6 Great Gin and Tonic Bars Across the Country
May 9, 2013
Billy Sunday, Chicago
Matthias Merges’ recently opened cocktail haven doesn’t just serve gin with their house-made tonics; Merges, a former Charlie Trotter’s chef, and mixologist Alex Bachman have put four tonic cocktails on tap, each with their own distinctive spirit and house-brewed mixer. Blanco tequila gets a tonic of sweet woodruff and wormwood; rum gets mixed with a tonic infused with goji berry and wild cherry bark; and bonded rye is paired with burdock and dandelion flavors. The classic gin and tonic might seem plain, with a mixer made with cinchona bark, lemongrass, allspice, and citrus, but the addition of Turkish rhubarb and black aloe makes the tonic syrup every bit as good as it is over at Yusho’s.
Cata, New York City
This tapas restaurant in New York City's Lower East Side wins the gin and tonic trend when it comes to the sheer quantity of their G&T list. Tonic options range from cult favorite Fever Tree to the common man's Schweppes, but each is paired with a specific gin to highlight notes like lavender, fennel, bay leaf, Kaffir lime, and sage.
Coqueta, San Francisco
Bottega's Michael Chiarello opened Coqueta earlier this year, branching out into Spanish food, and thus, Spanish drinks. The six-item gin tonic list includes some standard pairings (Bloom London Dry Gin, Fever Tree, and grapefruit), but keep an eye out for house-made seasonal tonics, most recently infused with apricot and acorn. Chiarello gets a little inventive by hand-chipping ice into "chunky shards," he tells us, while infusing Ibérico ham into the gin tonic Tariff (to of course, enjoy with a Spanish charcuterie plate). The cocktail even gets an appearance as dessert in the form of the Pyrenees Snowball, a gin-tonic-turned-alcoholic-slushie thanks to liquid nitrogen.
Jaleo, Washington D.C.
Often credited as the main influencer in the gin and tonic trend stateside, Spanish chef José Andrés pulls out all the stops at his Washington, D.C. Jaleo flagship. The gin and tonic list naturally includes José's Choice (with gin, Fever Tree tonic, lime, kaffir, and juniper, available at all Jaleo establishments), but it also features a barrel-aged gin tonic, with pickled ginger and allspice, or a London Dry dusted with white pepper for surprise. All of these follow Andrés' rule that "a gin and tonic should be one part gin and three parts tonic," served over the largest chunks of ice you can find.
Brasserie S&P, San Francisco
One of the few non-Spanish restaurants on this list, Brasserie S&P at the Mandarin Oriental launched their gin and tonic program last summer. Nowadays, the G&T list contains eight variations, including one ever-changing seasonal drink, and a gin and tonic flight for the indecisive. This barely even covers the 30-plus gin list, which rotates in and out depending on the season and availability, plus three house-made tonics and four bottled craft tonics, allowing guests to mix and match as they please.
Oceana, New York City
Midtown seafood staple Oceana just recently began stocking their gin program, now housing 40-something gins to mix into classic cocktails like Negronis and French 75s. Although the gin and tonics are easy pours, expediting quality drinking in the after-work hours, they're just as involved. Wine director Pedro Goncalves makes four tonics in-house (shown left), with quinine bark, cinnamon, cloves, and citrus peel to highlight certain flavors in the mixers: spicy (made with the addition of capsaicin), bitter, citrus-focused, or sweet.