By Michael Turtle
A gin and tonic might not be the first drink you associate with Spain, but in the past decade it has become one of the most fashionable things to drink. With this new fashion has come a deeper appreciation of the drink and the Spanish have studied at a gastronomical level how to make the perfect gin and tonic.
We have travelled to the country to meet Ramon Pau, who runs a gin and tonic bar called Els Cacadors in the small Pyrenees town of Ribes de Freser. The bar has been in the family for four generations and Ramon knows better than anyone else in this region how to mix the drink properly. Some of his tips might fly in the face of everything you thought you knew about the not-so-humble gin and tonic!
The worst thing you can do is drink gin and tonic from a skinny glass. The bigger and more rounded the glass, the better. It all has to do with the amount of ice the glass can hold because you want as much as possible.
Water is the enemy of the gin so you want to try to stop the ice melting as much as possible. Bigger pieces of ice are better than small ones and the more cubes you can fit in the glass, means the cooler the drink will stay and the less they will each melt.
At the Els Cacadors bar, there are more than 50 types of gin to choose from and the plan is to have double that number soon. There is no such thing as the ‘right’ gin but it’s important to appreciate that each type has its own unique flavours and you should try a variety to decide which is best for you.
The standard tonic will work with everything but there are particular types you can match with certain gin flavours to bring out the best taste. For strong and dry gins, try the ‘azahar lavender’ tonic. For flowery gins you can go with the ‘pink pepper’ tonic and for cinnamon gins, a ginger ale is the best.
Don’t get too greedy when it comes to the amount of gin you include. There is a fairly set rule for the best ratio to use. The gin portion of the drink should be between 30 and 50 millilitres and the tonic should be about 200 millilitres.
Most people would use a slice of lime as a garnish in a gin and tonic but the experts warn against that because the acid can ruin the taste. The best option is to use slivers of lemon rind as the main addition to the liquids. If you want to get a bit fancy, you can also use juniper berries, strawberries and mint leaves.
When Ramon is asked for the most important thing to consider when making a gin and tonic, he has an easy answer. Make sure you have the drink with good company and good friends.