Gin and Tonic Tasting – Round 2

“Let’s do a taste test of the tonic water!” Dan utters with excitement after he notices that I’ve been grabbing both Schweppes and Canada Dry from the fridge during the tasting. By this point we had sampled several new “finds” from far away liquor stores in addition to conducting some unscientific comparisons between various whiskeys and rums. Due to this, or perhaps it being 10:30pm on a weeknight, Round 2 of the Gin and Tonic Tasting seemed to be in jeapordy.

Maybe it was the tonic tasting or maybe it was the the four grilled pizzas we had consumed, but as always, we hunkered down and entered pompous evaluation mode, and the tasting resumed.

Gin and Tonic

  • 2oz gin
  • 3 – 4oz tonic water
  • lime wedge

Mix the gin and tonic in a lowball or rocks glass filled with ice, and squeeze in as much lime juice as you’d like; drop in the wedge.

Bombay Sapphire – The taste and aroma offered some floral hints, but the presence of juniper was minimal. Though, it was rather intensely flavored, the tasters put Sapphire near the bottom of their list.

Tanqueray – Our panel knew that the winner of Round 1 would be included in the five gins we tasted in Round 2, but they did not know where. I was pleased that most were able to identify the junipery notes almost immediately. Tanqueray faired very well, but it was not the clear winner.

Beefeater – I must say, I really had hope that Beefeater would shine through and conquer Round 2 of the tasting, but it faired little better than the Gordon’s did in Round 1. Taster’s commented that the juniper flavor was lacking but was replaced by a mild alcohol taste. I would easily use Beefeater over Gordon’s for a gin and tonic, but it ranked very low in this tasting.

Tanqueray Ten – In my mind, this would have to be the clear winner. I had enjoyed gin and tonics with Tanqueray Ten on several occasions (an epicurian trip to San Francisco remains clear in my mind), and I had always enjoyed the taste, if not the cost. Overall, the tasters enjoyed this gin a good bit, but there was a strange introductory taste that most found a bit unpleasant. More mild than regular Tanqueray, I was expecting something more complex and interesting.

Bombay – This was the showstopper. Completely out of the blue, Bombay won the favor of all the tasters. Although the juniper flavor was not as strong as some of the other gins, it matched so well with the tonic water (I believe Canada Dry was used with this one), that I was sad to only have bought a stocking stuffer bottle.

The Results

  1. Bombay
  2. Tanqueray
  3. Tanqueray Ten
  4. Bombay Sapphire
  5. Beefeater

All of the tasters, including myself were quite surprised at the outcome of this tasting. I am almost tempted to rehold a tasting of the same gins, but our scores were so much more consistent than Round 1, that I doubt we’d reach a different lineup.

Round 3 may include any of the following gins: Bafferts, Boodles, Hendricks, Calvert, Old Raj, Van Gogh, Citadelle. Unfortunately, several of these would have to be special ordered, so they may not make the cut. Are there other gins you would suggest we include in Round 3?

Do you agree with our analysis… no? Share your thoughts below!

24 Responses to “Gin and Tonic Tasting – Round 2”

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24 Comments to “ Gin and Tonic Tasting – Round 2”
  1. EricNo Gravatar says:

    I think I will reiterate my comments from the tasting on the blog:

    Seeing as how we rated Tanqueray above Tanqueray 10 and Bombay over Bombay Sapphire, this test makes me think that one of these three cases is true:
    1. Gin and Tonic isn’t a sublte enough drink for the more subtle (and expensive) gins to shine (I think a re-do with martinis would be a neat test)
    2. We were too drunk by then to tell the difference.
    3. We’re simple people with simple palettes.

    (I’m hoping number one is true)

  2. JamieNo Gravatar says:

    I have to agree, that when tasting gins, tonic may be too strong of a mixer to add to your judged spirit. Straight and then in a martini may be the best way to go.
    Perhaps Plymouth, and some higher proofed gins could be on the list for the next tasting? (Plymouth Navy Strength, Brokers, etc.) I do have to say, I prefer Plymouth gin in most of my mixed drinks.
    You might also want to break it down to two categories as well: junipery gins and citrusy gins.

    Fun science is also comparing vermouths. We did this at work one day with ~7 vermouths, and let me tell you, you’ll never see me near Martini and Rossi again!!


