How to Make the Perfect Gin & Tonic

by | 17 Apr 2022

Gin & Tonic recipe.

Gin’s versatility makes it great in a range of cocktails, but its most popular one is the simple Gin and Tonic. While it’s quick and easy to make, to really perfect it, is a skill – and each gin is different.

This guide talks you through how to make the perfect G&T. Learn about garnishes, different types of tonic water, ratios and the importance of ice!

Cotswolds Dry Gin and tonic.

Ingredients.

  • 50 ml Gin
  • 100 to 150ml tonic water
  • Ice
  • Garnish (optional)

Method.

  1. Chill a glass and your chosen gin in the fridge or freezer until cold
    (read more about choosing the best glass)
  2. Fill the glass with lots of ice
    (read more about the importance of ice)
  3. Add the gin to the glass
  4. Top up with tonic to taste
    (find out more about choosing a tonic water and ratios of gin to tonic)
  5. Add your preferred garnish (optional)
    (read more about choosing a garnish)
  6. Stir gently and serve. I find allowing your drink to rest for a minute or two lets the ice cool the drink, enhancing my enjoyment.

Top tips.

While there are minimal ingredients in a Gin and Tonic, and the steps above are simple, each gin is different. And as a result, perfecting each serve takes some trial and error until you find your sweet spot.

Having made and sampled hundreds of G&Ts over the years, here are my top tips to perfecting this most quintessential pairing.

Choosing your glass

Does your glass choice affect a Gin and Tonic? From my experience, it absolutely does! Some like a rocks glass, others a high ball, while large fishbowl copas are very much all the rage. The danger with the latter is that you overdo the tonic and drown the gin (the risk of this is much less if you use lots of ice).

My personal preference is a thin red wine glass. Why? Aromas are a huge part of the gin drinking experience. A wide-rimmed red wine glass really lets the gin ‘breathe’.

It’s also wide enough to allow you to use big ice cubes.

Kyrö Gin bottle, gin and tonic garnished with rosemary and cranberries.

The importance of ice

Ice is key to any cocktail and the Gin and Tonic is no different. I really can’t stress enough how important it is to use quality ice. This generally doesn’t mean ice made in your standard tray. It’s too small. We want big ice – the bigger, the better!

I’ve tried various permutations:

  • ice made in the freezer from small and big moulds
  • ice purchased from the supermarket
  • clear ice made at home by directional freezing

Ice made using directional freezing is undoubtedly my favourite in terms of my enjoyment of the G&T. It produces ice that’s completely clear and allows for it to be cut by hand to the size required.

You need to plan in advance for this as the whole process takes around 24 hours. You’ll also need a chest cooler with enough freezer space to fit it.

If you don’t have the time (or patience!) for this, purchasing ice from the supermarket is your best bet.

How much ice for a Gin & Tonic?

It’s a common misconception that lots of ice ruins a Gin and Tonic. However, I’d recommend as much ice as you can fit in the glass.

It cools your drink faster and leaves it cold for the duration of your drink. It also means the ice melts more slowly, thus reducing the dilution in your drink.

Close-up of gin and tonic, garnished with lime.
Pouring tonic into a glass with Pickering's Gin, ice and lime

Choosing a tonic water

Fever-Tree coined the phrase, “If 3/4 of your drink is the mixer, mix it with the best.” While your favoured gin to tonic ratio might not be that exact volume, the tonic you choose really does matter.

There are so many tonic water brands on the market now, so how do you decide which one to use for the gin in your glass? There are no hard and fast rules (taste is subjective after all), and every gin has different botanicals which will pair better with certain tonics.

Here are my top tips for choosing the right tonic:

  • Find out what the gin brand recommends. You’ll often see it on their website, or sometimes on the neck tag/label of the bottle. If you can’t find it there, reach out to them on social media. Most are usually quick to respond!
  • Always start out with a classic Indian tonic water. This tends to be a good baseline before branching out to other styles.
  • Once you’ve tasted it with an Indian tonic, you’ll have a better idea of how to experiment with other tonics. If it’s too sweet, would a light tonic work better for your palate? Would a Mediterranean or flavoured tonic work etc.?

What is the ideal ratio of gin to tonic?

The perfect gin to tonic ratio depends very much on your personal preference and can also change from gin to gin. Finding your sweet spot takes trial and error.

If you overdo the tonic, you can’t go back, so for a gin you’ve not mixed before, start with a ratio of 1:1 (e.g. 50ml of gin and 50ml of tonic). Then, gradually increase until you find the ideal ratio for your palate.

For the majority of people this is 2:1 (100ml tonic water to 50ml gin) or 3:1 (150ml tonic water to 50ml gin).

Find out what tonic water the gin brand recommends. You’ll often see it on their website, or sometimes on the neck tag/label.

Choosing a garnish

In my opinion, a garnish has almost become a bit of a misconception and is seen as an essential component for a Gin and Tonic. And in the last few years, we’ve come a long way from the traditional “ice and slice”, with various herbs and fruits now recommended by many brands

Truth be told, you don’t need a garnish in a Gin and Tonic if the other two ingredients are good. If I don’t have a garnish in the cupboard, I regularly go without. However, a garnish is great for taking the same drink in different directions, e.g. enhancing the citrus or bringing out more herbaceous notes.

As with tonic, choosing the right garnish depends on your own particular tastes. Again, most brands will provide suggestions or a ‘perfect serve’, which is definitely a great place to start. However, sometimes you’ll find a different garnish will take the Gin and Tonic somewhere else. For example, while Hendrick’s Gin is synonymous with cucumber, I actually prefer it with orange peel.

In order to experiment, try and find out the botanicals in the gin. This will give you a good idea of garnishes that may work well. Some pointers to start you off

  • Citrus-forward gins often work well with herbs such as rosemary, thyme or basil – or you can dial up the core flavours more by adding a citrus garnish
  • Spicy gins can work well with orange
  • Floral gins often work well with citrus fruits such as grapefruit or orange

You can find the recommended garnishes for hundreds of gins in my Gin Garnish Guide.

Garden Shed G&T close up from above