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Gin and tonics in Spain
Examining Spain's fixation on an old favorite
Move over sangria: Spain has a new obsession and it’s the gin and tonic!
I had never been a fan of gin and tonics. My husband Dave used to drink them when we first met, but I never developed a taste for tonic water. To me, it always seemed like an old-fashioned drink that should be served in a gentlemen’s club as (male) patrons talked politics and smoked cigars by a fireplace. Martinis and wine were more suited to my lifestyle.
That is, until I tried a proper gin and tonic in Spain. The refreshing cocktail is so popular there are cocktail bars dedicated solely to this particular drink. Michelin-starred restaurants around the region have their own signature G&Ts.
Wherever you go, gin and tonic is the star attraction on the drink menu, and by the middle of the evening, you’ll notice everyone in the bar sipping on this cool refreshing beverage.
From the swanky downtown bars of Barcelona to the quiet home-style restaurants in the Pyrenees, everyone loves gin and tonic.
Since becoming a gin and tonic aficionado, I have learned that the right G&T is all about the ingredients. Back home, in Toronto, we mix our gin with regular tonic water and any old gin will do. In Spain, it’s about choosing the right tonic to compliment your palette, and adding other flavors such as cucumber, cranberry, peppers or shaved ginger (to name a few).
So many different types of gin and tonic cocktails
I didn’t know you could buy different types of tonic water, but there are premium tonics out there just like premium spirits such as vodka or rum.
On a recent visit, when I was presented with eight different tonics from which to choose, I put my trust in the mixologist to help me pick the right one. He asked my about my flavor preferences, personality, and tastes, and as he learned about my likes and dislikes, he slowly decided what gin-and-tonic combination would work for me.
It turned out that I’m more of a lighthearted fruity gal.
Most G&Ts in Spain use only the best premium gins. Even the ice is important. Ice cubes there are larger than any cubes I have come across elsewhere. Many are made from pure mineral water.
Making a gin and tonic in Spain also is a grand event. Large balloon-shaped glasses are chosen and chilled before they are filled to the brim with those giant ice cubes. The gin is poured slowly over a long bartender’s twisted spoon and blended with the perfect amount of tonic and infused flavors.
Also, you must be patient for your drink; it takes skill and time to make each one to perfection.
At the fashionable Indigo Restaurant inside Hotel Carlemany in downtown Girona, we spent an evening tasting gin and tonics paired with four different courses (flatbread with anchovies, Iberian ham, vegetable tempura, and beef tartare). The Spanish have taken gin-tasting to a whole new level, equating the spirit with a fine wine or aged scotch. Each course was served with a gin to complement the dish. Each gin and tonic was made with artistic flair. It was like a food-and-wine pairing. Only better.
Viewfinder Tip: Tipping for drinks is not customary in Spain, but leaving your spare change is appreciated.
As we progressed, the infused flavors took on the quality of the prepared food, and each sip mixed perfectly with the dish. The Spanish take great pride in preparing the perfect gin and tonic and it is your duty to enjoy it to the fullest.
What’s great about gin and tonic is that the tonic water keeps you hydrated. A night out is a merry one indeed, but your head will thank you in the morning as you awake feeling rested and refreshed. Gin and tonics truly are the perfect summer cocktail.
From its humble beginnings as a mixture created by British colonists in India to improve the taste of antimalarial medication to the chic settings of downtown clubs today, the gin and tonic has come a long way, baby.
Spain understands the wonder of this great drink. It won’t be long until the rest of the world catches up.
What’s your cocktail of choice for the summer?
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