The first time I was introduced to gin was at my Fathers 40th birthday party when I was just 15 years of age and my sister would have been 13 years of age. I remember everyone was buying him gin and grapefruit and although I don’t remember drinking it myself I do remember my sister drinking it and vomiting everywhere. As is so often the case with stories involving alcohol it has been relived as a funny memory more than the sobering lesson it should have been.
Several years later I would also drink gin and grapefruit. There are people who will say that I drank it because I enjoyed the taste, others because the mixer made it one of the more palatable alcoholic shorts, but the real reason I drank gin and grapefruit is because my memory remembers my father drinking it on his 40th birthday party.
Kathryn Hopkins writes in The Times: “Ask many a barman how to make the perfect G&T and he will give you chapter and verse about the likes of Tanqueray, Boodles or Broker’s, Plymouth, Whitley Neill or Miller’s.
“Then having selected the appropriate bottle from an array behind the bar, all too often he’ll reach for the tonic without a second thought. It’s the sort of error that would infuriate Charles Rolls and Tim Warrilow.”
That extract comes from a piece that Hopkins wrote about the success of Rolls and Warrilow’s company Fever Tree, a company that provides supermarkets and other alcohol laden food and drinks chains with alcoholic mixers such a tonic water.
“Both men know their gin – the former is a one time chief executive of Plymouth Gin – but both know the value of a proper tonic if you want the flawless cocktail.” Wrote Hopkins.
I also know my gin; after all I drank enough bottles of the stuff – often with tonic water – so I feel I am equipped to also have an opinion on what makes the perfect G&T.
Grab a bottle of gin and then pour it straight down the toilet before placing the bottle into recycling. Then take the tonic back to the shop and get your money back.
There you have it: the perfect G&T.
If you are a G&T drinker then you are probably thinking that I am just a crazed death to all drinkers’ type of guy. The type that drinks for the majority of his life, has a mid-life crisis, quits and then chastises and judges everyone who does as he did.
The ones who quit are always the worst.
If you think that, then that’s fine. Don’t listen to me, but instead sit down, open a bottle of your favourite gin and start drinking it without the mixer.
What does it taste like?
Is it wonderful? Are those taste buds begging for me? Is it like drinking silk?
You don’t even have to take a single sip because you know the answer don’t you? You’ve knocked back a shot of straight gin before, and smashed the glass on the table with triumphant glee whilst screwing up that face in an expression served to people who have just eaten slugs on toast.
The reason for Fever Tree’s tonic, and my father’s grapefruit, is to try and make the poison palatable. Bitterness accompanied by bitterness. It’s not just gin that needs a mixer for palatability. Most drinks from the top shelf also need some form of bitter or sweet accompaniment to help the poison stay inside your gullet.
There are some exceptions to the rule: whiskey and vodka standing out. So why is that? Once again I want you to think about why I drank gin and grapefruit. I saw my father drinking it and it created a memory that I recreated later on in life. My father drank it and so it would be fine for me.
How many times do you see whiskey and vodka being drunk neat on television? How many of you watch television? If you are a fan of the television series Donovan, you will see the lead pouring shots of straight whiskey in very episode. It’s no accident that we imitate these people. It’s human nature, and this is why companies like Fever Tree become so successful. It has nothing to do with the quality of their product and everything to do with the must follow the tribe metronomic of the human race.
A flawless cocktail…do me a favour.
Like I said. Don’t take my word for it. Just do it. Grab the bottle of gin and drink it straight. When it becomes too much for you and you reach for the luxury set of mixers provided for by Fever Tree ask yourself this question.
“Does it really make any sense to add tonic water to this liquid just to reduce the awful taste so it becomes palatable, and if so, why am I even drinking it in the first place?
Photo courtesy of Brandon Leon cc @ flickr.com