Everlasting Gin and Tonic

Everlasting Gin and Tonic
(Z. T. Bitzer 2011)

The Problem

You sit idly on your chateau’s balcony, surveying the work of your master gardner, Rondingus Brungo, former 3rd-level Druid and failed adventurer. A gin and tonic rests on the granite balustrade with a pool of water slicking the surface underneath; the glass is beaded with a carpet of droplets and you can see the ice slowly melting as if the rays of the sun were focused on your glass like the Eye of Sauron. And your drink is getting more warm and watery by the second.

The Goal

Create a gin and tonic that will maintain a specific temperature (20°F) and dilution (0%) thoughout the time of consumption (20 min).

Possible Solutions

We are actually tackling two problems here: temperature and dilution. The chart below shows the temperature and dilution of a gin and tonic at an ambient temperature of 70F over the course of 20 minutes. For Chart #1 (and all other tests), we used the following recipe:

Gin and Tonic Test #1

  • 2.5oz Tanqueray gin (41.3% abv)
  • 4oz Fever Tree tonic water @ 37°F
  • 1t lime juice
  • 4 1oz tivolo ice cubes @ -8°F

For the purpose of these tests, we used an 8oz rocks glass with a diameter of 3″, a height of 3.5″, and a thickness of 1/8″. Add ice cubes, gin, and tonic. Stir for 2 seconds.

Chart #1 – Normal Gin and Tonic

(note: If you hover over each point on the graph, you will see the exact temperature in Farenheit.)

You can see that the optimal time to start consuming your gin and tonic is at the 3-minute mark, and though the drink continues to get colder, your ice cubes are constantly adding water to your gin and tonic. Where this is good when you’re stirring a martini, in a highball, your soda is already providing enough dilution.

The Solution

Dry Ice.

Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide and is really fricken cold: -78.5°F It’s been around in commercial form since 1925 and can be used to preserve food and lab samples, make ice cream, create a fog machine, and even carbonate drinks and fruits. It’s relatively easy to obtain from ice cream shops and mostly safe, unless you’re an idiot. You can handle it without gloves, but not for more than a few seconds, unless you want a real druid to cast Winter’s Embrace on your hands.

Idea #1 – Add dry ice instead of normal ice cubes.

First off, whether this worked or not, we knew it would be fun. Dry ice sublimates much faster in liquid, so you’ll get a pleasant foggy miasma as the dry ice bubbles away in your drink. Inspired by the photography in Modernist Cuisine, this experiment lent itself best to capturing, so that’s the picture at the top of the post.

Chart #2 – Chilled with Dry Ice

Though the temperature drops steadily over time, it never gets close to reaching 20°F – and we put a lot of dry ice in there. Interestingly, the dry ice sublimates faster than the ice cubes melted. It looks like, at least, we solved the dilution problem. Dave Arnold from Cooking Issues is noted for saying that there is no chilling without dilution. Well, we’ve proven that hypothesis wrong, but at the cost of slow chilling. So how do we achieve a colder gin and tonic, faster? By adding dilution back into the mix.

Idea #2 – Make ice cubes out of gin and tonic

What if we were able to create ultra-cold gin and tonic ice cubes, so that when they melted, the didn’t dilute the drink, but just added more gin and tonic to it? The key is that dry ice is cold enough to freeze gin, at least when it’s in a solution with tonic. At 62.5% (by volume) of gin, the ice cubes should freeze at -42°F, which dry ice is readily able to handle.

How to Make Gin and Tonic Ice Cubes

Using the same ratio of 2.5 parts gin to 4 parts tonic, combine 5oz of gin, 8oz of tonic, and 2t lime juice and pour into a tivolo tray. This should make 13 1oz cubes, leaving two holes for you to fill however you like. Put the tray inside an insulated container that has at least 5lb of dry ice in it and freeze for 1 hour. These cubes will not be easy to remove from the tray, and I recommend using a towel or cutting glove.

