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I’m a cocktail expert — these are the best tonic waters for a gin and tonic

Make the best gin and tonic. with these ingredients

Gin and tonic with lemon and lime
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With summer in full swing, it’s time to enjoy one of the world’s all-time favorite mixed drinks: the gin and tonic. It’s every gin drinker’s go-to choice for being easy to make but endlessly engaging in terms of its flavor and variety. If you’re already enmeshed in the world of craft gins, then you know how incredible the variety and choice of spirits that are now available is and how many options you have in terms of flavors — from classic London dry gins to experimental offerings flavored with everything from pine needles to rosewater to olives.

But if you’re new to the world of gin, then don’t judge the sometimes humble G&T based on the typical Gordons & Schweppes that you might be served at a dive bar. With minimal effort, you can mix your own G&Ts at home, which will knock the socks off anything you’ll find in your average bar, and with some experimentation, you can find a gin for virtually any palate.

But a great G&T isn’t only about finding a great gin. It also requires a great tonic water, which is easier than ever, thanks to a boom of craft brands producing high-quality mixers. And then there’s the art form of matching the gin to the tonic, which is a more nuanced topic than you might imagine. To help steer you on your way, I’ve distilled down five of my tried and true favorite combinations of gin and tonic water, including everything from the super dry and crispy options with bracing bitterness to choices that are fruity, fun, and accessible, and which might just convert some of your gin-hating friends to the delights of a truly classic drink.

The 5 best gin and tonic water combinations for a delicious G&T

  1. Buy the Gin Mare & Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic if you want a glass full of the Mediterranean.
  2. Buy the Brockmans Gin & Betty Buzz Tonic Water if you want a G&T without the bitterness.
  3. Buy the Monkey 47 & Thomas Henry tonic water if you want a taste of Germany.
  4. Buy the St George Botanivore Gin & Q tonic if you want herbal deliciousness.
  5. Buy the Nolet Silver Gin & Syndrome Velvet tonic water if you want the smoothest G&T you’ll ever drink.

Gin Mare & Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic

A glass full of the Mediterranean

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Over the pond in Europe, especially in Iberia, Gin Mare is a beloved favorite among gin fans. But it’s less well-known back in North America. That should change, though, because this gin is delicious and unusual without being outlandish. Hailing from Spain, it has a list of prototypical Mediterranean botanicals, including olive, thyme, rosemary, and basil, so sniffing this is like being transported to a warm summer evening looking out over the med. It’s a touch sweeter than you might expect given those additions, so it’s not necessarily a garden-type botanical taste, and it isn’t overtly savory. Rather, it’s got the kind of natural sweetness you might associate with a gin basil smash or the caramelization of roasted potatoes with rosemary.

To match up with this unique gin, the obvious choice is Fever Tree’s Mediterranean tonic water. Fever Tree is best known for its perfectly dry regular tonic water, but the Mediterranean version has a touch more sweetness and a lot more floral notes rather than the clean sharpness of the regular. There are also notes of herbs like rosemary and lemon thyme here, making it the perfect match for the Gin Mare.

This combination has an approachable sweetness, but one that doesn’t cover up the delightful mix of Mediterranean botanicals from both the gin and the tonic. Use a balloon-shaped Spanish copa glass for maximum scent enjoyment and a G&T that will take you right to the deep blue of the Med.

Brockmans Gin & Betty Buzz Tonic Water

A G&T without the bitterness

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As G&T lovers, most of us are baffled when someone complains that a G&T is too bitter. That combination of bitterness and dryness is the whole point of the drink, right? Well, as delicious as that can be, it needn’t be the only quality that a G&T can offer. You can absolutely keep many of the tasty qualities of the drink while dialing down the bitterness to make it more approachable.

My go-to gin to offer to people who say they don’t like gin is Brockmans. It’s extremely fruity, leaning heavily toward flavors of blackberry and raspberry, but it’s not saccharine or without complexity. There’s still a backbone of juniper to hang the other flavors off, and it has an extremely smooth taste, which avoids any kind of harshness. This is, mercifully, not one of those dubious trendy pink-colored and often glittery bottles of “gin liqueur,” which is pumped full of sugary syrup and artificial flavors. Rather, it’s a quality gin that is made with sweeter botanicals, giving it the experience of a high-end gin but in a welcoming way. I’ve converted plenty of people who were previously gin haters to the joys of a G&T with this bottle.

To match with this gin, what better choice than Betty Buzz tonic water. It’s also a sweeter option than many of the small brand tonic waters you’ll find on the market, but it is sweetened with agave, so it’s a round, pleasing sweetness rather than the deadening flavor of pure sugar (or worse, the chemical tang of artificial sweeteners). It will pair nicely with the fruity notes of the Brockmans to make a gentle, easy-drinking G&T that reins in the bitterness without losing any of the interest.

