Not all gin and tonics are created equal, and the success of this simple mixed drink hinges on one key element: the quality of the gin. With a rich history of botanical distillation (and some interesting applications as medicine), gin is known for its distinctive juniper flavor and scent. However, gin is also one of the most diverse liquors on the planet, with variations ranging from light and floral to complex and earthy.
What Is Gin?
Gin is a distilled alcoholic drink that derives its flavor from juniper berries. There are many different brands and styles of gin.
While the recipe might be straightforward, these delectable gins are anything but. Read on for your guide to the best gin for gin and tonics.
Hendrick’s Gin, which is distilled in Scotland, is made in considerably smaller batches than most types of gin and includes a diverse array of botanical ingredients. While you’re likely to pick up hints of elderflower and angelica root, infusions of rose water and cucumber are what make this gin truly unique.
For a refreshing twist on a classic gin and tonic, try garnishing with cucumber instead of lime.
While Cutwater Spirits’ regular gin is no slouch, we’re especially partial to the brand’s barrel-rested Old Grove Gin. Rich with notes of coriander, cinnamon, and warm spice, this gin is barrel-aged in charred oak barrels, making it a special favorite for those who prefer darker liquors. To get the full impact of this flavor-rich gin, consider swapping out the tonic for soda water.
One of the best gins for gin and tonics is by Fords. This smooth and versatile gin pairs well with just about everything, including tonic. The London-distilled gin is ideal for spring and summer, with delicate notes of grapefruit and jasmine.
There’s no going wrong with St. George, and the brand’s trio of craft gins offers a little something for everyone. Its signature Terroir Gin has been described as “a forest in a glass,” while the Dry Rye Gin is ideal for whiskey converts. With notes of black peppercorn, citrus, and ginger, the Botanivore Gin is one of the best gins for gin and tonics—especially for those who love a complex, herbaceous flavor profile.
A leader among the pack of classic UK dry gins, Sacred Gin is distilled in London with organically sourced botanicals, making for a fresh, fruit-driven, and well-balanced gin and tonic. If you’re feeling adventurous, Sacred also makes the gin in niche flavors like pink grapefruit, cardamom, and Christmas pudding. The brand’s advice? Try this delicious gin and tonic variation with a sprig of rosemary and a slice of ruby red grapefruit.
Made in England, Plymouth Gin is ideal for those who want to ease up on the juniper, as it's mainly the aroma of the botanical you're greeted with—unlike other gins, the taste of juniper doesn't take the spotlight. Instead, the other six ingredients—coriander seed, green cardamom, angelica root, orris root, and orange and lemon peels—shine. The smooth, creamy gin tastes as fresh as it is aromatic, and it has a long, elegant finish to boot.
While most gins have a short ingredients list, Monkey 47 credits its complex flavor to 47 botanicals, largely inspired by the life of its maker, Montgomery Collins, who spent his childhood in East Asia as a child of a diplomat and his military career in Berlin, before making his home in the Black Forest. Monkey 47 is made in the Black Forest and includes the traditional juniper and citrus notes, in addition to ingredients foraged from the forest, like lingonberries, spruce shoots, and bramble leaves.
While American Gin was largely lost during Prohibition, Aviation hopes to bring it back with gusto. The Portland, Oregon-based craft gin distiller infuses each small batch with a blend of botanicals, including French lavender, sarsaparilla, and two varieties of orange peel. The result? A smooth and balanced gin ready for your next gin and tonic.
Hayman's Old Tom
While it was launched in 2007, Hayman's Old Tom gin takes on an old-world style that harkens back to "Old Tom," the name for English gin made in the 1700s. The gin was historically sweetened to masque imperfections caused by the distillation process. While Hayman's gin is based on a family recipe from the era, the modern English gin takes advantage of a more streamlined distillation process that still involves a copper pot.
Drumshanbo Gunpowder is an Irish Gin that takes advantage of its Irish roots and Asian influence. The blend builds upon Chinese gunpowder tea and lemon, grapefruit, and Kaffir lime in addition to botanicals from countries around the world, like Romania, Macedonia, and Morocco. The multicultural ingredients are distilled into gin in a shed near a lake in a small Irish town.
Now that you know which gins are best for gin and tonics, brush up on your knowledge of classic cocktails with five of the best vodkas for martinis.
Anno Distillers. History of Gin. Updated n.d.
Monk RL, Qureshi AW, McNeill A, Erskine-Shaw M, Heim D. Perfect for a Gin and Tonic: How Context Drives Consumption Within a Modified Bogus Taste Test. Alcohol Alcohol. 2018 May 1;53(3):228-234.