Gin & Tonic: simple, easy, delicious. Photo by Michael's iPhone.

When it’s really muggy, and I’m fried from work, and stress, and travel, and I just want something cold and guzzlable, inexpensive hooch is the way I go. I’m too much of a cheapskate to waste the expensive stuff on a guzzle, especially one filled with an ocean of tonic and a couple good squeezes of lime. Furthermore, it’s senseless to dilute delicious Beefeater or Hendrick’s (my two favorite gins) with a lot of tonic. And there are days when I simply don’t want to bother with a shaker and egg white, have no desire for a sip of expensive reposado, and don’t have the patience to weigh the goddam bitters—just give me something cold and refreshing that will take the edge off this Friday afternoon brain sizzle, NOW. Fast.

Ahh, the Gin and Tonic. Only makes sense to use inexpensive. My choice: Barton. Why? Because it doesn’t matter (and it’s the cheapest on the shelf) and I like its Art Deco-y label (and it’s the cheapest on the shelf, did I mention that?). I just spent a week in New York and am feeling extremely poor.

Here’s to the inexpensive and satisfying always reliable Gin and Tonic.

The Gin and Tonic, aka an Old Reliable

  • Lots of inexpensive gin
  • Three times as much tonic
  • All the limes you need
  • Buckets of ice
  1. Combine pleasing amounts of each ingredient in a red plastic cup that reminds you of college keg parties.
  2. Drink at ease.
  3. Repeat if necessary.
  4. Eventually get around to making dinner.

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© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


71 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: Gin & Tonic”

  • mantonat

    Fantastic! Mine was always Gordon’s. I tried making a martini with it once and it was god-awful, but it has a ton of juniper flavor to mingle well with the tonic.

    This also reminded me that I’ve been seeing these t-shirts around lately (note – I’m not in any way involved in selling these):

  • Barbara | Creative Culinary

    I have such fun creating cocktails but I’m with you…when it’s hot and I’m melting this is my drink of choice. I might still prefer a glass but that’s about as upscale as it gets!

    I’ve had the chance to visit a local distillery that makes a nice gin but more than anything I just enjoyed seeing the process and learning about how botanicals influence the end result. I honestly never knew!

  • Ed

    I’m curious about the amount of research that is needed every week to produce the “Friday Cocktail Hour” post 🙂

    How many candidate drinks are considered and how many iterations of a single drink are needed to reach perfection?

    I guess it’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.

  • Eric

    Totally with you on this one as well, although I am sort of interested in trying Q Tonic for a fancier G&T. First I have to justify paying $7 for a 750ml bottle of tonic…

  • Lisa, San diego

    always my favorite…try freezing tonic as cubes so you don’t get the watered-down effect. Sapphire & tonic is my go to.

  • Anne

    Q Tonic is the way to go! You will never look back; very smooth.

  • Victoria

    Well, now we must agree to disagree. For me it is G & T always with Plymouth and either Q or Schweppes Tonic.

  • MonkeyBoy

    Inexpensive gin? Surely you mean “non super premium” gin. I am not much of a spirit drinker but in social settings out I do enjoy the occasional G&T. You seem to be promoting the myth that the lime and quinine will mask the nasty cogeners found in the cheapest gin brands. Some bars seem to follow this myth and you can taste the nasties in their default G&T. Not being a gin buyer I don’t know where the cutoff is of being too nasty to drink even when mixed.

    • Kyle

      I’m with you. Even with a ton of tonic and lime, you can taste the cheap nasty stuff. I have a rule about not buying spirits that come in giant plastic bottles. That’s just asking for a nasty hangover.

    • Julie

      Hey- is this MonkeyBoy from Yankee Brew News?? If so, we really MISS you!

  • Alex

    For anyone curious about the “red solo cup” t-shirts…. look up the song “Red Solo Cup” by Toby Keith. A delightful bit of silliness. Also explains why red solo cups are hard to find sometimes.

  • Darcie

    We used to use Gordon’s for G&T because our former neighbor (named Gordon) used it and introduced us to the drink. I think that’s the first time I had ever tried gin, but certainly not the last. I usually use Beefeaters now because it’s a good all-around gin to have on the shelf and it doesn’t break the bank.

  • Baydog

    I feel it’s more important to use a quality tonic rather than an expensive gin. Save the Tanqueray 10 for a gibson.

      • Irene

        Fentiman’s tonic makes a **huge** difference in our G&Ts. Have made a side-by-side G&T comparison with other fancy tonics including Q & Fever Tree, Fentiman’s beats them hands down.

        • Frumpulent Grumpton

          That’s apparently $3 for ~ 9oz. Good lord. I could maybe split that 50/50 with some Schwepp’s if I really wanted to go fancy for my first two rounds, but that’s it.