Monkey 47 & Thomas Henry tonic water

For a luxurious taste of Germany

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Gin fans will already know Monkey 47, the nigh-on legendary gin from Germany’s black forest. Named for its 47 botanicals, it has layers of flavor encompassing spice and berries and has an exceptional smoothness, which makes it the perfect sipping gin. But unlike the world of whiskey, where mixing a sipping spirit into a mixed drink of any kind is verboten, a luxurious gin is always welcome in a luxurious gin and tonic. This gin is so smooth and nuanced that you don’t want to cover its taste with too much tonic water, so this drink should be prepared strong — I’d recommend anywhere from one part gin to two parts tonic, to even equal parts to let the gin really shine.

The obvious choice of tonic water to go with this gin is Fever Tree premium tonic, which is my (and many bartenders’) go-to dry tonic water to match with any high-end gin. And undoubtedly, I would never consider turning down a Monkey 47 and Fever Tree combo. However, for this option, I’m recommending something a little out of left field: Thomas Henry tonic water. Thomas Henry is everywhere in trendy bars in Berlin and beyond, with a range of tonics designed for mixing. I’ve plumped for the classic tonic water here, which is a little sweeter than the Fever Tree. Though if you’re a staunch purist, you might prefer the Dry Tonic as this lets more of the gin’s flavors come through — though I find this a tad too dry for my palate.

This fun combination shows what modern drinking in Germany looks like, with two specialist brands coming together for one delicious whole. These aren’t the easiest options to find in the U.S., but if you can get your hands on them, then they’re well worth a try.

St George Botanivore Gin & Q tonic

For complex herbal deliciousness

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Having sampled some options from Europe, we now turn to a quintessentially American gin. St George is best known for its iconic Terroir Gin, which incorporates flavors of California and is a delicious choice for a G&T at any time. But here we’re showing the Botanivore Gin, which has a bright, herbal quality that makes it stand out from other options. This isn’t the citrusy London dry style or like the spicy options you’ll find among other small gin brands. Rather, it’s got a piney, floral quality that’s a bit like strolling through a forest with fresh flowers blooming around you.

To match this gin, I’ve opted for Q tonic, another bartender favorite, for its crisp, clean taste. The Botanivore Gin is delicate and won’t stand up to anything overly sweet or heavy, so the light touch of Q makes for a good match. Q also has a sharp, almost lemony quality which can ground the floral notes of the gin somewhat.

This is a subtle, nuanced combination that is the opposite of something you might throw back without thinking. It’s an unusual approach to what a G&T should be, but it is worthy of thoughtful drinking.

Nolet Silver Gin & 1724 Tonic Water

For the smoothest G&T you’ll ever drink

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While we most often think of cocktails as all about the flavors, there are other important sensory qualities that go into a special drinking experience. In addition to scent, which is not to be overlooked, one of the underrated aspects of a drink is its texture or mouthfeel. As silly as it may sound to describe a clear, water-like liquid as chewy or smooth, there really is something distinctive about the way spirits and cocktails feel in your mouth. This final combination is all about that ultimate smoothness.

Nolet’s Silver Gin has a funky and unusual flavor profile, with the botanicals you might expect from a gin — like juniper, licorice, and orris root — being joined by some fun additions like white peach and raspberry with a hint of rose. That combination makes for a floral, subtly sweet gin which is saved from being syrupy by its herbal green notes. That flavor combination won’t be for everyone — there’s something distinctly Turkish Delight-esque about rose flavor — but what makes this gin stand out to me is its texture. Its so extremely smooth that the best description I can come up with is that it feels in the mouth how mercury looks when you see it poured.

To match this gin, I would love to point you to the ultimate smoothest tonic I’ve tried, the Syndrome Velvet tonic water from Belgium. But tragically, that doesn’t seem to be available any longer. In its place, I offer 1724 tonic water, another exceptional tonic with great texture. It’s a little on the sweeter side, which would match well with the rose notes of the gin if you like that vibe, and it has a crisp, less fizzy texture than other tonics, which makes it slip down super smooth as well.

How we chose these gin and tonic combinations

With the absolutely vast range of gins available nowadays, picking the ideal gin and tonic combination is something you could spend years mastering. The good news is that virtually any combination of decent quality gin and tonic water will be pleasing, but to identify a combination that really works exceptionally well, there are several approaches you can take.

The first and most obvious approach is to think about flavors. Gin can have a wide range of flavors — technically, to be considered a gin, a spirit should be juniper-forward and be made using a neutral base spirit, but beyond that the sky is the limit. You’ll find many gins lean heavily toward citrus flavors like lemon, orange, or grapefruit, often in the classic London Dry style. But you will also find herbaceous, vegetal, and spicy gins, not to mention those that are flavored with berries or other fruits. The only type of gin that’s best avoided for a G&T is the gin liqueur style which has popped up in recent years, which is usually gin with added sweet, fruity syrup. These liqueurs tend to be far too sweet, use artificial fruit flavors, and don’t sit well in cocktails.

