s no secret that the Dutch invented gin, and that the British added the tonic, but how did the Spanish perfect the art of the drink? Following the mid-century G&T, the nature of the beverage underwent a continental makeover. The spanish gin tonica was unprecedented; both in taste and style.
Top Note Tonic embarked on a journey through Spain’s best bars to uncover the big secret. We first talked to Silvia Dorninger, a bartender at the famed Crepes Al Born, one of the most popular nightlife bars in Barcelona that serves quality yet unpretentious cocktails. They don their best smiles with excellent music and visitors love the way the bartenders give the overhead lights a massive swing each time a new songs plays through the speakers.
So what exactly did Silvia share with us about her experience and opinion of the G&T? Check out her responses below.
What is your G&T trademark recipe?
Siliva: Over the past few of years, the G&T underwent a revolution of sorts; now it‘s extremely unique as it is all about infusions, different tastes of tonic, and a lot of garnish. I personally like herbal and citrusy fresh gin. I like to taste the gin, so I refrain from overpowering the drink with tonic. If you have a gin which goes in a more “special” direction, it makes more sense to stick to standard tonic (try Top Note’s Indian Tonic). However with a london dry, I like to supplement the tonic with garnish. For me, garnish, it should be like the hug at the end: the added touch. I also like rosemary and thyme, as well as a lemon or grapefruit twist. And I have nothing against a fresh peeled cucumber….
In your opinion, what is special about the Spanish G&T?
Silvia: Well, the G&T is a go-to drink for the Spaniards, and what I realized is that they likely choose an infused gin and have a preference for the tonic (if it is available), so they like interesting combinations where the garnish is very specific, almost classifying it under the cocktail category rather than the simple mixer category. Additionally, the glassware is extremely important for Spanish people, who often prefer an elegant, sexy ballon glass to a basic collins glass.
To summarize, notable attractions are: the combination of tastes (with gins and tonics being meticulously paired), the range of colors (caused by the large variety of tonics), the appearance (highball glasses as opposed to copas) and garnish.
Why is the choice of the tonic so important when making a G&T?
Silvia: For me, a tonic should never be overpowering. It should be the hug in a meaning of giving a round and finishing taste.
What are some facts that people may not know about the tonic?
Silvia: Taste is the final measure of quality. Not the price, the brand, the color nor the cool logo on the bottle. Be open.. that's the key. Trust the bartender and welcome new combinations because similar to the gin, there are also varied tastes depending on each tonic.
In the wise words of Cognac-Ferrand president Alexandre Gabriel, “Only Spain knows how to make a gin and tonic”. The constantly evolving history of gin is intriguing, and the future surely has much more to offer, but one thing is for certain: Spain’s standard has raised the bar to new heights.