How To Enjoy Gin If You Don't Like Tonic
I’ve been in the drinks business for 25 years, and all of those years I’ve been an ambassador for gin. Back in the 90s, vodka was the thing. There were whole chains of bars across the world that only stocked vodka, and not only did they only stock vodka, but they had hundreds of brands. Stick drinks were the thing, vodka, limes and an assortment of other ingredients slung in for sexiness. Muddlers pummelling away industriously across bartops the world over.
I was a G&T girl. My mother was a G&T girl. As soon as I was old enough, I was ordering G&Ts in pubs in London (“ice or a slice, love?”) while my mates drank Vodka, Lime and Sodas (requesting “fresh lime”, by making little crab claws with their fingers in the air for emphasis). Back then gin was deeply uncool. There weren’t hundreds of brands in your local bottle shop, there were only a handful of the old faithfuls. They all had the same botanicals and no one even thought to tell us what they were. Why would we care?
These days it’s a very different scene. There are more gins in your local bottleshop than you can shake a muddling stick at. There are certainly more than there are vodkas. We’ve gone through a revolution. Archie Rose was riding the crest of that wave as we first turned on our stills in Rosebery - we were distillery number 24 in the country, and now there are over 450. It’s a truly incredible thing that has happened to the industry.
Gin doesn’t need to be aged, unlike rum or whisky, and it’s all about personality - which Australians and Australian ingredients have in bucket loads. If you still think you don’t like gin I’m going to challenge you. That really means you don’t like flavour. There is so much variety in gin you either haven’t met the right gin, but the most likely suggestion is you don’t like tonic.
Tonic is a very bitter mixer. It’s got a fancy history, tied to the old colonial empires of the Dutch Republic and England. Tonic has a fascinating history, but we’re not here to talk about tonic. We’re here to talk about NOT TONIC.
Just like the incredible gin boom of the 21st Century, mixers have kept up the pace. Some truly brilliant brands have been launched to coincide with these fancy new craft spirits. Fever-Tree now boasts a larger market share than Schweppes (no mean feat when you take into account the 250-year history of the steadfast mixer brand - it’s older than tonic water itself!). Modern Australian legends like Capi and StrangeLove are fairing well among the non-alc aisles. And they’re not stopping at modern interpretations of tonic. They’re looking at local ingredients, cutting edge processes, and a serious eye for design. In short, they’re keeping up with the Gins.
We’ve picked a few matches in the world of mixers for you to give a whirl.
Sunrise Lime Mandarin Soda from Strangelove
This is an absolute banger of a match. The round, full citrus notes from the flirty Sunrise Lime Harvest Gin is kept afloat by the fresh, pithy Mandarin Soda. We serve these in the bar garnished with mandarin. As these blush bad boys go out across the bar everyone jumps up to copy the order.
Lemon Scented Gum and Lemon Squash
When we make a new gin here at Archie Rose we have a ripper of an afternoon finding its perfect signature serve. We line up every imaginable mixer on the market. Every tonic you’ve ever heard of and probably a few you haven’t. We find the perfect match and then we do the process again for garnish. This was the first gin we matched to a NOT TONIC. It’s zest and verdancy is perfectly matched with the icy pole lemon squash. Highly Sessinoable and great for a backyard BBQ.
Bone Dry and Grapefruit Soda Capi
This is my personal favourite. The Grapefruit Soda from Capi is bright, tart and fresh. Our Bone Dry is a big whack of juniper, followed by a long lingering and bracingly dry finish. Paired with the big bold Grapefruit Soda you’ve got yourself a serious drink, capable of serious refreshment. This is the ultimate 5pm WFH knock-off.