Just as certain flowers are associated with particular seasons, I associate summer with a specific drink. That drink is a Gin and Tonic with a twist of lime. The tradition of our hot weather cocktail began many years ago by my sister. Since she is a bit of an Anglophile, it is not surprising that she introduced me to the G&T. If it’s five o’clock and summer, it’s time to break out the gin.
The Gin and Tonic has its roots in British Colonial Days. Malaria was a constant threat in India and other tropical colonies during the 19th century. The British Army adopted a routine of taking quinine every morning in order to protect them from the disease. But the taste was bitter and almost unpalatable. The more privileged British Officers took a lesson from Mary Poppins and added a spoonful of sugar, and water to their quinine. They then progressed to adding a splash of gin and quaffed it at cocktail hour instead of first thing in the morning. Later they added lime. We can only speculate if the lime was there to fight off possible scurvy. Suddenly the bitter anti-malarial meds become a swank de rigueur cocktail.
Expatriates returning to England had a taste for this new drink and continued the tradition. Tonic water was manufactured with just a splash of quinine as it was no longer needed as an anti-malarial. The flavor of the quinine is said to complement the “green notes”, or the juniper berries of the gin.
Everyone has their favorite gin. Some are citrusy, some more berry-like. We like Gordon’s. It’s more subtle than most, which some find a negative, but we like the smooth taste. Gordon’s contains juniper berries, coriander seeds, ginger, cassia oil, and nutmeg. The recipe has not changed in over 200 years. It’s the number two selling gin in the world, so why mess with it? It is also the only brand of gin that has the right to bear the Royal Coat of Arms by appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
The G&T remains a popular cocktail during the summer months partly because of its historical association with warm weather climates. There is nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than a tall glass of this once medicinal concoction. Those British officers certainly knew how to get their quinine in a more civilized manner. I toast their ingenuity at cocktail hour and appreciate their mixology talent.
My sister’s plane lands at 4:00pm, just in time for cocktails. Our “summer drink” is on schedule. Pour the gin, slice the limes, and fill a bowl with nuts. Cheers!