In this feature from a past issue of BARS&clubs (republished in two parts for Gin Month), Caroline Childerley – AKA the Gin Queen – explains how to take your G&T game to the next level, focusing in this part on the role of garnishes. Read part one here.
First off, I always tell people to garnish with what they like rather than following any hard and fast rules. However, a good place to start is by looking at the botanical ingredients of each gin. Most gins can be divided into five different flavour camps: juniper, citrus, spicy, floral or savoury (vegetal). I’ve added another group for gin using Australian botanicals. Once you’ve determined where your chosen gin sits, you can start experimenting with garnishes. The first question is do you want to complement the botanical profile or contrast it?
A traditional option and for good reason. Most gins use coriander to provide lemon citrus notes that balance against the juniper, so lemon or lime is a good choice if you want to play up these notes. This would always be my ‘go to’ in a juniper-forward gin like Beefeater or Tanqueray. However, orange or grapefruit are becoming more popular. Four Pillars’ signature serve uses a wedge of orange, and grapefruit is brilliant with Melbourne Gin Company gin. Orange also works well with Opihr Spiced Gin, Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, Xoriguer Mahon Gin, Whitley Neill, and Fords Gin, while Pink grapefruit works well with Melbourne Gin Company Dry Gin, No.3 London Dry Gin and Tanqueray No. 10.
More and more gin distillers are using botanicals like rosemary, thyme, bay leaf and cardamom to create more savoury-style gins. Gin Mare is an excellent example, using rosemary, olives and basil to create a taste of the Mediterranean – try it with a fresh sprig of rosemary, a wedge of lime and some cracked black pepper. The team at West Winds have also converted me to using green capsicum to mix a G&T with The Cutlass, which is well worth trying for yourself.
You can play up the spicy notes by adding a slice of ginger, or contrast with some kaffir lime leaves, a stick of lemon grass or a simple wedge of lime. I also like the combination of jalapeño and lime which works great with Opihr Spiced Gin, McHenry & Sons Navy Strength, and Stone Pine Gin. Lime and ginger on the other hand works really well with Tanqueray Rangpur and McHenry & Sons Navy Strength.
The delicate flavors in a floral gin can sometimes be overwhelmed by adding citrus. A classic example of a good pairing for a floral gin is cucumber and Hendrick’s. Lavender is a great garnish too, not only to lift flavour, but to add colour; it works a treat with Bulldog Gin, G’vine Floraison, and Botanic Australis.
Fresh fruit in a G&T is one way of adding instant summer appeal. There are quite a few gins that feature some type of fruit as a botanical, including Elephant gin and Poor Tom’s (apple), G’vine Floraision (grape flowers), and Ferninand Saar (infused with Riesling grapes). With the latter two gins, try using frozen grapes – chilling the drink and garnishing it at the same time! Apple and juniper berry works well with Elephant Gin, William Chase Elegant Gin and 78 Degrees. Strawberries and basil is another killer combo – pair these with Martin Miller’s Gin, Gin Mare, or Poor Toms Gin.
With over 120 Australian gins now available, if there isn’t already at least one on your back bar, there should be! It can be tricky to get hold of native botanicals to add to your Aussie G&T, but it’s worth it. Garnishes to look out for include strawberry gum leaf, eucalyptus, riberries and finger limes. Daylesford and Hepburn Springs have also just released a range of ‘native tonics’ that feature lemon myrtle, quandong and lemon myrtle. For more on this topic, there’s plenty of resources out there to check out. Worthwhile publications include the Gin Foundry’s little book of gins, tonics and garnishes, and The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. There’s a world of gin out there – so time to get mixing.