  3. RickNo Gravatar says:


    I definitely wanted to determine what the most enjoyable gin and tonic was. I assume (and we already did some testing) that the best gins for a gin and tonic and the best gins for a martini will be different.

    I also love Plymouth in cocktails, but I find that if the cocktail has more than a few flavors, the Plymouth really takes a back seat. Not that this is bad, but often times you want a little bit of that gin punch to come through.

    I must agree on Martini and Rossi dry vermouth. Noilly Prat has been my favorite for a while now, though I have yet to try Vya. I do like Martini and Rossi’s sweet vermouth, though. What was the winner of your taste test?

  4. JamieNo Gravatar says:

    Vya was my favorite, but not worth three times the price of Cinzanno, which we had always used as our well sweet vermouth, but never new why. Dubbonet I wasn’t very fond of(on a personal note only), but it does have a place in some cocktails. As for Martini and Rossi? Well, we have a saying at Lumiere, for wines that we find to have an unfavorable nose. It is “H.A.”, which stand for hooker’s ass, as in: “this wine has definite notes of H.A.”. M&R made us swear, and then say, “this smells like an 80 year old French hooker’s ass, who works by the wharf, and has to feed her family of twelve, thereby working double shifts for the last 20 years and……” well you get my drift. It was so bad that we didn’t even bother opening up another bottle to see if the one that we had was bad, we just gathered all of our remaining stock, went next door to Feenie’s, and gave them the “gift” of 5 bottles of M&R.
    One day I should open a new bottle and compare again….

  5. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Did you include any of the “stock” or “banker’s club” variety in your dry vermouth tasting? I can’t imagine M&R being worse than those. I will say that I dislike M&R in a normal gin martini, but it’s not so horrible that it cannot find a place in a more complicated cocktail or as a good replacement for white wine in risotto or whatever else.

    I actually didn’t enjoy the cinzano dry vermouth more than the Noilly Prat. There was just something about it that bothered me. I need to break out the mostly unfinished bottle and try again. What cocktails would you recommend giving it a whirl with?

  6. JamieNo Gravatar says:

    I agree with the Noilly Pratt comment. I was just referring to Cinzanno Rosso. As for Stock…it wasn’t offensive, just mono-dimensional.

  7. JamieNo Gravatar says:

    Again, I should state that this is just the opinion of myself and our sommelier. Everyone has their own tastes. M&R has been around forever, so it can’t be all bad. It’s just like some people swear by Pernod, and others Ricard, it doesn’t necessarily mean one camp is right and the other wrong. Perhaps M&R is the hot girl with the cheap perfume; some people will just plug their nose and walk away, while others won’t even notice the smell, for they’re just happy she’s talking to them. ;)

  8. CraigerNo Gravatar says:

    I’m having a blast reading all these reactions! Thanks for posting them.

    Since I’ve been a dedicated gin fan for the last 10 years or so, I’m always curious about people’s takes on the different brands (and particularly from those who have never had gin at all). After reading the results of both rounds, here’s my 2 cents/misc. observations:

    ~ I’m absolutely stunned that Bombay Sapphire ranked so low. Maybe it’s because I drink mainly Martinis, and I prefer them made with a gin that’s more crisp and almost medicinal in character. “Regular” Bombay seems too bite-y to me, and I always felt it was rougher in taste and texture than the Sapphire. Tanqueray has always struck me as being a little more citrusy and seems better suited to G&Ts.

    ~ If you decide to revisit gin for a third round, I’d definitely try to get ahold of some Old Raj and Hendrick’s, if for no other reason than both are quite a departure due to their flavorings. Old Raj (which can be hard to get here in PA…a neighbor just brought me back a bottle from a recent trip to NY), is infused with saffron, which gives it a noticeable flowery aspect and a yellowish color. Hendrick’s is infused with cucumber, which may not be to everyone’s liking, but is certainly distinctive.

    I’ve found Broker’s makes a decent drink as well…I’ve had it in a G&T, and it also makes a nice Martini.

    ~ Noilly Prat is my favorite everyday” Vermouth. For whatever reason, it seems to have that extra something that puts it ahead of similar brands. I also just got a bottle of Vya recently, and it makes a fantastic Martini when combined with a gin where the botanicals really come through (Old Raj, Tanq, etc.).