Chart #3 – Chilled with Gin and Tonic Ice Cubes

The temperature dropped quickly, eventually reaching 18.7F and staying that way well past the 20 minute mark. After several tests, 3 gin and tonic ice cubes seemed ideal; any more and the drink nearly froze solid.

So we’ve done it! A gin and tonic that quickly gets to 20°F, never dilutes, and stays cold for at least 20 minutes. Huzzah!

On a parting note, our friend, Dom, who was around when these tests were being run, offered the following piece of advice: “I can’t believe you need fucking three graphs to make a gin and tonic.”

KP Questions

  1. What’s your ideal gin to tonic ratio?
  2. What are your favorite gin and tonic brands?

64 Responses to “Everlasting Gin and Tonic”

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64 Comments to “ Everlasting Gin and Tonic”
  1. LuNo Gravatar says:

    I think dilution is not such a bad thing if it is under control. Maybe the combination use od clasical ice with dry ice is a good thing.

    • PrimoNo Gravatar says:

      While I agree that a little dilution can be tolerable, may I point out two things? First of all, at about 4:35 on Graph #3, the temperature becomes about 32°F. and the melting would stop. I wonder how much dilution would have occurred? And secondly, the authors of this development in gin and tonic technology achieved their intent beautifully. I look forward to applying the little work involved to duplicate their experiment. Next problem, how to decrease the difficulty in G&T cube removal!

  2. ScrapsNo Gravatar says:

    In the absence of dry ice, I suppose you could just make tonic water ice cubes and up the gin a bit to account for the dilution?

    I’m a Gordon’s London Dry Gin girl, myself, with just about whatever tonic water’s handy (unless it’s diet–how in the world did diet tonic water end up on my mixers shelf?!) in a 1ish:3 ratio. I tend not to be ultra precise for this one, letting my mood (and the events of the day) dictate how strong the drink will be.

    • RickNo Gravatar says:

      Scraps, You could definitely make just tonic cubes, though you’re going to run into two problems. The first is that your drink is going to start off pretty strong to compensate for the needed balance with the melted ice, and secondly, you really need super-chilled ice cubes if you want to get your drink down to 20°F.

      I realized I forgot to add lime juice to the recipe. I prefer about 1t per drink – how about you guys?

      • anonyNo Gravatar says:

        Gin & Tonic has long been my drink of choice and I have never once had malaria; nothing better for fighting malaria than a nice gin & tonic. But I’ve never been one to measure, just free pour and squeeze a slice of lemon and a slice of lime — sublime refreshment.

  3. ReeseNo Gravatar says:

    Great post, Rick. Love the idea of super cooled cocktail cubes. I wonder if you could do the same for a Manhattan? Basically make a Manhattan on the rocks where the rock is Manhattan in and of itself.

    Also, fantastic intro picture. Really well done.


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  5. FredericNo Gravatar says:

    There are the plastic coated “ice cubes”. As they thaw, they do not dilute. Very 1980’s chic.

    One problem with using dry ice in water is that they get an ice skin from water freezing around it. It slows down the chilling process (the no chilling without dilution part is here the solid to gas transition, and this slows down due to the ice shell).

    • remmeltNo Gravatar says:

      The problem with those cubes is that they give off a very nasty plastic taste. I’ve only ever used the cheapest ones though, perhaps there are better makes.

  6. SeanMikeNo Gravatar says:


    Rick, I am impressed.

  7. AnneNo Gravatar says:

    This reminds me of the SNL sketch, ‘Cooking with Keith Richards’: “If you make your ice cubes with booze, it won’t dilute you’re drink, because it adds even more booze! I got that one from Phil Spector.”

  8. Leave it to a booze blogger to figure out how to expensively make a gin & tonic that dilutes a bit less and gets a little colder than normal.

    With that said, the excessive LotR and D&D references pleased me greatly.

