1. Firstly, you should never add a squeeze of lemon to your gin and tonic.
"The garnish is primarily for the nose, that's why it goes on the top", Zoe Zambakides from Sipsmith Distillery London explains to BuzzFeed Life.
"Garnish is primarily about enhancing the smell and overall sensory experience. A great gin shouldn't need a taste top-up (unless you're making a cocktail), so don't squeeze your garnish into a G&T.
"If you are making a cocktail with citrus peel and want to capture the beautiful aroma from the oils trapped in the skin, remember that you only get one go, so only ever twist your garnish over your glass to capture the aroma. Do anything else and it's purely aesthetic."
2. You should always finish your drink before the ice melts.
To make a perfect gin and tonic you should use a highball glass, says Zambakides: "You can also use a balloon glass, but that's the Spanish way. The way the Spanish make a gin and tonic is almost like a cocktail. They call it a gintonic."
Be sure to put plenty of ice in the glass, and "always finish drinking your gin and tonic before the ice melts. This makes sure the ice doesn't dilute the gin."
3. Also, don't stir your gin and tonic.
If you stir your gin and tonic vigorously, you'll lose some of the fizz. "Stirring will discombobulate the bubbles," Zambakides says. "Instead, you should just dip your spoon in, and plunge it back out. This will keep the fizz. In Spain, they pour the tonic down a long bar-tending spoon. This helps retain some of the bubbles."
4. You should adjust your garnish to your gin.
The garnish you use depends on the kind of gin you have. The role of the garnish is to lift the actual spirit itself.
Zambakides recommends a basil garnish for Sipsmith's VJOP (to hit the deep juniper notes). For a citrus gin (like Dodd's gin), she recommends a lemon, grapefruit, or coriander garnish. And if the gin has a cucumber base (like Hendrick's) then she recommends a cucumber garnish.
5. You should always try to buy gin that isn't made from concentrate.
Jared Brown, Sipsmith master distiller and drinks historian, explains that "making gin from concentrate is like making a super-strength tea and then cutting it with water, or like making concentrated orange juice. There are lots of different ways to distill but for something super smooth and full of flavour you're better off trying to find a gin that's not made from concentrate and distilled the traditional way.
"Sipsmith is made in small batches using a traditional one shot method – which means it never uses a concentrate (or two shot method), where what comes out of the still is mixed with water and additional alcohol before it goes into the bottle."
6. You should be able to drink your gin neat.
Zambakides says a good rule of thumb is "good alcohol warms, bad alcohol burns".
You should look out for gin that has been distilled using a copper still. "The copper acts almost like a purifier, stripping out all the fatty acids, sulphates, and other nasties from the spirits, leaving it round and smooth," she says. "At Sipsmith's, we also only ever take the heart cut of the distillation run when the spirit is its most smooth and full of flavour. For that reason, you can drink it neat."
7. London dry gin can be made anywhere in the world.
"London dry gin is a process, not a location," Brown says. "It means that all the ingredients must be added pre-distillation. After distillation, you can add only water and additional spirit. You can make London dry gin anywhere, but it would have to follow the process – all botanicals being distilled together."
The process doesn't add any more prestige, just a method of distilling, Zambakides says: "Hendricks, for example, can't be a London dry gin, as it puts in cucumber essence after distilling. It's a still a nice gin."
When it comes to terms like "floral gin" and "aromatic gin", these titles refer to the types of botanicals and distilling methods. For example, Bombay Sapphire is good example of a floral gin, and Dodd's gin is an aromatic gin.
8. In fact, there is only one important thing when it comes to gin.
"The only thing that defines a gin is the presence of juniper berries," Zambakides says. And when it comes to flavours, you can infuse gin with whatever you want. Sipsmith is experimenting with an elderflower gin (above), and Brown says it has previously experimented with an English mustard gin ("it was perfect in a bloody mary, but very strong").
9. Buy the best tonic you can afford.
"A great gin should be able to handle tonic," Zambakides says. "However, you need to have a good tonic." Look out for a tonic with no artificial flavours and lots of fizz. Sipsmith recommends Fever Tree.
10. When it comes to martinis, there are a few things to look out for.
"For a martini," Zambakides says, "you want a smooth gin (so ideally something that has been distilled in copper), with no burn (this means that they only use the heart cut) and no concentrate."
But you should also look out for the vermouth being used, she says. "Vermouth should always be fresh and as part of that be kept in the fridge once it's opened (it'll then last a few weeks). If you go to a bar and they have vermouth on a shelf with a speed pourer, that doesn't look like it's been sitting in the fridge overnight, you're probably better steering clear of that one – or asking them to open a fresh one."
11. And when it comes to gin in a tin, keep it as cold as possible.
"Buy the one with the gin base you like the most, and try and keep it as cold as you can," Zambakides advises. "Buy some ice, or keep it in the fridge if possible."
12. You can collect vintage gin, and it tastes amazing.
"You can collect vintage gin, the way you'd collect whiskey," Zambakides says. "In fact, you could use an aged gin like in an old-fashioned.
"Few Spirits (in the USA) do a nice aged gin. You can buy it here."
PS: Read on, and we've got an aged-gin recipe for an old-fashioned.
13. So, here's how to make the perfect gin and tonic:
Overall, the ratio should be ⅓ gin to ⅔ tonic, but it depends on how strong you like it.
You will need: Gin of your choice, fresh tonic water
1. Fill a highball glass with ice.
2. Add 50ml of gin.
3. Top with cold, fresh tonic.
4. Plunge with a spoon (don't stir!).
5. Take a slice of lemon peel with as little pith as possible, and squeeze the peel over the drink, to spritz its oils.
6. Drink before the ice melts.
14. Want something a little fancier? What about a sloe gin and tonic?
You will need: Gin of your choice (ideally a London dry gin), fresh tonic, sloe gin, orange for garnish
1. Fill a highball glass with ice and add 25ml London Dry Gin.
2. Top with tonic and "stir" as before (by plunging your spoon down and pulling it out).
3. Pour 25ml sloe gin on top.
4. Garnish with a slice of orange.
15. And here's how to make the perfect extra-dry martini.
You will need: Vermouth, London dry gin, lemon peel for garnish
1. Get a coupe glass and chill it. The best way to do this is to fill it with ice and then top it up with water. This means that you'll get the best distribution of coolness in the glass.
2. Add 20ml vermouth (for an extra dry, 15ml vermouth) and 50ml London dry gin to a shaker filled with ice.
3. Shake and strain into the glass.
4. Take a slice of lemon peel with as little pith as possible, and squeeze the peel over the drink, to spritz its oils.
16. If Martinis aren't your thing, what about a Sloe Gin Negroni?
You will need: Gin of your choice, Campari, Martini Rosso, sloe gin, orange for garnish
1. Fill a rocks glass with ice.
2. Add 25ml each of gin, Campari, Martini Rosso, and sloe gin.
3. Stir gently with the top end of a bar spoon. This will help keep the ice cubes intact, prevent dilution, and keep the coldness.
4. Finish with an orange, which is just for the nose. Don't squeeze!
17. Finally, go all out with an Aged Gin Old Fashioned.
You will need: Aged gin of your choice, simple syrup (or sugar and bitters), orange for garnish
1. Fill a rock glass with ice.
2. Add 15ml of simple syrup. (Or you can add 1 tsp sugar and 3 dashes of bitters, stirred to make a paste.)
3. Add 50ml aged gin and stir for two minutes.
4. Finish with a slice of orange.