It's around 6 o'clock when we begin to get things in order for dinner. As Eric lights the charcoal for the grill, I head into the kitchen to mix drinks. From time to time, we'll pop open a bottle of wine, but more often than not, it's gin and tonics. I take pride in my g+t-making skills, which were picked up by watching Eric during our first years together. I realized early on in our relationship that if I was going to last in this family, I'd have to learn to prepare one properly. I grab a lime, cut it in half, squeeze the juice into each glass, making sure to get as much of the pulp in that I can. The used wedges are reserved for the end (Eric likes to eat the rind... it's something I've come to accept). The next step: add the gin. Sometimes it's measured out in a jigger, but to speed up the process I'll often just eyeball it. A few handfuls of ice cubes and then topped off with tonic and we're good to go!
Earlier this summer, I was chatting with Vijay (of Nosh On It) and Brandon (of Kitchen Konfidence) and we came up with the idea to do a series on our favorite cocktails. We're calling it "What I Drink," where, from time to time, we'll post our favorite drink recipes. Sometimes these will be classics, but we may also give them a little twist. Be sure to check out Vijay's 1794 and Brandon's Old Fashioned posts.
Seeing that gin and tonics are what we drink during the summer, I immediately knew that's what I'd be making. As I explained above, the recipe for a g+t isn't all that complicated, so I've spruced things up here by making a blackberry shrub that replaces the lime juice in the drink
But before you scroll down for the recipe, here's a little Q+A to give you all a bit more info about why I love gin and tonics and what the heck a shrub is. Hope you enjoy! Cheers.
What flavor profile best fits your cocktail? Sweet, fresh, bitter or savory?
What's great about shrubs is that they're a combination of sweet (from the sugar and fruit) and tangy (from the vinegar), making for a balanced cocktail.
Why is this drink your favorite?
Well, the gin and tonic is certainly my favorite summer drink and I pretty much only consume it from June through August. It's a simple drink to prepare and it's very refreshing.
Do you enjoy variations, or do you just stick to the original recipe?
Often I stick to the original recipe (gin, lime juice, tonic), though, in this case, I played around a bit. I've also been known to add a splash of Aperol or bitters to my gin and tonic.
When making cocktails, what's the best advice you've ever received (or read)?
I'm not sure there's one piece of advice that sticks out. It's more like a combination of tips and tricks I've picked up from watching bartenders. I've learned to taste my drink as I add ingredients to see if it needs more sweetness or citrus or something to smooth it out. One bartender told me that you should add the alcohol at the end... or at least the most expensive liquor... because that way if you screw up the drink, you don't lose the pricier ingredient. Sometimes I'll follow that rule, but it doesn't always make sense.
What's the worst alcoholic beverage you've tasted? Please describe the experience.
When we go out, we tend to hit up places that we know will mix up a well-crafted cocktail. However, there have been a few times when we try out a new place and we're terribly disappointed by the results. I don't expect much from a dive bar, but nicer establishments should be able to produce a balanced drink. There have been a couple of occasions when we're served a drink that's flat for some reason... it's missing some acidity or sweetness or, in the worst of circumstances, any discernible booze.
Blackberry Gin and Tonic
Note: The shrub in this cocktail takes a week to prepare.
For the shrub 1 cup blackberries 1 cup balsamic vinegar 3/4 cup sugar
For the gin and tonic 1.5 oz gin .75 oz blackberry shrub tonic
Blackberries, for garnish
1. In a bowl, toss blackberries with sugar. Let sit for one hour at room temp.
2. Mash the blackberries with a large spoon. Let sit for another hour.
3. Mash the fruit again and then let sit for 24 hours at room temp.
4. Add the vinegar, stir, and let sit, covered, for at least one week, making sure to give it a good stir every day.
5. After a week, strain the fruit from the mixture and save the liquid in a mason jar (or a large container with a cover).
6. To make the gin and tonic, pour the gin into a glass, followed by the shrub. Add a handful of ice cubes and top with tonic. Garnish with fresh blackberries.