  9. Sunny&RummyNo Gravatar says:

    I prefer 2 parts gin to 3 parts tonic and two decent sized lime wedges squeezed and dropped in. I am not a huge fan of Bombay Saphire In Martinis, but I think it makes an awesome G&T. Beefeater certainly also does the trick and if I have Hendricks on hand that also usually makes its way into a couple G&Ts as well.

    When nobody is looking I also like to add a scant dash (just a few drops) of Ango. Am I the only one who does that?

  10. JordanNo Gravatar says:

    Another way to go, at least if you’re willing to use a straw, would be the glass inside a glass. Fill the space in between either with ice, or, if you want to be fancy, an alcohol/water mixture and dry ice. With the latter method, you can change the alcohol/water ratio to get a desired temperature.

    • RickNo Gravatar says:

      Jordan – I like this idea. I’ve seen it utilized at Sable in Chicago and a few other places to keep the remainder of the drink cold. Though not with dry ice :) Give it a try and let me know how it turns out.

  11. MariaNo Gravatar says:

    20 min? For a G&T? Mine does not ever get diluted or lukewarm. It lasts about 5 minutes. Problem solved. :D

    • RickNo Gravatar says:

      Of course we drink out gin and tonics quicker than 20 minutes. The point was to get the drink down to a cold temperature and keep it there. Think how much more quickly the ice would melt in direct sunlight at 90°F?

  12. GryffinNo Gravatar says:

    You take so long drinking your G&T that it waters down? There’s your first mistake.

    I think I’ve tried every well-known gin, but I keep coming back to Beefeater. It’s got a clean crispness to it that just works.

    2 parts Beefeater + 3 parts Canada Dry tonic + juice of a quarter lime + ice = much happiness

    • RickNo Gravatar says:


      My goto tonic for the longest time was Canada Dry. You should give Fever Tree a try if you can find it – though I warn you, you won’t be able to go back and it’s more expensive.

      • DagrebNo Gravatar says:

        I’ve always preferred Schweppes to Canada Dry. Lately I prefer the sweetness of Boylan’s to either.

        Rick, how does Fever Tree compare to Q Tonic? I didn’t care for Q when I had it last.

        My remedy for suspect tonic is to use Hayman’s as the gin…


      • GryffinNo Gravatar says:

        I’ve tried Fever Tree and Q, but frankly, I wasn’t that impressed, especially at the ludicrous prices they sell for around here. Maybe I’m just a cheapskate (or just plain poor), but I can’t see buying a mixer that costs more per drink than the gin.

  13. BarzilaiNo Gravatar says:

    In your friend Dom’s comment, the number and the modifier really ought to be reversed.

  14. TheoNo Gravatar says:

    There is a much simpler solve to the problem of dilution and retaining coldness. Drink faster!

  15. KBNo Gravatar says:

    Awesome nerdery.

    I always use a heavy glass that I’ve left in the freezer for such drinks. Glass doesn’t transfer heat very well, but I’d be curious if your science could measure the degree to which a cold glass — one with a large amount of glass at the bottom mind, which i prefer for aesthetic and functional reasons as well — helps.

    • RickNo Gravatar says:

      The glass I used was very similar to the one you describe. My cocktail glasses are usually taking up the last remaining spots in the freezer wherever I can jam them in around the tivolo ice, two ice cream makers, veal, lobster shells, chicken carcasses for stock, and random other bits of offal and joy. I would wager that a chilled glass would assist in getting the drink cold more quickly, but likely wouldn’t help in keeping it there for very long – the ice would do most of that work.

  16. MBNo Gravatar says:

    Don’t mess with pre-mixing G&Ts, and freezing in dry ice. Just store the gin in the freezer and the tonic in the fridge. 2.5 oz @ 0F + 4 oz @ 36F = 6.5 oz @ 22F (assuming equal heat capacities, and ignoring the lime juice).

  17. AaronNo Gravatar says:

    What does the drink taste like at 20 degrees? I imagine it would lose much of its flavor. I usually just mix equal parts gin and room temp tonic then wait 5 min to drink.