      • Baydog

        Ummm. Michael, I’m just thrilled that you replied to my comment. Of the big three that are on any given Stop & Shop shelf, Schweppes is by far the only tonic I’ll buy (in Europe it seems a bit drier and comes in smaller, single serving cans, which is great). I’m not an afficionado of the more hoity-toity tonics, and if you’re at a resort tiki-bar, go with what they’re pouring from the well; chances are you’re not going to be able to tell what they’ve used anyway. And I think, for a good drink, a 1:1 ratio of spirit to mixer is a good ruhl of thumb.

  • allen

    Same shit i drink in the same friggin glass. You are a cheap date!

  • allen

    Lot of good homemade tonic recipes on the web, fun And tasty.

  • Jim Washburn

    Another fan of Gordon’s for Gs&Ts for its strong juniper flavor. Lousy for martinis, though. I do half gin, half tonic, plus a good squeeze of Mexican key lime juice. My default drink in hot weather.

  • Jeff

    Cheers and here’s to inexpensive G&Ts during the summer swelter! I’m not familiar, nor have I ever tried Barton gin, but i couldn’t agree with you more on your two favorites.

  • Craigkite

    We agree on the cheap gin when mixing with tonic and the waste of time involved in weighing fluids. Liquids have always been measured by volume, and I can’t see using scales when there are perfectly good measuring vessels available to get the same effect. Weighing is a whole lot more process oriented than results oriented. Scales are great for baking, but I don’t see a need to change the paradigm for mixing a drink. There are too many bartenders that have added a lime twist to my gin on the rocks because of their familiarity with gin and tonic. I would not want to confuse them any further by requesting that they weigh the contents of a libation.

    • mantonat

      The main advantage I see of weighing the fluids is fewer dishes to wash. Just put your glass or shaker on the scale and tare for each new ingredient. I don’t think I’d be all that impressed by a bar where all the bartenders weigh the ingredients from the same recipe. I want to get each bartenders individual take on the drink.

      • Craigkite

        Don’t you just lick the spoon or shot glass and put it back in the drawer or cupboard?

    • ruhlman

      yes, agreed, but for consistency in a great up cocktail, i love a scale. also easier to measure.

  • Chuck Shaw

    I don’t go that cheap, but Tanquerey in the 1.5L bottles seems to always be on sale at the local megamart. Weighing bitters?! Didn’t they have a bartending section in the CIA curriculum?

  • Artusi

    Wow, you must be tired to reach that low down on the supermarket shelf. Personally, I’d pay the extra few bucks for Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire and avoid a sticky head the morning after. If you are after ‘value’ drinks, go for Listerine. 27% alcohol, triple distilled and filtered. Plus your breath smells great the morning after !

    Tanq Ten and Plymouth Gin are my favorites.

    • ruhlman

      sticky head, love it, and squirrely mouth, yes, dangers to be avoided by a hearty dinner after.

  • Mary

    Oh, no… not memories of college… ugggg. Ouch. But definitely with you on the gin and tonic. Love them.

  • Jan

    I am also a G&T fan, but I don’t know much about the cheap stuff. I am fortunate that mt job brings me lots of Tanqueray and an occasional good supply of Sapphire :^) Not too long ago, I came upon some Amsterdam gin, which looks fancy, so I thought to try it with club soda, so as not to overwhelm it with the tonic and found a G&C to be even more refreshing! I get loads of free tonic at work also, so that remains more common. More than one person has vacationed with us and gone home declaring that G&T is their new favorite, only because they never thought to try one before.

      • Jan

        Never a shortage of free gin at work, and more free rum than you can shake a stick at. I can certainly afford to buy my own, but I sure would love more free bubbles 🙂 Happily there is also a seemingly endless supply of free limes and lemons as well. Limes are for drinks, lemons are for sqeezing over a salad.

  • Carly

    For some reason, every instance of an embarrassingly drunk relative I can recall from my childhood involved gin and tonics, and as such I’ve barely ever been able to drink one. (Not that that’s kept me from sometimes getting embarrassingly drunk, anyway.)

      • Witloof

        Pick a place where we can all hang out for a few hours and eat some nice food {I’d be happy to help with suggestions although I’m sure you have tons of restaurant connections here} and let us know the date and time about two weeks in advance, then we’ll RSVP so you can reserve. Saturday or Sunday afternoon sometime? I’m happy to help with logistics.

