When Lounge spoke to Anand Virmani, CEO and co-founder of Nao Spirits & Beverages, makers of India’s first craft gin brand Greater Than, naturally one of the questions that came up was his favourite food pairing with a G&T. The answer surprised us. “Oh, it’s a hot, crispy samosa,” said Virmani without missing a beat. Sensing our surprise, he explained: “Look, gin has a clean, refreshing taste, and paired with tonic water, it’s sharp and mildly fizzy, which goes very well with anything that’s spicy and has a robust taste. The sharpness and tartness of a G&T cuts through the fattiness of the samosa. Also, the botanicals in gin pair very well with spices typically used in samosas, like crushed coriander seeds. It’s an excellent combination.”
That got us thinking about unusual food pairings with a G&T, and led us to discover that there is even a term for pairing gin drinks with the right kind of dishes: ginstronomy!
We tend to think of G&Ts as a sophisticated summer drink, but there’s no reason you can’t go crazy with a G&T in any season if you pair it with the right kind of food that complements its taste and echoes the many botanicals that go into gin: from the absolutely essential juniper berries to spices like cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, and black pepper; from herbs like coriander, mint, sage and lemongrass to citrus flavours like orange, cucumber, lemon, and grapefruit; from floral botanicals like lavender, rose, and elderflower to downright fruit flavours like apple and peach. So keeping the dominant notes of the gin you are drinking in mind, pairing it with the right food is an exciting prospect. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Kebabs and grills
G&Ts will pair beautifully with kebabs like a spicy mutton seekh and a subtly flavoured galouti as well as tandoori’d meats like tandoori chicken or Amritsari fish tikka. Avoid the onions on the side because they will overwhelm the taste of the G&T, but apart from that you can go crazy with your choices. In fact, all Indian street snacks make for a great pair with a G&T: from aloo tikki chaats to the deep red fried chicken ‘kababs’ from Bengaluru’s famous Empire restaurant chain.
Lounge recommends: Stranger & Sons Perry Road Peru + Svami Original Tonic Water with semi-ripe guava slices sprinkled with black salt and red chili powder
Yes, seafood is a star accompaniment with a G&T. Whether you’re sitting on a Goan beach with a plate of fresh-off-the-boat grilled tiger prawns by your side or chilling in Chennai with Chettinadu masala crab, a G&T is a perfect drink to wash down the robust seafood taste with. And it’s not just spicy seafood snacks, G&Ts go down very well with milder seafood like smoked salmon or grilled fish as well.
Lounge recommends: Tanqueray No. 10 + Sepoy & Co Elderflower Tonic Water with Mangalorean prawn ghee roast
Cozying up on a rainy winter evening with a plate of deep-fried pakoras? Fix yourself a G&T. Like Virmani says, the oiliness of fried Indian snacks is beautifully cut by the sharp tanginess of a G&T, so whether it’s samosas, vada pavs, onion pakoras, chili bajjis, kachoris or banana chips, bring out that bottle of gin and pour yourself a drink.
Lounge recommends: Greater Than + Bengal Bay Spiced Orange and Basil tonic water with hot and spicy aloo samosas
A dry, spicy chili chicken flecked with green chilis and swimming in a little oil is every Indian foodie’s guilty pleasure, and it’s no surprise that the all-time favourite dish pairs well with spice-forward gins. In fact, most Indian-Chinese snacks and dishes, be it a schezwan noodles or chili garlic fried rice, will go well with a fizzy G&T, especially if you use a spice-forward mixer with your gin, like Sepoy & Co’s original ginger ale.
Lounge recommends: Terai India Dry Gin + Jade Forest Original Tonic Water with juicy chicken drumsticks