Summer has Arrived – Gin and Tonic

Gin and Tonic

According to the seasonal calendar of Kaiser Penguin, summer begins when the temperature hits a balmy 60° F, and I see no room to argue, because with warmer weather comes gin and tonics.

Some would argue that drinks belong with their season. And although there are no hard-fast rules when it comes to matching drinks like this, I think I can safely remove gin and tonics from the blistering cold of winter. I must admit, I did attempt a few throughout the yuletide season, and although they were tasty, they provided nowhere the near crisp enjoyment that I remembered from sipping them while grilling skirt steak the previous summer.

So the day that I wiped away the first bead of sweat from my brow, I rushed in to make my a gin and tonic. It was icy juniper bliss. What gin did I use, you ask?

Well, a gin that spawned the following tasting. I was assisted in my tasting by two gin aficionados and a novice.

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.

Quintessential – Strangely flowery – this gin made what tasted little to nothing like an actual gin and tonic. It was subtle and intriguing, but any aroma or taste of juniper was completely missing. I would consider the juniperiness of a gin and tonic one of the key features to look for, and Quintessential fell way short. Most likely due to the unique characteristics of Quintessential, it rated fairly high with our testers.

Seagrams’ – The juniper was much stronger here, but something about this drink tasted fake. You know, like cherry flavored candy or butter flavored popcorn. Not bad, but not a staple I’d like in my liquor cabinet.

Plymouth – So subtle, so mild, and very low on the juniper quotient. But something about it piqued my interest. I know Plymouth is a great gin for martinis and other cocktails, but in a gin and tonic, it was just missing something. Everyone left this drink wondering what was missing but not able to put their finger on it.

Gordon’s – Along with the intense juniper aroma comes that of pure alcohol, and as much can be said about the taste. One of our tasters found this to be his favorite, but most shyed away in favor of other gins.

Tanqueray – Juniper flavor at its best. This makes a happy gin and tonic. Everything about Tanqueray just begs to be part of the drink, and this showed in the scoring of the tasters.

The Results

  1. Tanqueray
  2. Quintessential
  3. Seagram’s
  4. Plymouth
  5. Gordon’s

You may be asking yourself why we didn’t test Beefeater, Tanqueray 10, Sapphire, Bombay, Boodles, Hendrick’s, etc. And the answer is palette fatigue… or maybe drunkeness. Though, we plan on tasting these and other gins in the near future.

I’d be very interested to hear what other gins you’d like us to test in our next gin and tonic tasting. In addition, give us your own rankings for the gins we tasted this time.

16 Responses to “Summer has Arrived – Gin and Tonic”

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16 Comments to “ Summer has Arrived – Gin and Tonic”
  1. DayneNo Gravatar says:

    Bellringer — as inexpensive as Gordon’s, but IMO *considerably* better (it’s become my “well” gin for almost all non-martini cocktails). I don’t think it’s quite as good as Tanqueray in G&Ts, but it’s close, and at roughly half the price is a lot easier to justify blending with tonic water ;)

    I think Junipero would make an excellent G&T, but I generally reserve that for martinis or a couple of cocktails that really need the backbone.

    I’ve tried Magellan in the past, and something about the iris [I believe] and the tonic together makes me cringe a bit. Granted, I got too drunk on those one too many times, which probably explains the aversion now, but it’s also a funky taste combination and not one I can recommend anymore. :(

  2. MikeNo Gravatar says:

    I personally find that the taste of any gin tends to disappear under the taste of the tonic. As a result, I’m just as content with well drinks as I am with using a top shelf gin, though this doesn’t hold true with martinis. In fact, I was drinking tonic with lime yesterday and realized that I could barely notice the gin’s absence.

  3. RickNo Gravatar says:

    I checked to see if I could get Bellringer, and unfortunately the state doesn’t even list it. If I see this on my travels, I’ll definitely pick up a bottle. On a trip to San Francisco, I had the pleasure of enjoying a gin and tonic with Junipero – I really liked it, though I think the price may be a bit high for use all of the time. I’m guessing we may experience the same with Magellan as we did with the Quintessential based upon your thoughts.

    What ratio are you using for your gin and tonics? For the first taste test, we mostly had a 1 to 2 ratio of gin to tonic, but I don’t think that allowed for enough of the gin taste to come out, so I think for our next one (to be performed this evening), we’ll do a 2 to 3 ratio. If your ratios aren’t this high, I can definitely see how you wouldn’t be tasting the gin. What brand of tonic do you use?

  4. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    Gin and tonics are the one drink that’s year round for me. I find them cooling and refreshing in the summer, crisp and dry in the winter.

    Perhaps it’s heresy, but I don’t know that I’m all that fussy about the gin in my G&Ts… I like that strong juniper kick in them, so even the cheap stuff works for me. I am fussy about the tonic water… Polar brand and other generics ruin a hard-to-ruin drink for me. Fountain tonic water’s a problem when ordering out.

    And I always can taste the gin, even though I tend to make mine light… 1 jigger gin per highball.

    I see you drink in the American style with lime. I do, too. Anyone take theirs with lemon?

