I’ve always, always, always preferred liquor to beer. I’m not sure why, but I think it may have had to do with the freshman ritual of hopping from frat house to frat house, waiting in line for Keystone Light poured from a clumsily-operated keg. I really couldn’t stomach the stuff, much less the smell involved in the whole process. To this day, ingesting two beers makes me feel like I’ve got a Diet Coke and Mentos kind of thing going on in my stomach.
So I became a liquor guy. And over time, I became a guy-who-thinks-he’s-too-good-to-just-bring-a-six-pack-of-beer-to-a-party. I HAAAAAAAATE that guy. But I am him, and he is me. I have collections of bitters, aperitifs, specialty glassware … you name it, pal. Earlier this summer, I went ALONE to one of the most expensive cocktail bars in the entire world so I could sniff my own farts in a too-dark room while I drank cocktails made with amontillado and Cynar produced in the 1970s. So I’m the worst. And whenever I get invited to parties, I’m always tempted to inflict this insufferable part of my personality on others by bringing some fancy cocktail setup. It always goes poorly.
So I was in Spain earlier this summer (I’M ALMOST DONE BEING TERRIBLE, I SWEAR), and discovered a solution to this crisis of being: the humble Gin and Tonic. No, the drink wasn’t invented or popularized in Spain, but at some point they just kinda reclaimed the two-ingredient classic and made it not suck. I’d always hated G&Ts when ordered from a bar. Made with plastic-tasting gin, tonic that’s somehow too bitter and too sweet at the same time, and a half-assed lime wedge, a gin and tonic might serve at best as a drunken changeup between bourbon drinks numbers six and seven. But day-drinkers in Andalucia don’t mess around with bullshit bottom shelf gin and tonic squirted from a bar gun, and you shouldn’t either.
A great G&T brings forward the boozy but herbaceous nature of good gin, accenting it with a subtle bittersweet fizz and a hint of citrus. It’s absolutely perfect, and absolutely indistinguishable from something you’d order at [insert mediocre Oxford bar here.
If you’re ever tempted to bring cocktail fixins for the Grove, consider a setup like this:
For your gin, there are lots of great and pricey bottles; Hendricks is a classic, but you can go even cheaper with Broker’s, Citadelle, or New Amsterdam.
Tonic can be the toughest part; you may need to stop in a specialty grocery store or order something online, but your effort will be well worth it compared to grabbing Scweppes, Seagram’s, or whatever other corn syrup infused tonic you’d get at Kroger. For individually bottled tonics, Fever Tree makes a pretty great one that you may even be able to get at a regular grocery store. It’s also possible to buy tonic syrup that you mix with club soda. This is made by a bar near my home in NC, but there are lots out there to choose from.
Finally, buy lemons instead of limes, use some fancy bulbous glassware if you must, and garnish with a sprig of rosemary if you still want everyone to think you’re hopelessly obnoxious.