  18. Samuel Hay DighanNo Gravatar says:

    solid stainless steel objects w/ enough mass, yet still small enough to fit in a glass, should work great.

  19. HRNo Gravatar says:

    What about making the ice cubes from just tonic and then reduce the amount of liquid tonic in the drink? I guess you’d have to wait a little longer for the drink to reach it’s range of optimal dilution but it does take away the need for dry ice since tonic water should probably freeze easily in a home freezer, no?

  20. ifatreeNo Gravatar says:

    tell dom that the ideal ratio of gin’n’tonics to graphs is 1:1.

  21. MikeNo Gravatar says:

    AIUI if you use too much dry ice in drinks you start to produce quite a lot of carbonic acid, which in addition to making your teeth fall apart will also make your gin taste more acidic, which is a crime against gin, quite frankly.

    Obv, the G&T ice cube idea is genius.

  22. Captain ObviousNo Gravatar says:

    Or, slightly chill your gin, add your tonic from the fridge and then use whiskey stones which have been in the freezer for a few hours.

  23. JaredNo Gravatar says:

    +1 Aaron: Where did you get -7°C from? That seems far too cold for optimum flavour.

    Doesn’t freezing tonic remove some of the carbonation?

    Frankly, this post is useless without tasting notes.

    • RickNo Gravatar says:

      Jared, freezing the tonic does remove some of the carbonation, but we found that freezing it with dry ice helps to preserve it. I’d like to do more tests though, as I’m not sure if the C02 is adding carbonation to the cubes or just helping keep it there. We froze them for a full day once, and if you touched the top of the cube, it fizzed.

  24. frogsterNo Gravatar says:

    I prefer my GT not to cold – that simply kills of most of the flavor (at least if you’re using a good gin)
    My personal favorite is freezing salad cucumbers and using those instead of ice-cubes. This works especially great with Hendrick’s Gin.
    Tanqueray is a great gin for drinking pure but gets to easily overpowered by the tonic so its either some small local brands or Hendick’s or Bombay for me in the GT…

  25. Mat FoxNo Gravatar says:

    As a pseudo English gentle-bod I found this article absolutely bloody sweet, top draw & the dog’s balls. I have just one question, what is the best gin? I favour Plymouth but for that juniper hit Beefeater does the job! Of course their are many on the market and because I’m drunk in my local and on an iPhone I can’t be arsed to spell them correctly or research any further than the optics at the bar Any thoughts? P.S West Ham for the World Cup x

  26. FenroxNo Gravatar says:

    Gin: Citadel – IT IS AMAZING, It’s cheap, it has wonderful and robust depth, you can taste many notes or flavors.

    Tonic: Q is the only non-HFCS tonic around me so I use it when I want to be fancy, but if I want to be cheap I just don’t care about the tonic (I kinda live in a ghetto)

  27. SwankyNo Gravatar says:

    Whiskey stones don’t do more than get the booze to a tepid temp. The plastic ice cubes do not chill worth a whit.

    I do disagree with the very premise involved here. Dilution is not a problem, but it expected in a hi-ball!

    And further, it reminds me of Dean’s saying “I don’t drink anymore, I freeze it and eat it like a popsicle!”

    I think the maybe the ideal way to use your booze-cubes is in a punch. It would get stronger as it goes… A large drink.

  28. Adam CoeNo Gravatar says:

    +1 to the keeping the gin (Tanqueray or Bombay are my choices, but certainly Beefeater will do) in the freezer.

  29. PabsNo Gravatar says:

    How about makin ice cubes out of gin-tonic and LN2, then pour them over some cucumber water?

  30. AlNo Gravatar says:

    Kill two birds with one stone.

    Cut limes into sixths or quarters, freeze them, and use instead of ice.

    Pass it on!

