Hot Gin and Tonic? Credit to Gina Pace for this great piece.
Sure, an icy Gin & Tonic is one of the most refreshing cocktails … but what …if it were hot?
That was the idea drinks historian and Sipsmith gin master distiller Jared Brown came up with one night while brainstorming hot gin cocktails with bartender Eoin Kenny in London.
The concept isn’t anything new—the Gin Twist, made with gin, hot water, lemon and sugar, was the “it” drink back in the 1820s, Brown says. It was so popular, in fact, that people even wrote poetry about it. First, journalist William Maginn wrote a long ode to the drink, and then another author published a second poem in the weekly newspaper, The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, praising the first poem (oh, those were heady times!). Hard proof that the drink did, in fact, capture the popular imagination.
But would it hold up in modern times?
The biggest hurdle to creating a Hot Gin & Tonic was the tonic water. Heating up a carbonated beverage doesn’t yield good results; it loses its fizz and can change the flavor profile of a drink intended to be consumed cold and bubbly. But back when British sailors were taking quinine, an extract from the bark of the Cinchona tree, to stave off malaria, the “tonic” they mixed with gin and other spices and juices to make it go down easier, likely wasn’t sparkling. So Brown took a tip from the G&T drinkers of old and kept any carbonation out of his recipe.
Lucky for him, bottled tonic syrups are readily available from manufacturers like BTW, Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. and Hella Cocktail Co., so Brown came up with a “dead simple” recipe: some tonic syrup, some simple syrup, some gin and some hot water, mixed together and garnished with orange zest.
The result, due to the botanicals in both the gin and the tonic syrup, is complex. It’s floral and fruity, with a peppery backbone and a juniper scent. It’s winter festivities in a warming glass. Hot Toddy fans will find themselves in a whole new world of hot drinks with new, delicate aromas to inhale.
Brown, perhaps inspired by Gin Twist poets of yore, puts it more romantically. “Gin is much lighter than whiskey, and comes up very elegant in structure. You get all of the citrus and soft pine,” he says. “Warm whiskey can be a bit of a slap in the face. But gin is a mist before your eyes.”
Despite the soft sell, Brooks Reitz, the founder of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co., was a bit sceptical when he heard Sipsmith was using his tonic syrup in a hot G&T. “But when I tried it, I was totally
converted,” Reitz says. “It has a tea-like quality, because of the lemongrass, lemon peel and quinine, and it’s almost confusing because it has all the flavours of a Gin & Tonic, but it’s hot. It’s hard to make something so classic like a Gin & Tonic feel new in any way again because it’s been around for so many generations, but it really is incredible.”
In London, the drink is once again gaining a fan base. In 2016, Sipsmith partnered with the Ham Yard Hotel, where Kenny is the bar manager, to create an annual Hot Gin Roof pop up in the winter, serving Hot G&Ts along with other warm gin cocktails. Kenny says he has yet to get a complaint on the cocktail—and tickets to the pop up continue to sell out every year. The 2018 dates sold out in just two days. On to 2019 then!
Other brands like Monkey 47, a luxury German gin, are getting in on the hot gin action. While Monkey 47 isn’t serving Hot G&Ts specifically, they do have a London pop-up of their own where they offer a few different hot gin cocktails at the Rosewood Hotel in London.
Over in the states, Lucinda Sterling just put a hot gin cocktail on the menu at Middle Branch in New York City. The Frequent Flyer, which she makes with Aviation gin and an orange-fennel syrup, plays up the lavender, sarsaparilla and cardamom botanicals in the gin, which are warming spices she thinks make sense heated.
Perhaps one of the best things about the Hot G&T is that once you buy tonic syrup, it is insanely easy to make at home. Here’s a simple idea….
1.75 oz Gin
.75 oz Tonic Syrup
.25 oz Simple Syrup
3.5 oz Hot Water
Orange Twist, for garnish
Combine gin, tonic syrup and simple syrup in a mug.
Top with hot water and garnish with an orange twist.