A tale of two letters: G and T

Ah yes, the classic Gin and Tonic. There’s an old saying that everyone has a tequila story, but in my experience, more fun people have a gin story. Gin stories are usually better—I mean, I’ve seen a lot of them unfold from behind the bar (not encouraging tomfoolery; I’m merely stating facts, okay? Drink responsibly. Thanks.).

Believe it or not, like many a classic cocktail, the Gin and Tonic’s roots are medicinal. Gin, a 17th century Dutch invention blending botanicals such as juniper (Genever in Dutch), star anise and coriander, is distilled with malt to produce a juniper-dense spirit thought to sooth various ailments. Called Genever, the clear liquid was rationed to Dutch soldiers as “Dutch courage” and during the horrific Thirty Years War of 1618 to 1648, opposing Brit soldiers would come to taste and love courage-inducing Genever, too.

As we know, the Brits like to steal things (see: land). They take Genever back to England where they start making their own under the distilled name of Gin (I know, I know—they didn’t get too creative with a knockoff name). Suddenly, bathtubs everywhere become distilleries for Gin lovers. The country goes to “ruin,” so the tabloids report, under the craze of Gin. Would love to hear some gin stories from those days.

So much for the medicinal purposes. But hold on. Then the tonic comes in.

Travel years ahead to the mid 1800s and the Brits are stealing yet again, colonizing far and wide. With their sights set on warmer regions, Brit sailors find themselves in the malaria-infested soils of South Asia and Africa. Infection runs rampant, so they drink Indian quinine tonic. Made from the bitter cinchona bark, quinine tonic is considered a treatment for malaria. The Brits, again so sensible, add sugar and their favorite spirit, Gin. Thieves perhaps, but also pioneers of mixology.

Nowadays, anything goes with a Gin and Tonic, and they’ve recently become more mainstream. Take Andrew Scott, the notorious priest in the hit series, Fleabag, entertaining Phoebe Waller-Bridge with a “Gin in a Tin,” a canned G&T from the likes of Britain’s retailer Marks and Spencer’s. Canned G&T’s started flying off the shelves in the U.K. after this appearance. Hell, you put anything in a can nowadays, and the people love it. But we aren’t here for canned cocktails today. We, like the thieving Brits, are mixologists.

The Gin and Tonic, like a good roux, can take on a variety of flavors and still stand up to the serious bartender’s raised brow. I’m game for just about anything in my G and T. Dive into your fridge and pull out that Granny Smith apple, dice it and throw it in with a dash of lime and a sprig of rosemary. Fresh fruit, frozen fruit, hell, dried fruit, anything from your herb garden will do. When it comes to the tonic, I like Fever Tree and their different flavors. Sure, a G and T is typically made with Gin and tonic water (preferably from a bottle rather than the bartender’s gun – if you want the taste fresh and properly carbonated), but you can use Vodka and soda water if you prefer. Of course, that’s really another drink all together, but it’s a high ball all the same.. I like a ratio of 1:3, but you, fearless bartender, may prefer a 1:2 ratio. You be the judge.

Do I stir it? Let it mix as I pour? How about ice size and preference? How about Gin varieties? What brands do I recommend?

Geez, you ask a lot of questions.

Here’s how I make mine.

KB Barman’s Ultimate G&T

  • 1.5 oz London dry gin
  • 4 oz fever tree west indian tonic


  1. Build in glass over ice
  2. Garnish with dry juniper berries, star anise, dehydrated lime
  3. Make it your own, add fruits (dry, fresh, frozen), herbs, etc. Options abound. Have fun with it