Restaurants + Cocktails

Back in the day, the Gin + Tonic was a beverage mixed in the tropics by British military officers to make anti-malarial quinine’s bitter properties a bit more palatable (and its imbibers predictably more shit-faced in the process). Quinine’s also a mild muscle relaxant, upping the chill factor by its very nature. Even better, the G&T is a beaut of a bevvy made for easy entertaining—guests can stir up their own preferences for garnish and potency with little fuss and even less mess on the clean-up end of the soirée.

Few cocktails define summah-time sipping like the gin & tonic.

Although booze purists would argue that a G&T should more accurately be called a highball (booze + fizzy liquid, poured directly over ice) instead of a cocktail, the rest of the world has embraced those most basic ingredients with embellished fervor and run with alcoholic abandon (tippling taxonomy, be damned, say we!). Italians throw in a generous glug of Campari or Aperol to up the bitter orange benefit, and in Paris I enjoyed a vegetal and earthy variation made with Green Chartreuse and garnished with rosemary. In New Orleans (which still had a malaria problem in the late 1800s; the last documented case in the U.S. was in the 1950s), gin and tonics get an oh-so-Southern boost with dashes of aromatic and Peychaud’s bitters and a touch of sweet via sorghum or simple syrup.

At sunny Spanish sidewalk cafés, you’ll find G&Ts bright with fresh fruit and fragrant herbs flowing out of tumblers and goblets.

Embracing this international spirit of delectable experimentation on the path to inebriation, we gathered at Darby’s new casa in Holladay for drinks and nibbles with a handful of COLLECTIVE friends and neighbors. Bonus: breaking in the recently-remodeled kitchen she designed with the help of architect Tristan Shepherd (Craft A+D), contractor Mark Haslam (Sausage Space), and Mountainland Design. Cheers to that.

get the bermuda shorts and seersucker suits out of storage, AND mix things up...stylishly.

THE GIN: Juniper’s sharp herbal note is one of the main characteristics that make gin distillations distinctive in comparison to neutral-flavored vodka. Made with a fermented mash of barley and other grains, gin started out centuries ago as a medicinal libation particularly appreciated for helping ease childbirth. Can I get a ‘hell yeah!’ mama friends? Several Utah distilleries are making marvelous variations on gin, from Beehive Distilling’s sage-and-rose-forward Jack Rabbit Gin to Dented Brick’s Akeley Gin made with Rooibos tea. Going for a classic British Navy dry gin? Try Plymouth, one of the oldest brands on the market, with good reason.

THE TONIC: Although we’re used to seeing clear, carbonated tonic water in cans or bottles, many artisan and house-made tonic waters are slightly tawny-hued due to their extraction from cinchona (pronounced ‘sin-KO-nah’) bark. Cautionary word to prospective home tonic-brewers: too much quinine can actually cause crazy-ass symptoms like ear-ringing, hives, vertigo and epic intestinal inconsistency to go along with visual and auditory hallucinations. Good times. The bitter aspects of tonic water have a huge range between manufacturers, making it a truly personal preference. Delightful artisan tonic waters can be found at Caputo’s Markets, Harmon’s grocers and Boozetique. For a relatively neutral base (good for the drinks we mixed up for this story), the Trader Joe’s version ain’t too bad, either.

THE CITRUS: A classic G & T is equal parts gin and tonic water poured directly over plenty of fresh ice in a tumbler and garnished with a lime wedge. Lime, people. Ever a rebel, my grandma Audra Belle preferred hers with a generous squeeze of lemon, instead, and credited her long life to cooking in cast iron, long walks and daily G&T’s she made using Beefeater Gin. She lived to be 100. O.P. Rockwell bar manager and our COLLECTIVE hero Chris Panarelli suggests playing around with citrus flavors like blood orange, subbing in seasonal fruits like blackberry or peach and experimenting with few generous dashes of cocktail bitters. Says Beehive Gin distiller Chris Barlow, “The G and T is classic for a reason. It’s an incredibly flexible and refreshing drink, and the sky’s the limit for changing up the flavor profile.”

What goes in the glass…and how:

"Pretty in Pink" (plum and pink peppercorn G&T): To a cocktail shaker with ice add 1 ½  oz. London dry gin, ½  oz. Campari, ¼ oz. Aperol, 3-4 dashes Honest John NOLA bitters (or Peychaud’s bitters), 4-5 pink peppercorns and 3/4 oz. plum simple syrup* (recipe below). Shake briefly to combine, strain over fresh ice into a highball glass, fill with 2 oz. tonic water. Garnish with fresh mint sprig.

"Garden of Earthly Delights" (a vegetal and smoky G&T): To a cocktail shaker with ice add 1 ½  oz. jalapeno-cucumber infused gin** (recipe, below), ¼ oz. dry vermouth, ¼  oz. Green Chartreuse, and ½ oz. Wahaka Mezcal. Add a fresh jalapeno round or two if you like things extra spicy. Shake briefly to combine, strain into a rocks glass over cracked ice. Top with 1-2 oz. mild tonic water; garnish with fresh rosemary.

*To make one pint plum syrup: in a heavy saucepan combine 1 Tablespoon pink peppercorns, 1 cup sugar, 1 ½  cups water and 6-7 fresh plums (pits removed, rough-chopped). Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Cook for 30-40 minutes, or until fruit is completely broken down and pulpy; stir often to prevent sticking, adding more water if needed. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature; strain out solids through a mesh sieve. Keep refrigerated for up to 4 weeks.
**To make infused gin: to a glass quart jar with re-sealable lid add one Persian cucumber, chopped (the small, thin-skinned cocktail kind), 2-3 slices of jalapeno pepper and 1 cup gin. Shake well to combine, let sit at room temperature for 4-5 hours. Strain out solids and keep refrigerated until use.

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