The range of tonic waters available is not as wide, but is still much broader than it has been in previous decades. As well as the classic brands like Schweppes or Canada Dry, there are now also many smaller independent brands making high-quality tonic waters. These are often less sweet than the classics and so more suited to cocktails. Something like Schweppes may be fine to drink on its own as a soda, but it tends to be a bit heavy for a G&T. You’ll generally want something drier to allow the flavors of the gin to shine. If you do prefer your drinks on the sweeter side, you can always add in a splash of fresh fruit juice or homemade syrup to add sweetness without being overpowering.

The tonic waters tend to have a similar, bitter taste profile due to the presence of quinine, but they aren’t all interchangeable. Some tonics, such as 6 o’clock tonic or Q tonic, are exceedingly dry and would suit those who love bitter flavors like those found in amaros. Others, like Thomas Henry tonic, have more sweetness but still achieve balance. Then there are those right in the middle — there’s a reason that Fever Tree tonic water is beloved in cocktail bars everywhere, and it’s because it will go with practically any gin you can think of and has enough sweetness to be approachable without covering up the flavors of a good gin.

There are nuances within the tonic waters that go beyond sweetness, though. Some will have a more citrusy flavor, while others are more vegetal. You can also find some options with added flavors like cucumber or florals, which can be interesting but should be used with care so they don’t clash with your gin. Ideally, you want to pick a tonic water with a flavor profile that matches that of your gin for the best combination.

Another approach to matching gins and tonic waters is to think regionally. As gin is relatively easy to make, many small brands will use whatever herbs, spices, or other botanicals grow locally in their area for flavoring their gin. And the same is true of tonic waters. If you’re traveling to a new location, have a hunt around small bars or supermarkets and see if there are any popular local brands, then try matching up local gins and local tonics. This doesn’t always ensure a perfect combination, but it is a great way to experience new flavors.

It’s worth mentioning light tonic waters, too, as these are often popular. Some people may find the lower-calorie options useful, but personally, I would warn anyone away from light tonics. They tend to have an artificial off taste, which is definitely noticeable in a G&T. Even as an enthusiastic drinker of Diet Coke sodas, I find this extremely off-putting. There is a place for concerns about health and added sugar, but your cocktail is not it.

While you’re working on perfecting your G&T, you should also think about the ratio of gin to tonic water that you want to use. The standard ratio that you might find in many bars might be something like 1 part gin to 4 or 5 parts tonic water, which makes sense if the gin being used is not the best quality. For cheaper gins, covering up the funky taste with a lot of sweet tonic water makes it more drinkable. However, when you’re working with a quality gin then you can be much more discerning. A ratio of 1 part gin to 3 parts tonic water will work well for most occasions, and there are some extremely smooth gins that will work even better at a 1:2 ratio. This will allow the complex flavors of a quality gin to really shine.

Other considerations to keep in mind for your G&T include glassware and ice, which are often related. A G&T is typically served in a high ball glass filled with medium-sized ice cubes, but I love to enjoy this drink in the Spanish way — using a huge, round Copa glass. With a wide rim, you can get the full experience of scent which is so important to appreciating flavor. A larger glass also allows for a larger ice cube. I like to serve a G&T with one single large ice cube as this will keep the drink cool without melting so fast and making it watery. Another nice option can be to use a tumbler glass, which is particularly great if you’re making your own tonic water from homemade tonic syrup, as these drinks will have a yellow or orange color, which sits better in a tumbler.

Finally, there’s the matter of garnishes and additions. With a great gin and a great tonic you typically won’t be wanting for flavor, but there are occasions when you might add in a dash or two of bitters for an interesting twist. Lavender bitters for a floral gin or celery bitters for a vegetal gin can be a lovely touch, enjoyed mostly as scent. Many, many gins will also benefit from a squeeze of fresh citrus, most often lemon or lime, and you can always throw some citrus wedges into a glass for you or your guests to squeeze if required.

As for other garnishes, here you can go as crazy as you like. Try herbs like a few basil leaves or a spring of rosemary, add a citrus wheel or a slice of strawberry or cucumber, throw in dried juniper berries or dried orange peel. Even unexpected flavors like a chunk of dried ginger or star anise can add a great layer of interest to your drink. Another reason to use a larger glass is that you’ll have plenty of room for interesting and attractive garnishes. When in doubt, have a look at the list of botanicals used in your gin, then pick two of those to use as garnishes. With a great gin and a quality tonic water, you can’t go wrong.

Georgina Torbet

Georgina Torbet is a cocktail enthusiast based in Berlin, with an ever-growing gin collection and a love for trying out new recipes. When she's not in her other life writing about science she's sampling local craft beers, hunting down interesting Italian amaros, or making strange and experimental cocktails for anyone who stops by her compact but much loved home bar.

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