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There’s more to gin than just the classic gin and tonic, although a good G&T is never a bad thing when the weekend arrives.
The soothing spirit is one of the lowest-calorie drinks you can enjoy, as a basic G&T (2 ounce gin, 4 ounce diet tonic) can be as low as 128 calories.
But if you’re looking for other gin alternatives during the summer months, there are plenty of choices, according to Tommy Bahama Restaurants director of cocktails Rob Aspaas, who says that gin, created centuries ago as an herbal medicine, is making a resurgence in bars and restaurants in part because of the variety of flavors brands are now infusing into it.
“Brands like Hendricks added a lot of healthier flavors like cucumber. It’s pretty good and low calorie,” Aspaas says. “Now we’re talking healthy ingredients.”
Not sure how to up your gin game? Aspaas shares several tips for the best ways gin can be maximally utilized. He’s also also added a pair of Tommy Bahama Restaurants-approved top drinks for you to try at home or out on the town.
“Mixology wise, we’re at a time in which gin is really fun to play around with,” Aspaas says. “How far has it come? People automatically think of the gin and tonic, but gin is low calorie and with its bitter notes, it could even make a great drink by itself.”
To get started on a gin binge, Aspaas shares several tips for the best ways to enjoy a good gin cocktail. He’s also added a pair of top drinks for you to try at home or out on the town.
GET THE GOOD GIN
To put it plainly, one of the big mistakes people make when making a good gin and tonic is just using bad ingredients. The ratio for making a gin and tonic is pretty straightforward — one part gin and one part tonic. But there are bad gins that you’ll find at bars, so if you’re gonna go out, splurge for the good stuff. Ask the bartender what are some of the good gins they have and what they would recommend. Same thing if you’re planning on enjoying at home at home. It’s always wise to spend a few extra dollars on a quality gin. You won’t regret it.
Another tip if you’re out: If you see a bartender pouring tonic from a bar gun, stay away, it’s not going to taste good. Again, ask for a good bottled tonic instead, even for at home as well. To me, Q Mixers and Fevertree are the two frontrunners for best tonics. They have their flagship flavors and also come in different variety of flavors. So if you’re using these at home, along with a good gin, you’re good to go.
MIX ANY FRUIT OR FLAVOR WITH GIN
You really find what you like with your gin through either good research or just trial and error. If you’re at home, you might find an application for orange peels, like in a Negroni. I’ll actually put a torch to the orange to get those burnt citrusy notes out of it. For a gin and tonic, I got hooked on flavors such as raspberries, pink peppercorns, juniper berries.
But kind of as rule of thumb, use lime in drinks for those drinks that are a bit smoother but have a citrusy application — you’ll see it a lot more like rum drinks and tiki drinks.
Lemon is a little brighter a little sharper, but in a good way. So classically you’ll see a lot more lime like the gin and tonics, but with a drink like an ambrosia fizz (see below) I want to brighten it up to go with the bitter notes of Aperol and elderflower, and the lemon with the Prosecco really brightens it up. So just have fun with it. There really are no wrong answers.
GO ‘LIGHT’ WHEN PAIRING WITH FOOD
The good news about gin is that it’s very light, so it sort of lends itself to the lighter fare. A little gin, with maybe a good vermouth and soda gives off that botanical, herby, cucumber-like aroma, which makes it great to go with a salad. It’s also great with roasted fish. Another great pairing is with sushi. We’re starting to see a lot more sake and gin application in cocktails at sushi spots, which I think is wonderful. Great sake is awesome, but bringing a good gin to that party makes it really nice.
I think I think the cocktail world is finally catching up the food world. Ten years ago you could go on YouTube to learn how to make a great steak or sea bass. Now you could check social media for the latest gin cocktail recipes. So for gin drinkers out there, or even people who are skeptical since that time gin tasted like pine cones 20 years ago, dive in and have some fun with it. Go to a couple of cool bars and just ask them what kind of gin stuff you like. The gin cocktail menu is expanding because it’s having a hot moment. Go to the right bar or restaurant or even Instagram site, you’re going to get some fun riffs on gin.
FIX YOURSELF BEFORE WRECKING YOURSELF
For me, it’s the Rule of One that still works best. Have a drink, then have a glass of water. Get another drink, then another glass of water. There’s all types of stuff to do after the fact, when the damage is already done, like Tylenol and other remedies out there, but if you stay hydrated when you drink — and drink in moderation, you’re gonna be fine.
Summer Gin Cocktail Recipes (courtesy of Tommy Bahama Restaurants)
Tommy G&T : Makes 1 Drink
- 1 thin cucumber wheel
- 1 fresh raspberry
- 1 lemon peel
- 5 juniper berries or pink peppercorns 2 oz. Tommy Bahama Island Gin
- 5–7 oz. tonic water
- Dash of grapefruit bitters
- Edible flower, for garnish (optional)
Preparation: Put the lemon peel, cucumber, raspberry, and juniper berries in a wine glass. Fill the glass with ice. Add the gin, then the tonic water, pouring each down the inside wall of the glass. Add the bitters and stir gently once or twice. Garnish with the flower.
Ambrosia Fizz : Makes 1 Drink
- 1 1/2 oz. Hendricks Orbium
- 1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
- 1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
- 1/2 oz. St. Germain
- 1/2 oz. Aperol
- 3 oz. Prosecco
Preparation: In a mixing glass, add all ingredients except the Prosecco and Aperol. Shake with ice and strain into coupe glass. Top with Prosecco, then pour Aperol into the center of the glass