By Wendy Williams
IT is a quintessentially British drink best enjoyed as the weather gets warmer in the spring and summer months.
The G&T – once called a ‘mother’s ruin’ – has evolved into a timeless classic that harks back to the days of the Empire.
But, while the British may have invented the drink, the Spanish have taken it to another level.
According to the Financial Times the premium gin market in Spain has grown by 18 per cent for the past five years.
And, even more excitingly, it is the expensive imported brands such as Hendricks and Bombay Sapphire, which are enjoying the fastest growth.
Trendy bars have now started to spring up across the country dedicated entirely to the spirit, made from grain and flavoured with juniper berries and so-called botanicals.
And last year a Spaniard even won the G’Vine competition for the world’s best gin bartender.
Spain has also become the second largest consumer of gin in the world.
So where does Spain’s attraction to a gin-tonic, as they call it, come from?
According to Fernando Angulo, 31, who runs website Perfect Gin Tonic, which stocks over 200 brands of gin, the drink goes ‘hand in hand’ with the way of life here.
“It is a very refreshing drink that goes well with the character we have in Spain, where people like to drink in the street or in terrazas,” he explains.
“It is best enjoyed in the sunshine and I think this is why it is so popular here.”
Unlike in Britain where adding anything other than tonic and a slice of lemon would be considered revolutionary, in Spain the limits are endless.
It is best enjoyed in the sunshine and I think this is why it is so popular here
In bars across the country you can find gin served with everything from star anise to cinnamon, nutmeg, cucumber, apple, or liquorice.
All this has completely changed how the drink is viewed and it is being taken up by a much younger crowd.
As Alexandre Gabriel, president of Cognac-Ferrand, whose portfolio includes Citadelle Gin, insists: “Only Spain knows how to make a gin and tonic.”
But there are still those who favour the classic.
“I am a defender of the lemon,” smiles Angulo. “There are a lot of things being added in some of the fashionable bars, but they are just trends and will pass.
“I don’t want to be a part of that game. It gets out of hand. Gin and tonic with lemon is a timeless drink that has been around for centuries.
“It doesn’t need playing with.”
He continued: “The perfect gin-tonic is not complicated but often bars fail to get it right.
“A good gin and tonic requires caring, understanding and common sense,” he insists.
“Sometimes the bartenders forget the basics and they rush it.
“But the most important thing,” he continues, “is the lemon.
“One that is over-ripe or has pesticides on the skin or one picked a long time before you use it will badly affect the drink.
“Having good ice is also very important and something that people don’t think about.
“If you have bad quality ice the impurities from the water will go into your drink. “Obviously the gin is important, but you can pour the best gin in the world over bad ice and the drink will show it.”
So how do you make the perfect gin and tonic?
Here we include Fernando Angulo’s step by step instructions…
Gin previously cooled in the freezer (3 to 5 cl.)
Tonic water (20 cl.) Stored in the fridge (essential to keep the bubbles)
4 large ice cubes, preferably from ozonated water, kept as cold as possible
1 fresh lemon, best picked straight from the tree
A little bit of care, understanding and common sense
1. Add three or four large ice cubes straight from the freezer. Only take them out as you begin to make the drink so that they do not begin to melt and mix water with the gin and tonic before it is even prepared.
2. Chill the glass by placing it upside down over a lemon and beginning to whirl it round quickly with the ice inside. As well as cooling the glass this step adds a citrus aroma.
3. Add 3-5 cl. of gin depending on the strength.
4. Cut a slice of lemon peel. With clean hands bend the peel so that the juice sprays into the glass. Throw the peel away and cut another slice with a sharp knife paying close attention to avoid any white pith. Add this to the glass.
5. Tilt the glass slightly and slowly pour cold tonic over the ice.