  5. CraigerNo Gravatar says:

    Ahhhh…that photo makes me want to climb through the monitor and dive in!

    The gin & tonic holds a very special place in my heart. It was the first “real” drink I experienced post-college, where I spent most of my time cluelessly downing vast amounts of bottom-shelf vodka, rum and bourbon mixed with whatever was handy *shudder*

    A friend turned me on to the G&T by innocently asking if I’d ever had gin before, I hadn’t, so I was game. He mentioned that G&T’s had become his favorite drink, and after he’d made me one, I realized what he was talking about.

    Of course, it wasn’t very long after that I realized gin had eclipsed all others to become my spirit of choice. The inevitable graduation to the Martini soon followed, but that’s a story for another time!

    Oh, and I like my G&T with either Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray. My wife likes them too, but she insists hers be made with Canada Dry brand tonic…she claims the other brands tend to be too sweet.

  6. RickNo Gravatar says:


    I really enjoy your comments, because a few of your points of interest will be discussed in Round 2 of the tasting, which I’m working on right now. Well, the writing part, at least.

    I keep a list of drinks that I enjoy on a wiki for my friends, and more often than not, I’m adding new cocktails to the gin section. It is, by far, the base spirit finds the most use from my bar.

    The novice taster in my panel, although he greatly enjoys rum and other spirits, didn’t really enjoy gin and was hesitant to participate, but after a few well-balanced gin and tonics… well… he brought a bottle of Tanqueray Ten to Round 2.

    Thanks for the kind words on the photo – I really enjoy taking shots of drinks now that I have found a trick or two that makes it easier.

  7. AdamNo Gravatar says:

    I admit I scoffed at Rick when I saw him drinking G&T well after the autumnal equinox last year. As if! I am of the belief that it is a summer drink, though I admit the first time I had one (well, one that wasn’t Banker’s Club + 7up) was on a hot summer day, and it forged a strong impression. It was at a bar called the Fox & Hound in Washington, D.C. They serve you a glass filled to the brim with ice and gin, along with a bottle of tonic water, so you have to take a shot of gin before you can even start mixing!

  8. AdamNo Gravatar says:

    Also, I should add that my preferred brand is Tanqueray, hands down. Now, I’m not as adventurous as Rick, but I’ve never tried Tanqueray’s “Ten.” Thoughts? My drinking frequency is fairly low, so I don’t mind shelling out for the good stuff if it’s worth it.

  9. EricNo Gravatar says:

    Interesting, Craiger, about the tonic – that could definitely skew the results of a test. A particular gin might be better with one tonic than another.

  10. EENo Gravatar says:

    Ever checked the ingredients on a bottle of tonic? Seems some of the generics include our old friend high fructose corn syrup. Canada Dry sells a “diet” tonic water that is pure quinine & carbonation, which I much prefer.

  11. GordonNo Gravatar says:

    My only comment on G&T is the ice/ no ice debate, which is not reflected. As an ‘old’ G&T drinker- no ice please, ruins the mix and then there is the malaria issue…

  12. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Very interesting. I’m not sure if I’d even like a G&T that wasn’t ice cold. What are everyone else’s thoughts?


  13. Ranger RickNo Gravatar says:

    Bombay Sapphire Gin has to be the tops! I would say whether your having a martini or a gin and tonic you couldn’t go wrong with Bombay unless you have been scubbing your taste buds with a brillo pad!

    By the way, after living in Great Britain for four years I can honestly state I never saw a gin and tonic that didn’t have at least a couple of ice cubes in it.

  14. PhilNo Gravatar says:

    A little late to discover your wonderful website however…
    Here are a few comments / suggestions.
    Yes, the tanqueray 10 makes an excellent G&T, however its distributors suggest a slice of pink grapefruit instead of the lime as a garnish, which works quite well. Also an excellent garnish to the negroni, served on the rocks… (the only way in my opinion.)
    Lighter gins such as bombay and plymouth dont seem to work nearly as well with tonic, it destroys too much of the floral aspects.
    Gordons works best with lemon.
    Hendricks works better with diet tonic, lower in sugar content, and better with the freshness of the cucumber.
    South gin and tonic is a nice combination, although you have to add about 3 wedges…
    Hope that helps.

  15. RalphNo Gravatar says:

    I agree with Gordon No ice is the way to go. I get a lot of strange comments from bartenders in america about the no ice request. I drink mine with soda water (distilled). Tonic has High Fructose corn syrup, a big no no. A nice fleshy lemon helps freshen it up. Try Minute Maid Limeaid with your gin if you don’t mind the sugar and High Fructose.

  16. MarlNo Gravatar says:

    Ralph, if you’re asking for a gin and tonic without ice or tonic water it’s no wonder you’re getting strange comments. That’s not a gin and tonic, that’s gin and soda.

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Kaiser Penguin is a cocktail blog featuring original recipes, homemade ingredients, classic cocktails, and tiki drinks.

Why on Earth did you name your blog “Kaiser Penguin?”

It is a well-known fact that penguins are members of high society and enjoy fine cocktails. Our very own kaiser penguin would like me to mention that he also enjoys various treats from the sea.

Contact: rick@kaiserpenguin.com