  31. Travis McGeeNo Gravatar says:

    Plymouth Gin!…Navy Strength, of course!…….or in a pinch, Boodles, (bottled in Great Britain ONLY). Q Tonic, or Fever Tree as a close second.
    Key limes are preferred, though I have been known to cheat and use bottled Rose’s if I’m in a rush. Made in a glass Martini pitcher with a freezable center insert, the whole pitcher will stay chilled, and by keeping the glasses in the freezer, the drink stays cold for the time it takes to drink it, (20 minutes… ha ha …what a comedian!), with no dilution issues. Ahhhhhhhhh…….

  32. brettNo Gravatar says:

    I’m wondering what is the cost difference of the updated gin and tonic. how much is 5lbs of dry ice?


    • RickNo Gravatar says:

      5lbs of dry ice was $5. Properly sealed it lasts for two days, so you could make a ton of cubes in that time. Though you have to use them before the dry ice sublimates entirely; storing them in the freezer will cause them to get squishy.

  33. Roddy GrahamNo Gravatar says:

    Heavy bottomed tumblers and gin both stored in the freezer, tonic stored in the fridge. Martin Miller’s is good, also Sipsmith, Caoran, Gloag’s, Darnley’s View, and Beefeater.

    Or, drink gimlets. No ice involved, so there’s no dilution and everything depends on how well chilled the ingredients and glass are.

  34. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    Big fan of the Fever Tree. Also like Q very much.

  35. Tony HarionNo Gravatar says:

    Leaving the bottle of gin in the freezer solves some of the problems here, but where is the fun, right?

  36. Pet'ulkaNo Gravatar says:

    In the unlikely event of a kitchen lacking dry ice, wouldn’t it work to make tonic water ice cubes and add a little extra gin? As the tonic cubes melt, the drink will get slightly weaker bu still taste good.

  37. Matt BornNo Gravatar says:

    For those interested in upping the ante on the tonic water, I recommend the following:

    And my own variation (still looking for a way to use it with a gin…):

  38. JacNo Gravatar says:

    Am I the *only* person who uses lemon?! I prefer Schweppes if I can’t get a craft tonic (I luuuurve Fever Tree), but I’ve got some Canada Dry leftover from a BBQ I need to use up. The gin is usually Tanq, at a ratio of about 1:2 or 3; G&Ts are one of the few drinks I eyeball.

  39. Travis McGeeNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve used Dr. Schweppes in all his variations, bitter orange makes a nice change at times, as does lemon, (juice or flavored tonic water).
    When I was still living in Florida and we had a couple varieties of citrus trees in the yard, fresh squeezed, still warm from the sun, pink or ruby red grapefruits made a nice change, (after halving, segmenting, and eating, slice the remaining peel in easy to handle pieces and squeeze through a strainer, being sure to get the essential oils squirting out of the skin.

  40. TiareNo Gravatar says:

    Awesome post Rick! i like Martin Miller`s with Fever Tree. That picture on top is really different from your usual ones, really cool. You take booze geekery a bit further..;-)

  41. BonzoGalNo Gravatar says:

    That drink in the photo looks like something you should sip and then clutch your throat, fall to the ground making horrific gurgling noises, writhe around for a bit, then pop back up looking like Buddy Love.

    Just saying.

  42. Rich SlaterNo Gravatar says:

    A* work, bravo…

    …personally i opt for slicing lemons into quarter wedges and freezing them, then using a 12 oz pilsner glass with a double measure of Tanqueray (preferably #10) and topping up with tonic, this provides just the right temperature, doesn’t affect dilutedness or effervescence, and lasts perfectly for the 12-14 minutes it takes to consume the G&T, or for a tropical twist try Grapefruit wedges!

  43. You can have your gin in the freezer, tonic water as cold as possible in the refrigerator and use ice stones, chilled in a container with dry ice, the stones will maintain cold gin and tonic but never dilute your drink.
    My two cents
    Federico Cuco, catinero at unik restaurante buenos aires

  44. LabelleNo Gravatar says:

    These would make a nice addition to my haunted house set-up for Halloween – and having a hundred screaming children passing through much more tolerable.

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