The Spanish Passion with Gin

A refreshing gin and tonic, once the staple drink of the older members of the British middle classes, has found a new following and become the trendy tipple in bars and clubs around the world.

Spain in particular has taken the bygone G&T and turned it into an art form where it is known as Gin Tónica. The spirit now boasts its own menus dedicated to different brands, where quite often the tonic is abandoned in favour of more unusual mixers.

Apparently gin was first invented circa 1650 by Dr Sylvuis, otherwise known as Franz de la Boé, a Professor of Medicine at Leyden, Holland. Intended as a remedy for kidney disorders it consisted of neutral grain spirits flavoured with the oil of juniper, but by 1655 it was already being produced commercially and became popular with English soldiers serving in the area. By the mid-18th century a gin craze was sweeping through London. Thought to be a cure for gout and indigestion, gin was readily available and, most importantly, it was cheap. Eventually labelled as ‘mother’s ruin’, gin was drunk by women who neglected their children, with a large tipple used as the favoured way to quieten babies.

Tonic water came into the equation when it was created by British army officers stationed in India in 1825 when they mixed quinine with sugar and water in an attempt to create a drink that would act as a defence system against malaria. To counteract the unpleasant taste they tried mixing it with gin and the cocktail, as we know it today, was born.

The classic gin and tonic on ice with a slice often served in a long, tall glass has been replaced, in the bars in Barcelona and Madrid, by a copa, a large balloon shaped stemmed glass filled with a combination of large pieces of cracked ice and normal ice cubes.

The popular brands such as Gordon’s, Beefeater, Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire Blue now have to fight to keep their place at the top of the market with a new wave of gins. A typical gin menu will have a selection of over 60 different brands to which the bartender can add spices, essences, tonics, and garnishes of fruit and vegetables.

As I write about the charms of a refreshing gin tónica it is, unfortunately, not something that I can indulge in as I am one of those for whom it is ‘mother’s ruin’! It makes me melancholy and a little bit crazy, so I have steered clear for most of my adult life. Cheers!

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