Making the perfect gin and tonic

A guide to making the perfect gin and tonic direct from one of the best barman in Spain’s Catalonia region. Including info on the glass, ice, tonic and gin.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Gin and tonic recipe

I call it a ‘gin and tonic’. The Spanish call it a ‘gin tonic’. Who needs conjunctions when they taste so good?

In the north east of the country, deep into Catalonia, gin tonics have become the fashionable drink. People sit outside on the street tables drinking them. Some bars serve only gin and nothing else.

How to make the perfect gin and tonic

One of them is Els Cacadors in the small town of Ribes de Freser. It’s a family business that also has a restaurant and a hotel – but, of course, it’s the drinks I’m most interested in.

The good news is that one of the owners, Ramon Pau, has offered to teach me how to make the perfect gin tonic and let me taste a few different types.

“Ten years ago in Spain people drink wine, now it’s the same with gin tonic,” he explains. “Gin tonic is now a different category and it is a gastronomy.”

How to make the perfect gin and tonic

He would know. The bar has been in the family for four generations and he’s seen the change in the scene. I settled on to a stool at his bar, gladly accepted the first of the gin tonics and started to ask him to spill his secrets.

Here, now, I share how to make the perfect gin tonic.

The glass

The glass needs to help open up the flavours. The worst thing you can do is drink the gin tonics from a skinny glass.

I know it’s the popular thing in most bars and clubs you might go, but the experts prefer the bigger and rounder glasses. It’s all got to do with the ice, apparently.

Ramon uses two glasses to demonstrate his point. Have a look at the photo below: The skinny glass held three bits of ice while the larger one held eight.

How to make the perfect gin and tonic

The ice

Ramon looks at me seriously when he makes this next point. “Water is the enemy of the gin tonic,” he says, as though discussing a lethal toxin that can’t be touched.

The aim here is to stop the ice from melting. So the bigger the pieces, the better. The more compact (as in, closer to each other), the better. The more you can fit in, the better.

The gin

“Is there a best gin in the world?” Ramon asks himself. “No, there’s no such thing.”

But choosing the right gin for you is very important. He serves 50 types of gin at Els Cacadors and when he opens his new bar later in the year he’ll have about 100 on offer. Each gin has its own strength, its own fruit influences, its own bitterness.

My two favourites were a German gin called ‘Monkey 47’ and a British one called ‘One Key’.

How to make the perfect gin and tonic

The tonic

The standard for every gin tonic is a plain Schweppes tonic.

“That’s my reference,” is how Ramon puts it. It will work with everything… but then you can try some other tonics to see if you like them better.

“You can compare it with something more fun, more exotic, more botanic,” Ramon says.

For strong and dry gins, he recommends using the ‘azahar lavender’ tonic. For flowery gins (or ‘lady flavours’, as he calls them), Ramon suggests the ‘pink pepper’ tonic. And for cinnamon gins, try a ginger ale.

How to make the perfect gin and tonic

The ratio

There isn’t too much room for flexibility here. The gin portion of the drink should be between 30 and 50 millilitres and the tonic should be about 200 millilitres.

“Not too much gin because the mixer must be friendly,” Ramon says. Originally I had found it a bit weird that he kept personifying the ingredients of the drink. Now it seems quite natural. I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first person who has spent an evening talking into my glass.

The garnish

This is where I’ve always made the biggest mistakes. I’ve traditionally always used a wedge of lime in my gin tonics but Ramon looks at me with disgust when I tell him this.

“The acid of the lime or the lemon kills the gin,” he admonishes. He uses slivers of lemon rind as the main addition to the liquids. If you want to get a bit fancy, he says you can also use juniper berries, strawberries and mint leaves.

How to make the perfect gin and tonic

We’re on to our third glass of gin tonic by now. Actually, let me rephrase that. I’m on to my third gin tonic. Ramon has maintained a peculiar degree of professionalism through all of this. That’s because, for him, this is something serious. It all makes sense when I ask him to share his most important tip.

How to make the perfect gin and tonic

He smiles. There’s no hesitation – he knows the answer immediately. “The most important thing is the company and the friends.”

Too true.