  • happen

    My wife and I did a taste test once years ago. I mixed 4 g&t’s in identical glasses with Schweppes tonic and a quarter lime. Gins were Gordon’s, Bombay Sapphire (my friend’s favorite), Tanquery, and a local gin brewed in Bend, OR (I’ve since forgotten the name). I was rooting for the local. I marked them A through D, then left the room. She came in and changed them to 1 through 4, in a different order, but wrote down the translation. Then the research began in earnest. I had Tanquery first by a lot, then the local, the Bombay, then Gordon’s. She like Gordon’s first, then Tanquery, the Bombay, then the local. So we’ve been drinking Tanquery ever since, with a half and half ratio to the tonic, which can get a bit dangerous.

    • Allen

      Blind taste test is the proof for all things we eat and drink. Not $, not pretty packaging, but the things we truly like with our own instinct.
      I like Barton’s gin, even in a martini. But mix it in a Negroni or with tonic and I’m very happy. Comingle with ice right in the cup.

  • Jim Washburn

    I”m trying out the Barton right now. It’s OK but not as tasty (i.e., junipery) as Gordon’s. Lots cheaper, though. I’ll post again if I wake up tomorrow with a headache.

  • Josef Paul

    Gordon’s was what Kathryn Hepburn was throwing out of Humphrey Bogart’s boat in The African Queen. If it’s good enough for Humphrey, it’s good enough for me.

  • Allen

    Lil sumptn sumptn.
    I’m going back to the ghost post on orange.
    How the fuck does that fantastic cocktail go un noticed, while this mouth wash gets so many mentions, cause a u make’n it sexy.
    Well that rob Roy is truly bonerlicious in a champagne glass and if you don’t try it you r a f’d up asshole!
    Goddam tre delicioso!!!!
    Whoda fuknwahdafuk?!!

  • Allen

    I want some co mingling goddamit, drinks taste better when they co mingle with the ice.
    Ya don’t just mix it up.
    Co mingle goddamit!

  • Allen

    Some commingling going on up in da house. Oh hell yeah! Booyakashah! Goddamit!! Dis here’s a party!!!

  • Matt

    I’m disappointed! From you, Ruhlman, I’ve learned the culinary pleasures of home made from scratch food. But for cocktails, this is what you bring to the table? Cheap gin and nameless tonic? Why settle for this when G&T can be such a fine drink? Will we start to see Hellmann’s showing up in your recipes next?

    Start with a proper tonic. The store bought stuff is a syrupy disaster with more in common to 7-up than tonic water’s historical roots. Google will turn up a number of recipes for good tonic water. Jeffery Morgenthaler’s ( recipe is a fine place to start.

    I make the tonic and keep it in the fridge. On any given day making a glass of G&T is just as simple as with bottled tonic water but is infinitely more enjoyable.

    • ruhlman

      have a look at the other Friday Cocktails, for the gastronome. I’m 90% common man, 10% imposter at the rest.

  • Matt

    Fair enough. I have been reading the other cocktails. The martini post has me trying different Vermouths re-evaluating my allegiance to what I had reduced to little more than a cold glass of gin with some olives in it.

    Nonetheless, you should try the homemade tonics. It’s a rewarding adventure.

  • Ed

    It’s not for your red solo cup version of the g&t- but just picked up recently some tonic syrup by Liber & Co in Austin, TX ( amazingly available in Columbus,OH at Weilands) that (which you mix with setzler) or Fever Tree in the expensive little glass botle make for a much less sugary tasting and much more herbal drink – very good when your in the mood, your solo cup version has its time and place too although can’t say I’d use the gin you do though.

  • J.T

    Big uppin’ the G& T love. So simple, so right.

    Hey, could you please update some of your links for blogs. Some of them are so out-of-date. Thanks.

  • mbk

    I agree with you that Gin and Tonic is on of the best choices for a quick drink. But I prefer to make mine with Bombay Sapphire. It has a much “smoother” feeling. And if I want to go for a “straight” gin, there is nothing better than the Botanist, an Islay dry gin from Bruichladdich..

  • allen

    Drunken rant above can be removed, sorry.
    Although I stand behind the smokey Rob Roy as a fine cocktail. Not that I should be thinking about cocktails after all the martinis had over the weekend. Wheeeew!!

  • The Gin Is In (@TheGinisIn)

    The type of gin does matter! Especially in a gin and tonic! I think that an inexpensive tonic (like Seagram’s/Canada Dry) can cover a few faults, but there are so many good gins out there that are relatively cheap (New Amsterdam is probably only a few bucks more expensive than Barton’s, Tanqueray rarely costs more than a Jackson) and bring more to the table than just meeting the bare minimum requirements to be called a gin!

    Sure, I love the local and the craft distilled gins, but just because you’re looking for a cheap drink doesn’t mean you have to forgo a good drink.


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