Oct 19, 2020
Everyone knows gin-and-tonic is good for you. But have you ever considered what a truly global invention it is?
Gin’s origins date at least as far back as the 16th century, when the Dutch cooked up jenever (their word for juniper). A couple of centuries on, the British refined it to London dry gin. On the other side of the planet, indigenous Peruvians had discovered that the bark of the cinchona tree relieved fever and chills. And in the early 1800s, a pair of enterprising scientists from France figured out how to extract the medicinal quinine from it.
Bitter and unpalatable, quinine went down better with water, herbs or fruit, sugar–and alcohol. Whether it was the French who came up with the mix to coax their Foreign Legionnaires into taking their antimalarials or the Brits for their colonizing force in the Indian subcontinent remains in dispute. But by the end of the century, cheap supplies of quinine were found in India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Java, leading to the mass production of tonic water, and the rest is crisp and refreshing world-traveler history.
You may have noticed that gin is super hot right now. The industry’s zeitgeist is all about the buzziest words in F&B overall: small-batch, locavore, plant-based. There’s at least a gin (maybe innumerable ones) from nearly every country (we’ve heard rumors of the first from Nepal!), and with a world’s array of botanicals, certainly one for every palate. You want hints of cinnamon aged in Muscat barrels? Four Pillars Australian Christmas Gin it is. Prefer your flavors–pandan, pomelo, Khmer basil–foraged from the Mekong River delta? Seekers will transport you to Cambodia.
G&Ts, too, are as varied as a good night is long. So in honor of World Gin-and-Tonic Day, we asked a few of our favorites behind the bar to share some recipes worthy of a fake-holiday celebration or just your standard Sunday afternoon. We expect everyone’s ice molds are ready to go, yeah? Great.
The two-year-old micro-distillery has already won several awards for its signature gin, the Singapore Dry, which features 22 botanicals representing some of Southeast Asia’s favorite flavors, such as pomelo peel and chrysanthemum, and for the passion-project entrepreneurship of its founder, a vibrant young woman with a vision of diversifying and strengthening the Singaporean drinking industry. Their tasting room was just named Best Spirits Bar of the Year by SG Magazine.
Butterfly Pea Gin and Tonic
- 30ml Brass Lion Butterfly Pea Gin
- 75ml Elderflower Tonic
- Garnish Grapefruit and Rosemary
“The Butterfly Pea Gin by Brass Lion Distillery is a harmonious blend of The Singapore Dry Gin with lavender and butterfly pea flowers. Lavender, known for its calming properties, adds a floral top note to the gin. The gin’s deep, rich blue hue is derived from the Butterfly Pea flower–a staple in our Peranakan cuisine. With the addition of citrus, its color-changing properties are revealed as it morphs into a vibrant lilac.”
—Jamie Koh, founder
The Four Seasons Bangkok at Chao Phraya is opening later this year, but we at T+L SEA scored a sneak-peek preview of the award-winning beverage manager (you’ve heard of Manhattan Bar, right?) Philip Bischoff’s cocktails to come. At the heart of the riverfront resort will be BKK Social Club, which is inspired by the mood and conviviality of Buenos Aires and is the most hotly anticipated bar in the city. Since you can’t yet see and be seen in their al fresco wings and Gatsby banquettes, we suggest you gently stir this bad boy up at home.
- Monkey 47 Gin
- Monkey 47 Sloe Gin
- Rosella Mancino Bianco Vermouth
- Indian Tonic Water
“BKK Social Club showcases the legendary glamour and lifestyle of Buenos Aires. For this drink we wanted to transport visitors to one of the many Milongas, where the spirit of tango comes to life. This gin & tonic will help you put on your dancing shoes and keep you on your heels all night long.”
—Philip Bischoff, beverage manager
This super sexy jewel-box of a bar, preening in regal greens and gold, plays off the deep-rooted tea culture of Hong Kong, and the long tail of the tea trail, from Turkey to Sri Lanka to Japan. The founding duo has a rack of awards between them, including Asia’s 50 Best rankings and a Gin Mare HK championship. Back of house, they’ve got their own still churning out their house gins redistilled with different teas from around the world. Of their delicious, somehow so-called Teatails, this one will delight hipsters and grannies alike.
Masala Chai T-Tonic
- 45ml Masala Chai Gin*
- 150ml Q Tonic Water
- Garnished: up-cycled leaf
Masala Chai Gin*
- Cold Brew tea & herbs with Gin for 24 hours
- Filter strain and redistill (rotovap machine)
“Tell Camellia puts its unique twist to classic G&Ts by adding tea. The cocktail bar is inspired by tea. The T-Tonic are teas macerated and cold-brewed with Gin for 24 hours and redistilled in-house, giving it a clear and crisp taste of the flavor and garnish with an up-cycled leaf that guests can take with them.”
—Sandeep Hathiramani, co-founder