The tinkle of its ice cubes signals refreshing cocktail relief — something cool, dry, and clear. A gin and tonic is everything we crave in the muggy, hot summer doldrums. Why is that?
For the same reason lemonade slakes our thirst, says Dianne de la Veaux, professional chef and mixologist in New York City. "Bitter and sour flavors are perceived as refreshing by the palate," she says, "and with a gin and tonic, you usually have lime with it and just enough sweetness to make it easy to drink."
When the classic G&T gets boring, there's no end to the ways you can mix it up. De la Veaux created a new gin and tonic recipe by infusing her Dorothy Parker gin with leftover Key lime shells (the remains after being zested and juiced) and slices of ginger. Then de la Veaux added a touch of hibiscus flower Hella Tonic syrup, along with a squeeze of lime juice and Q tonic, a brand that uses agave nectar instead of high fructose corn syrup.
As for the basics: Gin is a clear alcohol made from distilled grain or malt that tastes predominately of juniper berries. Unlike other liquors, gin has loose definition other than that, so the taste of gin among each distiller is enormously diverse and often has citrus, nuts, herbs, and cucumbers added to it. Tonic water is different from club soda and soda water because, while it's also a carbonated water, it has quinine, a bitter-flavored cinchona bark that used to be a malaria drug for sailors visiting the tropics. Legend has it, gin was added to the quinine tonic water to make it taste less bitter. (Tonic water has a lot less quinine in there now.)
One ingredient just can't be excluded from a gin and tonic, de la Veaux says.
"I probably wouldn't bother if I didn't have a lime," de la Veaux says. "Sometimes with other drinks, the lemon or lime garnish is superfluous, but with a gin and tonic, the lime is essential."
Our classic recipe has all the essentials, but as for the rest, well … see for yourself how we mix it up.
1. Gin and Tonic
When you want a classic gin and tonic, this is the recipe that gets it done. Take note of the ratios and technique. It's simple, but a few things can be improved upon. Get our Gin and Tonic recipe.
2. Gin and Tonic, Barcelona Style
Spain is a gin and tonic swilling country. One of their most celebrated cities has its own angle on it too, involving a lemon twist, rosemary sprig, sea salt, caperberry, small, mild, aromatic olives, Plymouth gin, and Indian tonic water. Get our Gin and Tonic, Barcelona Style recipe.
3. Virgin Gin and Tonic
Making a nonalcoholic rendition of a cocktail that uses only two (or three, if you count the lime) ingredients actually takes a lot more ingredients. Get our Virgin Gin and Tonic recipe.
4. Glow-in-the-Dark Gin and Tonic Jelly
Did you know if you shine a black light on tonic water, it will glow in the dark? The quinine in it is sensitive to ultra-violet light. Just add gelatin to your gin and tonic and make it in molds or little plastic cups for Halloween, a weird party, or you know, Tuesday. Get our Glow-in-the-Dark Gin and Tonic Jelly recipe.
5. Spiced Gin and Tonic
A dry gin like Bluecoat or Beefeater complements the homemade spiced tonic water needed in this cocktail. You'll infuse the tonic water with juniper berries, orange peel, Sichuan peppercorns, and cardamom pods for a real full-bodied spicy flavor. Get our Spiced Gin and Tonic recipe.
6. Bloody Strawberry Gin and Tonic
London Dry gin is just buttoned-up enough for half of a blood orange and one large strawberry, along with the tonic. Get our Bloody Strawberry Gin and Tonic recipe.
7. A G&T with Juniper and Bay Leaf Syrup
Infuse your sugar syrup with juniper berries and bay leaves, which mimics the herbaceous and menthol taste of London dry gin. Then proceed with your usual gin and tonic, adding the syrup to taste. Get our Juniper and Bay Leaf Syrup recipe.
8. Tom Collins Cocktail
Admittedly, this has soda water instead of tonic so you don't get that characteristic quinine flavor. It also uses a dash of superfine sugar and a lemon instead of a lime. Get our Tom Collins Cocktail recipe.
9. G&T with Mint Syrup
Some gins already have a menthol taste, so it's no surprise that mint syrup would be a great addition to the classic. Get our Mint Syrup recipe.
10. Raspberry Rose Gin and Tonic
Fresh raspberries, rosewater, sugar, lime, and dried rose petals make this pretty (and pretty wonderful) cocktail. Get the recipe.
11. Melon Gin and Tonic
Blend up some honeydew melon with sugar and water, and strain it so you can add it to your G&T. Get this recipe.
12. St. Germain Gin and Tonic
The addition of St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur is fragrant, delicate French idea. Get the recipe.
13. Ginger and Lime Cocktail
Fresh mint, lime juice, lime bitters and ginger syrup mix with gin, but not tonic. Here, it's ginger beer. Get the recipe.
14. Hibiscus Gin and Tonic
This is not just the Jamaican flower in this G&T. There's also cucumber and grapefruit here. And the hibiscus is infused through tea. Get the recipe.
15. Cucumber Rosemary Gin and Tonic
Cucumber is the natural foil to the herbaceous rosemary, which spruces up your ho-hum gin and tonic without adding any cloying flavors. Get the recipe.
Header Photo: Linnea Covington for NewYork.com
Amy Sowder is a NYC-based food and fitness freelance writer who's also on Chowhound's editorial staff. She loves gooey things, especially cheesy toasties and puns. Ice cream is a strong motivation for her running habit.