spice up gin and tonic

How to spice up Gin and Tonic – Creative recipes to try

It’s time to spice up Gin and Tonic. Forget the old highball glass with gin, tonic, ice and a lemon wedge. Play around with new tonic brands, spices, and fruits to give this iconic summer drink a total makeover.

A short history of Gin and Tonic

The history starts in East India in the early 1800s. British soldiers had to consume quinine which was used against malaria. Quinine tastes extremely bitter. The Brits mixed the quinine with soda and water in order to reduce the bitterness. The mix was still too bitter to be enjoyed. Being British, they solved this by adding gin. Without knowing it, the British army had created what may be the world’s most famous, and easy to make, cocktail – the Gin & Tonic

Most people have never tasted a proper Gin and Tonic

I would argue that most people have never tasted a proper Gin and Tonic. The fault is not their own. Many places will mix a G&T by using some cheap gin in a highball glass, add a few ice cubes, add a lemon wedge and top up with tonic from a dispenser gun. The result would look something like the below picture.

Don’t get me wrong. This is just fine if you like the bitter taste of tonic diluted by water and a hint of gin mixed with lemon juice.

history of gin
Two ordinary Gin and Tonic’s (Picture: Picjumbo)

To spice up Gin and Tonic, start with the basics

spice up gin and tonicFirst, start with the gin. From now on you will be making Gin & Tonics where you actually are going to taste the gin. Gordons and Beefeater are fine, but if you want to make something different, try Hendricks, Bulldog, or London No 1.

Next on the list is the tonic. The brand is not that important. Just stay away from most of the supermarket in-house brands.

Schweppes are probably what most people think about when mentioning tonic. Just know that they have more than the ordinary Indian Tonic Water.  They have a range of what they call Premium Mixers.

In Germany last week, I tasted a new Schweppes tonic called Dry Tonic Water (not yet available in all markets). This is a less sweet tonic with more quinine.

It is impossible to avoid mentioning the brand Fever Tree when talking about premium tonics. Their range of tonics is worth a try, especially the Elderflower Tonic.

[stextbox id=”custom” bgcolor=”E8E8E8″ bgcolorto=”FFFFFF” image=”null”] The history of gin is filled with amazing tales and tragedies. Read The history of gin – From mother’s ruin to barrel-aging  [/stextbox]

The most important thing to know about tonic

Here is a piece of information so important that it deserves its own heading. If you want to spice up Gin and Tonic, start measuring the tonic. Don’t just fill the glass.

The ratio of gin to tonic should be somewhere from 1:1 to 1:3.

In other words: The amount of tonic should never exceed three times the amount of gin. If I’m trying a new gin or new tonic, I always start out with a ratio of 1:2. You can easily add more tonic if the taste is not right.

[stextbox id=”custom” bgcolor=”E8E8E8″ bgcolorto=”FFFFFF” image=”null”] Want to know more about tonic? Read What is Tonic water? – The history and the facts  [/stextbox]

The cold, hard facts about ice

Ice cools your drink by taking some of the heat out of the liquid. In this process, some of the ice turns to water, thus diluting your drink. The cool (pun intended) thing about ice is that it keeps itself cool. If you add lots of ice to your drink, the ice will absorb more heat without turning in to water.

This is why I recommend using a copa glass or the biggest red vine glass you can find, and filling it with as much ice as possible when serving a Gin and Tonic.

Now that we have covered the basics, let’s move on to add some exciting tastes in order to spice up Gin and Tonic.

If you read the list of ingredients on a bottle of gin or a bottle of tonic, you will find items like juniper, lemon peel, coriander, and anise. Adding some of the same items in your Gin and Tonic will bring out the same tastes from the gin or tonic.


The most common thing to put in a G&T is a wedge of lemon, orange or lime. What many people don’t know is that the oils just below the fruit peel are much sweeter than the fruit juice itself. The next time you are making a Gin & Tonic, try using the peel instead of a wedge. Just use an ordinary potato peeler to shave off an inch or two of the fruit peel. Try experimenting with grapefruit, apples, mango or blood orange as well.

A remake of the classic Gin & Tonic. (Picture: Bjørn Christian Finbråten)

Let’s stop for a moment and do a re-make of the classic Gin and Tonic with Gordons Gin.

What you need:

  • 1 part Gordons London Dry Gin
  • 3 parts Schweppes Indian Tonic
  • 3 inches / 8cm lemon peel
  • Copa glass, or large red wine glass
  • Lots of ice
 Add lemon peels, gin, and tonic into the glass. Add ice. That’s it. Enjoy.


Many vegetables can work wonders in a G&T. Cucumber and lemongrass are my two favorites. Watermelon can also be used.


Juniper, the main ingredient in gin is a self-explanatory berry to use both as garnish and for adding taste to a Gin and Tonic. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or redcurrants are other alternatives.


Herbs, gin, and tonic is a fun combination. The herbs I use the most is rosemary and lemon balm. However, you should not be afraid to experiment with things like coriander, mint, lemongrass, and anise.


With a blog post titled How to spice up Gin and Tonic, it is inevitable to sooner or later be mentioning spices.

Star anise, black pepper, and cardamom are my favorites in a Gin & Tonic. Clove, rose peppers and cinnamon are three other that should be in stock if you plan to start making Gin and Tonic’s that everyone would love.

Gin and Tonic recipes to try

Strawberry and black pepper G&T

  • 1 part Plymouth gin
  • 2 parts Fever Tree tonic
  • 2 sliced strawberries
  • 1 strawberry as garnish

Orange and Anise G&T

  • 1 part Bombay Sapphire gin
  • 3 parts Schweppes Indian Tonic
  • 1 Star anise
  • Orange peel

Cucumber and rose G&T

  • 1 part Hendricks gin
  • 2 parts Schweppes Indian Tonic
  • 2 thin slices of cucumber
  • 3 red rose petals

Botanical G&T

  • 1 part Beefeater gin
  • 2 parts Fever Tree Elderflower tonic
  • 2 Juniper berries
  • 3 leafs of lemon balm
  • 1 inch / 2.5cm of rosemary

Orange and Pepper G&T

  • 1 part London No 1 gin
  • 2 parts Fever Tree tonic
  • 2 whole black peppers
  • 3 whole rose peppers
  • 2 orange peels
  • 1 dash of freshly grained black pepper for garnish

Classic G&T

  • 1 part Gordons London Dry Gin
  • 3 parts Schweppes Indian Tonic
  • 2 Lemon peel

What is your favorite way to spice up Gin and Tonic? Please share it in the comment section below.

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