While the Gin & Tonic, or G&T as it’s come to be known, may be a go to “safe” drink ordered at dive bars across the United States, the version of the cocktail that most of us are consuming pales in comparison to the elevated, incredibly intricate and absolutely delicious Gin & Tonics being created in one of the most unlikely locations — Spain.
A country that’s become known across the globe for its wine and sangria would actually like nothing more than to drink a cocktail created by the British in India as a defense against malaria. On the surface, this doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Spain is a country that is passionate about its heritage and traditions, so how did the national cocktail become a concoction of British and Dutch origin? No one really knows. Perhaps it’s the fact that the Gin & Tonic or Gin Tonic as it’s referred to in Spain – Spaniards have a lazy way of dropping words they feel are unnecessary – is one of the best drinks to consume on a hot Spanish night. Or maybe it’s that the drink, while simple, is also insanely customizable, allowing the maker to coax out flavors depending on the gin and tonic they use. Or maybe it’s just that the drink is damn good. Regardless of the reason, Spain is obsessed.
The country is so obsessed with the Gin Tonic that there are bars across the country solely devoted to the drink and showcasing it in its different forms. In fact, almost all bars across the country – whether focused solely on the cocktail or not – boast deep gin lists that would rival the trendiest bars in the U.S. This is a country that takes the nuances of gin seriously and appreciates what each differing bottle can bring to its beloved cocktail.
What makes the Gin Tonic so interesting in Spain is not the fancy additions that could be added, such as fresh herbs, spice and other flavorings, but instead the delicate marriage of a specific gin with a specific tonic, with a refreshing splash of citrus. Some have even taken to making fun of the bars who opt for extravagant additions such as basil, berries and rosemary over simplicity, referring to the cocktails they’re creating as Gin Salads instead of Gin Tonics.
And simplicity is key for a core reason, these tonics aren’t the syrupy fructose laden stuff you’re used to, they’re tonics made with real sugar, as opposed to high-fructose corn syrup, that opt for true quinine flavor that elevates both the tonic and the cocktail. And with so many differing varieties of tonics available in Spain, every gin marries with every tonic differently. Adding other flavorings and additions takes away from the beauty already inherent in the products.
The other thing you won’t find in Spain is a Gin Tonic served in a highball glass, as we’re accustomed to seeing it here in the states. Instead, the Gin Tonic will be served in a bulbous Cabernet glass. The idea behind this vessel is that both the gin and tonic have so many lovely aromas, you want to stick your face in and actually smell them. If you find yourself in Spain being served a Gin Tonic not in this type of glass, it’s probably a good indication that you’re in the wrong place for one of these delicious concoctions.
Making the Gin Tonic is a long, intricate process, sometimes taking as long as fifteen minutes to deliver the ideal drink. The ice has to be just so, the glass must be coated in the oils of lime, chilled to perfection, with the tonic poured in delicately. While we’d never expect a Gin & Tonic to take this long to make here in America, the wait is part of the experience. No detail is ignored, and the result is absolutely delicious. Attention to detail and respect for the classic is what truly elevates the Spanish Gin Tonic above all others.