The Gin & Tonic is a global success story. Old-school but fashionable and infinitely customizable, the cocktail’s popularity continues to soar worldwide, aided by a growing number of artisanal gins and craft tonics.
After compiling an extensive list of craft and mass-market tonic waters — seriously, if money can buy it, we tasted it — we set about fixing a fleet of cocktails using a classic two-to-one ratio. We used America’s most popular gin brand, Tanqueray, in every drink. The results shocked our panelists, all of whom work in the beverage industry and tasted blind.
Ready for the big reveal? Here are the five best tonic waters for your G&T, ranked.
(Average prices via Amazon.com when available, or the brands’ proprietary sites.)
5. Fever-Tree Naturally Light
Using fruit sugars for sweetness, Fever-Tree crafted a refreshing, crisp tonic with 46 percent fewer calories than the brand’s standard Indian Tonic Water. This was our favorite of the Fever-Tree range. Tasters enjoyed the “wet stone” aromas and fresh, fruity flavor, which complemented the spirit without overpowering it.
Average price: $3.50 for a 16.9-oz. bottle
4. Boylan Heritage Tonic
The collaboration between Boylan Bottling and W&P Design produced a “tonic forward” cocktail with a zesty lemon finish and pronounced quinine character. Though one taster remarked that it tasted like “Sprite, but stronger,” the Heritage Tonic was an overall hit with our panel.
Average price: $2.50 for a 10-oz. bottle
3. Q Spectacular Tonic Water
“Shouldn’t the mixer be as great as the spirit?” asks Q’s tagline. The Spectacular Tonic delivered on that promise in our tasting, creating a “well-balanced” G&T wherein the tonic “isn’t trying too hard to be the star of the show.” Put simply, “it’s what a Gin and Tonic should taste like.” Spectacular, indeed.
Average price: $1.50 for a 6.7-oz. bottle
2. Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.
Jack Rudy’s tonic water was refined, not only complementing the gin but improving its flavor in “the perfect marriage.” Vibrant and well balanced on the palate, with “clean” aromas that reminded one taster of sake. The company also bottles remarkable small-batch tonic syrups, to be mixed with gin and sparkling water to build an alternative style G&T.
Average price: $2 for a 8.4-oz. bottle
The undisputed favorite among our tasters was Schweppes, a supermarket staple that has been making tonic water since 1783. Though it may not be as artisanal as the others on this list, Schweppes’ tonic has herbal and fruit aromas with an attractive hint of cloves. It “smells great,” said one taster. “I want more,” said another. Just like the cocktail itself, Schweppes’ tonic water proves that you can be classic and cool at the same time.
Average price: $5 for a 33.8-oz. bottle