On the sauce: Gin
It ruined your mother and tastes awfully nice with tonic. But enjoying gin at its best isn't as simple as it seems, says resident drinks expert Miss Tipple
There’s nothing quite as awful as a badly-made gin and tonic. If you ask for one down your local boozer (especially if it's the Queen Vic), the chances are you’ll probably get a wine glass full of a discounted double measure, tap tonic, two measly ice cubes and a solitary slither of lemon. Gin might once have been 'mother’s ruin', the tipple of the poor, but it's come a long way since then. Now the clear, juniper-based spirit, be it Bombay or Beefeater, Tanqueray or Miller's, deserves a little bit better – and so do you.
"Little nips of whisky,
Little drops of gin
Make a lady wonder
where on earth she's bin'"
To really enjoy the drink at its best you need to drink it in the right spirit. It’s no use branding it a depressant and thinking of Ange downing bottles of the stuff as Den served her with divorce papers. And forget that it originated as 'Dutch courage', a tipple that fortified the spirits of Low Land soldiers, or that it was London slum dwellers' drink of choice in the 17th century. Think instead of penguin-suited waiters serving martinis on 1920s ocean liners; white-suited colonials sipping gin and tonics at cocktail hour; or Ingrid Bergman slipping into Humphrey Bogart’s Casablanca gin joint.
Once you've got yourself into the right mood, it's time to turn your attention to the ingredients. Stuff the Sainsbury's own brand – if you want to enjoy the drink at its best, it’s got to be ‘distilled’ or ‘London’ gin. Plain old gin is a just a cheap way of mixing the ‘botanicals’ (juniper, coriander, orange peel, cinnamon, cardamon and nutmeg can all go in) with the booze. These days, we’re less likely to be mixing up a dry martini or gin and it once 6.30 comes round, so if it’s a G and T you’re after, make sure your tonic is Schweppes – preferably in a single serving can, not a bottle. The glass should be tall, thin and loaded with ice cubes – and with a squeeze of lime, rather than lemon.
Of course, so much the better if your drink can actually be brought to you. For that, you need a helpful boyfriend, attentive waiter or charming hostess, and really need to be sitting in a bath, on a balcony overlooking a beautiful bay or with your bum parked on someone else’s comfortable chaise longue. But then that’s the great thing about gin – even if it’s tipping down with rain outside, the cat’s been sick on the sofa and you’ve had to mix it yourself because your boyfriend’s down the pub with his mates, it's still the best pick me up in the world – a little bit of luxury in a glass.