Gin is my spirit of choice. I am therefore thrown into the proximity of many tonics. My go-to tonics are Fever-tree‘s Mediterranean or Elderflower tonics but I’m always looking for new flavors. Recently I did a taste test with some new tonics available at my local Emporium of Alcoholic Wonders (a.k.a. Berkeley’s Ledger Liquors).
Indi Strawberry tonic paired with Wollersheim’s Garden Gate Gin. The sodalike, quinine-light tonic offers strong fresh strawberry flavors (thankfully not a hint of artificial flavor), so I thought the fruit and herbs of the gin would play well with the strawberry. It was a summery combination but some heavy botanical in the combination didn’t quite suit.
Llanllyr Source tonic water contains natural lemon flavors and comes from Wales. Armed with only that knowledge I chose to go geographic with my pairing. No Welsh gins in my cabinet (an oversight I hope to correct someday) so I chose Sipsmith VJOP from London. Llanllyr’s lemon is a nice dry flavor, like an added twist. The combination was a happy, dry, and strong lemon-juniper symphony. A later G&T with Llanllyr and Venus Gin 01 was clean and fragrant.
Fentiman’s tonic with added lemon oil was matched up with Great Northern’s Herbalist Gin for strong lemon-spruce flavors. The lemon tones of the tonic were a bit sticky-sweet — I like the dryest possible tonic, personally.
Bette Jane’s also paired up with Great Northern, as I was trying them on the same night and wanted a fair tonic comparison. With less lemon, Bette Jane’s let the gin speak. Its natural cane sugar seemed to combat the stickiness that plagues many tonics for a crisper G&T.
Q tonic with agave sweetener and citric acid offered a perfect lemon note along the lines of the Bette Jane’s more than the sweeter Fentiman’s. It was paired with Sacred‘s Cardamom Gin for a dry herbal experience.
Taste-testing Fever-tree‘s Premium Indian and Mediterranean tonics side by side surprised me: straight, I vastly prefer the dryer, softer, more floral Mediterranean (my go-to tonic) or their Elderflower. The Indian’s sweetness had that false, sticky note I dislike so much in tonics. However, when the Indian and Mediterranean were poured over Geranium Gin, the Indian boasted pleasant herbal flavors while the Mediterranean seemed unexpectedly sweeter. Both flavor profiles added distinct notes to a pleasant drink.
Fever-Tree Mediterranean is likely to remain one of my standard tonics, but if availability permits I can see Llanllyr Source and Bette Jane’s making more appearances in my G&Ts.