The Spanish G&T: A Q&A With Silvia Dorninger, Crepes Al Born

Some prefer it classic, some prefer it garnished. But undoubtedly one of the most frequently asked questions is: What makes the Spanish Gin & Tonic so delectably pleasant?!

Sure, the Dutch invented gin, and sure the British added the tonic, but how did the Spanish perfect the art of the Gin & Tonic? Following the mid-century boom of the G&T, the nature of the beverage underwent a continental makeover. The Spanish gin tonica was unprecedented; both in taste and style.

In order to uncover the secrets of the Spanish G&T, Top Note traveled to some of the best bars in Spain, where we found ourselves at the famed Crepes Al Born. One of the most popular nightlife spots in Barcelona, Crepes Al Born serves high-quality, unpretentious cocktails. The bartenders pair their best smiles with excellent music, giving the overhead lights a massive swing each time a new song plays through the speakers.

It was here that we met bartender Silvia Dorninger, who spoke with us about her experience with and opinions about the mysterious Spanish G&T.

Silvia Dorninger

Q: What's your trademark G&T recipe?
Silvia Dorninger: Over the past few years, the G&T has undergone a revolution of sorts; now it‘s extremely unique as it's all about infusions, different tastes of tonic, and a lot of garnish. I personally like herbal, citrusy and fresh-tasting gins. I like to taste the gin, so I refrain from overpowering the drink with tonic. If you have a gin that goes in a more “special” direction, it makes more sense to stick to a standard tonic. However with a London dry, I like to supplement the tonic with garnish. For me, garnish should be like the hug at the end, the added touch. I like rosemary and thyme, as well as a lemon or grapefruit twist. And I have nothing against a fresh peeled cucumber!

Q: What is it that makes the Spanish G&T special?
SD: Well, the G&T is a go-to drink for the Spaniards, and what I realized is that they like to choose infused gins with very specific tonics and garnishes, 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 balloon glass to a basic Collins glass.

Q: Why is the tonic so important when making a G&T?
SD: For me, the tonic should never be overpowering. It should be the hug that makes for a round finish to the drink. 

Q: What are some things people may not know about the Spanish G&T?
SD: 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, tonics also have a wide range of flavors.

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 the Gin & Tonic 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.

Now that you know the basics, check out Top Note's recipe for the Spanish G&T!

Top Note produces a range of tonics to complement a variety of gins. We recommend pairing our Classic Tonic with London Dry's, Indian Tonic with more modern, herbaceous gins, and Bitter Lemon as a unique mixer for citrus and spice-forward gins.

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