    Thanks again for putting on the tasting and documenting the results. What’s that saying about hard work being it’s own reward? ;-)

  9. RickNo Gravatar says:


    We had actually been wondering how well these gins fared in martinis as well, so we’ve actually been doing martini taste tests back to back with the gin and tonic ones. I don’t want to go into too much detail on our results, but I will allieviate some of your woe.

    Bombay Sapphire was the winner of the recent martini tasting – though, it did not rank #1 for everyone.

    I definitely think that the best gin for a gin and tonic and the best gin for a martini are completely different animals. I definitely agree that Bombay regular is quite bite-y, but I think when mellowed properly with tonic (or even stirred with crushed ice) that it really comes out nice.

    I do look forward to trying Old Raj, as it’s now been recommended by two people. Hendrick’s will definitely make a showing in the next round – I have had it before and admire it greatly.

  10. EricNo Gravatar says:

    I’m looking forward to the posting of the third Gin round. It was much fun and had neat results.

    as a side note, I’m really happy with all of the activity on your blog, Rick. The posts and follow-up commentary have been excellent.

  11. jason sfoNo Gravatar says:

    can someone please tell me how to pronounce:

    noilly prat (vermouth)
    would appreciate a lesson on:

    veuve cliquot



  12. i’m hoping you’ll repeat this experiment, and include hendrick’s gin in version 2.0. …made with lime instead of the recommended cucumber, of course.


  13. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Chris – I do love Hendrick’s. I will definitely repeat this experiment sometime, though you may have to wait until next summer… or not. Could you recommend an additional four gins for the comparison?

  14. drinkboy lists boodles and junipero among his recommended brands: boodles for general-purpose use, and junipero for high-end sippin’.

    here’s the url: http://www.drinkboy.com/Essays/SpiritBrands.html

    might be interesting to try to find some yellow gin, also, if anyone still makes it. david embury’s _fine are of mixing drinks_ martini recipe calls specifically for yellow gin.


  15. Scott BowenNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve done my own gin and tonic taste test with all of the above gins and Schweppes tonic. I prefer my gin and tonic to have a gripping dry bitter flavors rather than tart or fruity flavors. Beefeater hit this spot much better than the rest and was my runaway #1. The Tanquerays also made nice drinks, but were more on the fruity/tart side. The Bombay was a bitter style, but didn’t have the grip I was looking for and thus finished last overall.

  16. RickNo Gravatar says:


    Very interesting. I’ll definitely have to give Beefeater another try. Perhaps we’ll have some new rounds this summer.

    Any other gins I should acquire in the mean time?

  17. Jay TNo Gravatar says:

    No one has mentioned Boissiere Vermouth; supposed to be the best.

    Also, has anyone tried Junipero Gin. My person favorite is Martin Miller’s.

  18. DaniNo Gravatar says:

    I disagree on the rating a bit, I would do:

    1. Tanqueray
    2. Tanqueray Ten
    3. Bombay
    4. Beefeater
    5. Bombay Sapphire

    My tasting rational is, that I prefer a very junipery taste in my palate with a right balance of bitterness and citric flavour and I would put TQ and TQ10 on the very first two for that reason…
    It is incredible when you mixed Bombay Sapphire with tonic the fizzy element that I love in the tonic dissapear straight away….

  19. Matt SchachtNo Gravatar says:

    This test sounded like a lot of fun – I’m planning a tonic taste test anon with Q tonic, Fever Tree, Stirrings, Schweppes, Hansens and White Rock.

    Just curious, how did you deal with the different tonics (you mentioned pulling two types out of the fridge)? Schweppes and Canada Dry are quite different creatures. Any G&T made with Canada Dry would have been at an obvious disadvantage, had I been the taster, as I find it has a sweet and cloying character. Schweppes on the other hand, is dryer, with more bitterness.

  20. Jeff FraneNo Gravatar says:

    Best G&T I’ve had yet was made with Stirrings tonic and Hendrick’s Gin. A very different animal entirely and much more delicate than most.

  21. RickNo Gravatar says:


    This taste test was done so long ago, I have no idea which tonics I used. I’d definitely recommend Fever Tree, though I haven’t tried Hansens or White Rock.

    Then again, I’d recommend making your own, which I’ll be writing about in the coming months.


  22. KarenNo Gravatar says:

    And, no one mentioned Magellan gin. It’s gorgeous. You don’t need/want much tonic water.

  23. markNo Gravatar says:

    Given the five you tested, I too would have selected regular Bombay. It is a great gin at a good value.

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