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of the Costa Brava Pirineu de Girona tourism board but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

38 thoughts on “Making the perfect gin and tonic”

  1. Gin and tonics have long been a favorite of mine, along with a dry vodka martini. I’m mostly a wine drinker but when I do order a “drink” while out and about, it’s usually gin and tonic first, dry vodka martini second, and if I’m feeling festive I’ll go for my third choice, mojitos 🙂

    Good stuff!

  2. You cannot use Schweppes tonic on a Gin and tonic. This brand uses too much sugar. The perfect tonic (for me anyway) is Fever tree tonic. It is super amazing. Mix it with Hendricks, lemon peel and lemon verbena. Awesome

    • Cristina–not sure where you are writing from. If you’re talking about Schweppes tonic from the US, then you are correct–avoid at all costs. However the Euro Schweppes is a different formula and worthwhile. In the US I heartily agree–Fever-Tree is the only/best option! Also a brief note to Michael–the German gin is Monkey 47, not just Monkey–killer stuff for sure!

  3. I love gin and tonic. We did a gin tasting earlier in the year and I was amazed at how many gins are out there, and also how many different tonic combinations you can use. Interesting about the jar shape, I always assumed skinny was best.

    • Before this opportunity, I had never thought too much about it either. I’d always assumed all gins were fairly similar and there was only one way to mix things together. It’s opened up my eyes (and made me want to try all the different types of gin…)

  4. Mmmm… Excellent post. I’ve become a fan of the gin and tonic in the last couple of years, though I admit to enjoying it with a slice of lime (apologies to Ramon).

  5. Great Gin Tonic from “La Cerdanya”, Catalonia. We are the new spanish Tuscany region with many things to discover if you comes.

    Thanks to TBEX Congress you know Catalonia and we are enjoying your faboulous articles.

  6. I really like Gin-Tonic, but definitely do not have much of a palette. I am quite happy with cheap gin and whatever tonic is around. I just like the way it makes me feel. 🙂

    • Oh, don’t say that! That’s how I used to think… but then I had an enlightenment. Now that I’ve tried such a variety of amazing gins, I’m not sure I could ever go back to the simple ones…

  7. Ya no wot, Turts? Every few weeks I catch up on your blogs but every time I log on, I go to the map on the front page and look at all those upside down red teardrops.

    You’ve been away for almost 18 months now and the teardrops hardly make a splash. There is still so much green to explore. We really are insignificant, aren’t we?

    Here’s to lots more upside down teardrops, adventures, and spreading the word and the world. 🙂

    • Oh, thanks Lisa. You’ve described it so well and make the journey seem a lot more romantic than it actually is!
      But, yes, you’re right. There is still a lot of green on that map. Gradually it’s being replaced by red but you can’t rush these things or you don’t experience them properly!!

  8. Have recently discovered the joys of gin as well. Current fav is Caurunn (luxury Scottish gin) thin slivers of apple and schweppes tonic does it for me. In total agreement with Els, a “copa” has to be the glass of choice

  9. WOW! Hello, Michael. Thanks for a great receipt. I have recently considered about building a good bar in my flat. Having a good Gin tonic in it would be a perfect option. Especially, while having intimate dates with girls, this drink will be tremendously effective!

    • Hi Mal. Pouring it down the swizzle stick helps keep the gas in the tonic so that the drink is more effervescent.
      (I’m not sure I would notice the difference – but that’s the logic!!) 🙂

  10. I love my Gin and Tonic, this has been an eye opener for me with the sliver of lemon and lots of ice. Many Thanks

  11. A gin and tonic is my favourite “sundowner,” preferably shared with good friends overlooking a desert, beach or jungle somewhere. Beautiful way to start the evening.

  12. I, too, love a well made Gin & tonic. However, my new fave is a Gin on ice with plenty of Orangina (the light orange soft drink from Italy). I found a wonderful bar in Barcelona one night, I was the only customer for some unknown reason. The bar hostess asked me what I’d like and I explained that about 1/3 gin and 2/3 orangina was a lovely thing. She mixed it, and it was amazing! Very refreshing on a late hot Barcelona night!


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