Watching sparkling bubbles ascend the glass through luxuriant icy clouds to effervesce in tiny explosions at the drink's surface next to a floating wedge of lime, it's difficult to think of a Gin and Tonic as anything but one of summer's most refreshing adult beverages. But if you focus, you'll see a wealth of herbal remedies in a glass.
Really! Even discounting the antiseptic properties of its 40-percent-and-higher grain alcohol base, gin is steeped in a wealth of botanicals used as holistic remedies, primarily juniper (natural diuretic and urinary disinfectant), but also typically including anise (used for colds, aches and insomnia), angelica (headaches, flatulence, rashes), Orris root (diuretic, expectorant, treats dropsy), licorice (treats ulcers), cinnamon (high in antioxidants, treats cold and diarrhea, repels insects), coriander (treats anxiety and insomnia, an antibacterial for E. coli and salmonella), cassia bark (treats Type II diabetes and hypertension) and orange peel (Vitamin C for colds). Throw in a lime (wards off scurvy) and the quinine from the tonic water (treats malaria symptoms), and a fellow could self-medicate pretty effectively in a tropical situation with this cocktail.
Even if you don't buy the homeopathic jive, there's no denying the Gin and Tonic's thirst-quenching and soul-easing effects at the end of a long, hot day. We considered a number of gins with ice and Fever-Tree tonic. (The latter is a recently launched artisanal mixer that uses natural quinine from the cinchona tree to really trick out the taste.) Our observations follow:
Beefeater (80 proof), with a big juniper component and sweet citrus notes, made a bracing drink. Bombay Sapphire (94 proof) was the spiciest of all, with less juniper and more orris. Crisp, not cloying. Bulldog (80 proof) was almost tutti-frutti with lots of orange. The cucumber component that usually distinguishes Hendrick's (88 proof) was dialed back when mixed with tonic, replaced by coriander and sweet orange. Martin Miller's (90 proof) made a zesty cocktail with lemon, pine, orange peel and cucumber notes. Plymouth (82.4 proof) made perhaps the ballsiest drink, with plenty of cardamon, orange and juniper. We chose Tanqueray No. 10 (94.6 proof) over its standard release for the huge citrus, juniper, apple and spice components. A new Tanqueray release, Rangpur (82.6), tastes of lime.
Photo by Bill Milne