The Quintessential Summertime Cocktail: A Gin and Tonic

With just three ingredients, gin and tonic is a simple and refreshing cocktail during the hottest summer months.

The Quintessential Summertime Cocktail: A Gin and Tonic
Glass of Gin and Tonic with Limes and a Straw, Surrounded by a Lime Wedges and Cans of Tonic
Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

The quintessential summertime cocktail, a gin and tonic is both simple in ingredients, and yet endlessly customizable. Let’s take a look at how to make your perfect cocktail for summertime, or anytime!

In its basic form, a gin and tonic balances both the woodsy juniper berry flavor found in a London Dry style gin with the slightly sweet and bitter flavor of tonic water. It’s served in a highball glass, which holds around 10 ounces, and usually includes a squeeze of lime.

Glass of Gin and Tonic Next to Lime Wedges and Kitchen Towel
Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

London Dry Gin Vs. American-Style Gin

Order a G&T while you’re out and typically you’ll be served one made with a London Dry-style gin. Brands from this category include Beefeater, Tanqueray, and Fords Gin (my personal favorite and what I use here in the recipe). Dry gins have a crisp, strong juniper flavor, and do not have any added flavors or colors after they have been distilled. “Dry” refers to them being unsweetened. 

On the other side of the gin spectrum are the New “Western,” “Modern,” or “American” style gins that began appearing throughout the mid-2000’s. This style of gin pushes the juniper flavor back to varying degrees (although in order to be labeled “gin”, the bottle has to include it). 

Two of the pioneering brands to launch this popular style are Hendrick’s, with its cucumber and rose palate, and Aviation, which has a bounty of spice, citrus, and floral flavorings. My favorite of these styles is Val’s Botanical gin with cucumber, lemon, sage, and lavender flavors.

What Type of Tonic Water to Use for a Gin and Tonic?

There are a variety of tonic water choices available on the market currently, but not every style will work with your gin. Look for complementary flavors when pairing.

  • Classic tonic, you may also see this listed as “Indian Tonic” is flavored with the classic bitter quinine. Look for brands like Fever-Tree, Schweppes, and Q-Tonic.
  • Buy tonic syrup to make your own tonic water! Jack Rudy’s Tonic syrup allows you to add just the amount of tonic “flavor” to your sparkling water.
  • There is also flavored tonics—these bottles have a variety of flavors available on the market from elderflower to citrus, cucumber to “Mediterranean” style which has rosemary and thyme flavors. Look for brands like Fever-Tree, Fentimans, Q-Tonic, and more.
Glass of Gin and Tonic with Limes and a Straw, Surrounded by a Bottle of Gin, Cans of Tonic, and Lime Wedges
Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

Use a Highball Glass for a Gin and Tonic (or Don't)

While traditionally you’ll find your G&T served over ice in a highball glass, any roomy glass like a double rocks or mason jar will also work. Don’t discount a wine glass too if that’s all you have!

Ever Heard of a Spanish G&T?

Another style of G&T is the Spanish gin and tonic, or “gin tonica.” In the early 2000’s, chefs and bartenders in Spain started a botanical-forward and flamboyant style of making the drink. 

You’ll find it served in a large balloon-style wine glass filled with ice and garnished heavily with botanicals. The reason for the large bowl style glass is so that when your nose dips in while taking a sip, you get an added layer of aromas from whatever is being served in the glass. To properly garnish your drink, use the botanicals found in the gin to guide you. 

For example, if you were to use Hendrick’s gin, with its aromas of cucumber and rose, you could garnish your drink with both of those. Even juniper-forward Beefeater has some citrus and peppery flavors that would be enhanced with citrus zest and a few black pepper pods.

Glass of Gin and Tonic
Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski

Looking for More Gin Cocktails?

Fill glass with ice:

Fill a highball glass 2/3 with ice.

Make your gin and tonic:

Pour the gin and lime juice into the glass. Top with the tonic water. Stir gently with a cocktail stirrer or chopstick to combine.

Garnish and serve:

Garnish with the lime wedges and serve.

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Glass of Gin and Tonic with a Squeezed Lime
Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski
Glass of Gin and Tonic with Limes and a Straw, Surrounded by a Bottle of Gin, Cans of Tonic, and Lime Wedges
Simply Recipes / Elana Lepkowski