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Make tonic-forward cocktails beyond G&T

A world of possibility awaits when tonic is paired with rum, tequila, mezcal, bourbon and bitters

Ever thought of rum iced-tea with tonic? (Photo: Unsplash)
Ever thought of rum iced-tea with tonic? (Photo: Unsplash)

For drink enthusiasts, 2020 has been the year of home-grown gins. It had a corollary effect: the tonic industry got a boost. This might have led to the impression that gin and tonic are inseparable, but that is not so. Tonic is a versatile mixer and it can be paired with a variety of spirits from rum and vodka to tequila and bourbon.

“White rum and tonic water are a bomb combo,” says Bensan Varghese, Beverage Manager, JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu. He shares a few ingenious cocktails with tonic and rum which are twists to classic rum cocktails like the Mojito and Dark and Stormy. Although it can be as simple as replacing soda with tonic, his recipe is a bit smarter. He suggests completely doing away with sugar because tonic water already contains sugar, and then infusing mint with tonic instead of adding it separately.

To do so, take some mint leaves in the palm of your hand, give it a quick slap with the other palm to release its flavours. Now, add it to the tonic water, cover and leave it undisturbed for about 30-45 minutes. The mint-infused tonic water is ready. Add it to 30 ml white rum in a mojito glass with ice and the juice of half a lime. Enjoy this low-sugar spin to a traditional Mojito. Similarly, Varghese says, Dark and Stormy, yet another rum cocktail, can be made with tonic. The classic version has ginger ale—swap it with tonic water and the cocktail is renamed as Dark and Tornado. A crisp bourbon with tonic topped with a squeeze of lime can be refreshing drink too, says the mixologist.

A good tonic is a fine balance of bitter and sweet notes derived from quinine and sugar. It pairs well with other neutral-flavoured white spirits such as white rum and blanco tequila. The inherent sweetness of tonic can be complemented with a bourbon or dark rum too.

Those who experiment with vermouth and bitters are in for a treat. If you are partial to sweet flavours, make a Rosso Tonic. Add a splash of Rosso or red vermouth in a tall glass, fill it with tonic and lots of ice and serve with a squeeze of fresh orange. And, if you prefer slightly bitter flavour tones, pick a blanco or white vermouth, add a dash in a tall glass, top off with tonic, fill it with ice and serve with a lemon wedge. Even bitters, like Aperol and Campari, mixed with a tonic-and-soda combo and topped off with ice make for easy afternoon drinks.

Devi Singh, a Goa-based mixologist, is a proponent of tonic with bitters. He believes G&T might have reached a saturation point and does tonic pairings with tequila and mezcal. “Last year, I visited the UK and went on a bar trail. I saw tonic was mixed with either mezcal or tequila. These drinks get repeat orders there,” he says. Singh feels gin and tonic is a bit too straightforward; instead try mezcal and tonic for an enigmatic smoky drink, he suggests.

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