Why You Should Drink Gin And Tonic In A Balloon-Shaped Glass

While you may associate the gin and tonic with the British — they are, after all, the people who spread the drink far and wide — it's the Spanish who came up with the best way to experience this summer staple. This mixed drink — not to be confused with a cocktail, which contains more ingredients — has a storied past as does the Spanish contribution to the perfect G&T drinking experience. Yet, gin is a Dutch invention that was used medicinally as far back as the 1600s. Tonic, which contains quinine, helped fight off malaria, a potentially deadly disease and became available commercially back in the 1850s.


The birth of the drink as we know it today is a little hazy, but by 1868, the British in India were consuming G&Ts aplenty. The Brits also came up with the idea of tossing in lime to prevent scurvy, a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C. But, it was the Spanish who invented the glassware that provides the best G&T drinking experience bar none. Their contribution, the Copa de Balon, looks similar to a red wine glass and helps concentrate the aromas of the gin as you sip your drink.

History in a glass

Alcohol and glassware have a long and intertwined history, from wine to cocktails to beer. The role of your beer glass is more important than you think since they're designed to enhance a beer's unique flavors. Just ask the Belgians, who have raised the beer and glassware game to the ultimate level (I once had a homebrew in Ghent that had a special glass. Yes, they are serious about it). Like different kinds of beer and their unique glasses, a gin and tonic is best served in a Copa de Balon for the same reason.


The Copa de Balon was born in the Basque region of Northern Spain in the 1700s. The name, which translates to "ball cup," is bulbous, deep, and has a stem to keep your hands from warming the contents. While the Brits drink their G&Ts from a tall Collins glass, you won't get the same sensory experience as with the Copa de Balon.

How the Copa de Balon enhances a gin & tonic

Since the gin and tonic is such a simple drink — gin, tonic, and lime — anything that enhances the drinking experience can be a big plus. While gin's main ingredient is juniper berries, several other botanicals may be inside, from licorice to coriander to dried citrus, depending on the kind of gin. A glass that helps focus gin's various aromas on the nose amplifies the drinking experience via both taste and smell.


The deep bottom of this glass also allows you to swish the G&T around to release even more of the flavors within. And as a bonus, it's big enough to add plenty of ice to keep it at the perfect temperature during the hot summer days that call for this drink. So next time you're enjoying a gin and tonic in the proper glassware, raise a toast to the Spanish for helping make this mixed drink even better. Note: If you can't get your hands on a Copa de Balon, a red wine glass will suffice since it has a similar design to focus the aromas towards the nose.