Beefeater Gin Master Distiller reveals how to craft the perfect G&T

Is there something so quintessentially simple, refreshing and classic as the humble G&T? Paired with fresh ice, and summer drinks on a patio with pals, there’s nothing quite like it. 

Of course even with a cocktail so simple – the recipe is IN the name – there are memory-making excellent ones, and there are not-so-great, lukewarm, its-time-to-go-home-now ones. Sorry, ‘Spoons in Camden, I’m looking at you. 

To celebrate World Gin Day (June 11) (yes, it’s an annual celebration at The Luxe Review towers, as it should be everywhere), we spoke to Beefeater Gin’s master distiller and global brand ambassador, Desmond Payne MBE, to learn everything we need to know about crafting an award-winning G&T in our home bars. Not only does he know more about gin than my nan (an astounding feat in itself) but the master distiller has spent more than fifty years as an expert in the gindustry, has developed countless gins and holds a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Gin Guild.

Here, he reveals the perfect ratios, what you never knew you were getting wrong with your ice cubes, and the simple tonic that makes all the difference…. 

Why is Beefeater Gin the perfect gin to use in a G&T? 

Beefeater is a perfectly balanced gin and therefore works well in all mixed drinks and cocktails.  It is particularly good in a G&T because of its classic citrus notes, which temper the bitter notes of quinnine in the tonic. Beefeater is an exceptionally versatile liquid, I can’t think of a cocktail that doesn’t taste great with Beefeater gin. The iconic juniper and citrus notes of Beefeater balance wonderfully with the bitterness of tonic water.

The more ice, the slower the dilution and the colder your drink stays.

The tonic in a Gin & Tonic is important too – what’s your preferred one and why? 

There are lots of tonic waters on the market now. I avoid flavoured tonics in my G&T and at home I add classic Schweppes. I lean towards the Schweppes 1783 Light Tonic as it has a lovely zesty pink grapefruit note, but still maintains the essence of a classic tonic. And I prefer that it has less sugar.

How do you serve your G&T?  

I add three lumps of ice, Beefeater gin and cold tonic. Then, I add a lemon wedge garnish (not squeezed and definitely not rubbed round the rim of the glass.) My tip is to keep the tonic in the fridge – you don’t want to melt the ice too quickly. I also fill the glass with ice. The more ice, the slower the dilution and the colder your drink stays.

What are the measurements for the perfect G&T?

The measurements are up to you, but the ratio I use is 3:1. That’s three parts tonic, one part gin. 

Whatever you do, use fresh ice, because it can pick up flavours from the fridge. I am not ready for a fish finger G&T!

When it comes to garnishes, what’s your favourite? Is there an unusual one we should try in order to spice things up? 

For me, a traditional wedge of waxed lemon is perfect.  Don’t use old lemons – they spoil the taste of your G&T.  One of the key flavours in Beefeater is Seville orange peel, so a beautiful seasonal garnish is a slice of Seville orange when they are in the shops, around marmalade making time. I believe it’s important to hero the botanicals in the gin you are drinking. For Beefeater Dry, I will garnish my B&T with a wheel of lemon and orange, for Beefeater 24, a wedge of grapefruit and for Pink Strawberry, a few slices of in-season strawberries, which are particularly good at this time of year. I avoid overly complex and spicy garnish as the aroma may compete with the note of the gin.

Now, glassware – which glass should we make sure our bar is stocked with for the ultimate G&T? How much ice do you like to fill it with? 

I use a rocks glass – I want to be able to taste my gin and avoid drowning it in tonic. I don’t use a huge glass unless I want a huge G&T.  I do not like too much ice – it numbs the flavour – I like my G&T about half an inch from the top of the glass. And whatever you do, use fresh ice, because it can pick up flavours from the fridge. I am not ready for a fish finger G&T!

Taking the 1:3 part measurement into consideration, this should determine the size of your glass. By having a very big glass you can risk adding too much tonic and over diluting your gin. In terms of ice, I fill my glass with ice as it keep the drink colder for longer and the more ice the slower the dilution, which is why I like a rock glass or a small white wine glass.

A beautiful seasonal garnish is a slice of Seville orange

What’s a common mistake when it comes to making a G&T?

 Drowning good gin in too much tonic. Too much tonic, low quality or old ice and garnishes that are not fresh.

What advice do you have for us to make our home-made G&T on par with one from a luxury bar?

Just keep it simple – and practice. Keep it simple and enjoy it the way you like it. Gin and Tonics are meant to be enjoyed! 

Bex April May is an experienced entertainment, travel and lifestyle journalist based in London, writing for The Guardian, Metro, Cosmopolitan, MTV, Shortlist and more. Follow her adventures on Twitter @bexlectric and on Instagram @bexaprilmay

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