The closest link between the people that make wine and the people that drink it
With the weather alternating between miserable and outright apocalyptic, cask strength single malt has been, rather unusually, at the top of my gustatory thoughts of late. I say unusually as normally in the middle of July I find myself turning much more often to cognacs or rums, at least as far as aged spirits are concerned.
Very few things truly satiate in the warmer months than a really good ‘Spirit & Tonic’. I’m not going to insult you by teaching any of your grandmothers to suck eggs, or indeed make their own preferred form of G&T, but after my failure to produce a delicious Grain Whisky and Tonic a few days ago there are a few of my errors I would hate anyone else to replicate:
Firstly, your spirit must be of good quality and of a style you like. Now, most commercially available spirits are at the least good quality so unless you have a particular penchant for risking life and limb (and a nasty criminal record) distilling things in your living room, the spirit part of the equation is pretty much a given. I don’t think it’ll come as much of a surprise to learn that for me, even though I’ve enjoyed Cognac, Armagnac, Rum, Vodka and Whisky in the role, the ideal spirit to pair with tonic is Gin. It also might not be a huge shock to find that the pinnacle of Gin can be found very close to home in the rather fetching green bottle of Berrys’ No. 3 London Dry Gin.
Secondly, your tonic must be something you could actually drink on its own. My failure earlier this week stemmed from the fact that I was in an unfamiliar environment separated from any ability to choose my ingredients. I appreciate that a bad workman always blames his tools but on this occasion I feel I can be forgiven. Suffice to say, I hope never again to find myself faced with slightly flat, convenience store own-label, low calorie tonic water and be expected to provide something appealing.
Thirdly, and this is purely my reasoning of course, serve in any type of glass, with any amount of ice, garnished in any way you like. If you enjoy the sweeping, ergonomic curves of one particular Germanic sounding glassware manufacturer over another, by all means fill your cupboards with their products. If you feel that your ice must be carved into an Icosidodecahedron and made from thrice-filtered Nordic water, be my guest. If you’ve discovered a remote tribe in a far-flung corner of this world that makes ceremonial cocktail bitters to a millennia old recipe and only sell one thimble-full every decade, then please, knock yourself out! None of these things will automatically make the drink any better or worse in my opinion, but they are almost certainly part of somebody’s imbibing ritual.
Finally, and probably most importantly, make sure the experience is shared. I believe it’s perfectly possible to share a delicious ‘Spirit and Tonic’ with a great novel, a sporting occasion or a spot of music. Vodka and Tonic with Tolstoy? Cognac and Tonic with the cricket? Rum and Tonic with Bob Marley perhaps? Equally, very few bottles are as enjoyably finished as those drained with friends and loved ones, soaked up with good conversation and something that a non-Yorkshireman might well describe as joie-de-vivre!