How to build summer out of gin, tonic and lime

Special to WJW

Mixing a cocktail is not an exact science, so recipes and measurements should be thought of as guides, rather than rules chiseled in stone. At all times, mix according to taste. Similarly, the two basic secrets to mixing a fantastic cocktail are (1) to use fresh, good quality ingredients and (2) to make certain that all the flavors are in harmony, so that each ingredient’s contribution is felt, but nothing overpowers or clashes.

A great starting point is a classic gin and tonic.

Novelist and infamous drinker Kingsley Amis, in his book “On Drink,” quipped: “It would be rather shabby to take money for explaining that, for instance, a gin and tonic consists of gin and tonic, plus ice and a slice of lemon.”

Yet even something so simple is so often done badly. When well made, a G&T is refreshing, clean, sparkling, bitter, sweet and helps take the edge off. When badly made, the drink is a depressing mess. At too many bars, a G&T means cheap gin, bad ice, mediocre and too-sweet tonic from the soda gun, and a sad looking garnish. Why pay for that? Instead, make it well at home and decompress a little.

The key to unlocking the secret of the gin and tonic is to balance the bitterness of the tonic against the juniper and other flavors in the gin, while making sure that the juniper stays subtly on top. Use fresh fruit, super cold, hard ice and a quality, though not too expensive, London Dry-style gin like Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray, and decently bitter tonic water like Schweppes.

In a well-chilled highball glass, pour 2 ounces of gin, 4 ounces of tonic water (if the tonic runs sweet, cut it 1:1 with soda water), 2-3 large ice cubes of ice. Stir briefly and add a fresh lime or lemon wedge for garnish. Traditionally, lime is the fruit of choice, but either does the job.

Or consider the Gin Fizz, a delicious and refreshing classic. In a cocktail shaker 3/4 full of hard, cold ice, add 2 ounces of gin, 3/4 of an ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1 teaspoon sugar (or 1 ounce simple syrup), then shake it like you mean it and strain into a chilled highball glass with ice. Top up with club soda and drink.

For a delicious lime version of the Gin Fizz, the Rickey is a beguiling and refreshing yet super simple cocktail, and is also Washington’s native cocktail. Invented in 1883 by bartender George Williamson Shoemaker’s, located at 1331 E St. NW, where the Marriott now stands, the Rickey was named for Democratic lobbyist Col. Joe Rickey. Here’s how to tackle it:
Pour 2 ounces of gin, half a lime squeezed (roughly half an ounce) and dropped into the glass, topped up with soda water.

Originally made with bourbon, by the 1890s it was mostly made with gin, and so it remains today. Give it a sip and you’ll understand why.

If you get stuck as the designated driver and need to skip the booze, a really brilliant virgin Rickey can be made by increasing the fresh lime juice to 3/4 of an ounce, adding 1 teaspoon of sugar or 1 ounce of simple syrup, and 3 dashes of Angostura bitters. Top with soda water, garnish with a slice of lime — makes for a most agreeable substitute. L’chaim! n

Have a question on wine or liquor?
Email lchaimqs@gmail.com

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