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How To Drink Gin: The Right Garnish, Glass, Ice and Cocktails

Gin is having something of a moment. Gone are the days of ice and a slice, and vodka’s botanical cousin is reigning triumphant among artisan alcohol circles. But drinking great gin with an expert eye is no mean feat. Top gin requires a careful palette and often comes with a highly detailed flavour profile that requires complex compliments. Here’s how to drink gin like a pro.

Tip #1: The Perfect Garnish

Lime has long been the favourite flavour to accompany a gin and tonic, and complements most gins well. Lime is a strong choice for London dry style gins. The sour lime juice will make the dryness more palatable.

But the love for lime is not universal. Any Hendricks drinker will be unimpressed by the presence of a lime wedge in their drink. The flavour profile includes cucumber and rose petals, so it is traditionally always served with a cucumber garnish. 

An orange wheel is a good choice for spiced gins. The warmth and sweetness positively complements the ‘winter’ flavours of clove, cassia, and nutmeg. It’s a bold choice, but the citrusy flavours will really bounce off the sour flavour of flat leaf coriander. If you’re still stuck for choice, most distilleries offer garnish suggestions on their website, or you can follow this detailed guide from the Gin Foundry

Tip #2: The Perfect Glass

The group of cocktails known as ‘high-ball’ include all drinks that feature a spirit base with a majority non-alcoholic mixer. Gin and tonic is a truly classic high-ball, and will do fine in a traditional high-ball tumbler ‘Tom Collins’ glass.

But if you really want to bring out the flavours of the gin, a balloon glass is the superior choice. Appearing like a large wine glass, the more spherical shape of the balloon glass (also known as a Copa de Balon) allows the flavours to be trapped in the glass whilst the carbon in the tonic expands. It is said that the bowl shape of the Copa de Balon allows the ice to melt at a slower rate, keeping your refreshing G-n-T colder and less diluted for longer. A wide round shape truly allows you to smell and experience every botanical flavour in the drink.


The balloon glass originates from the 1700s in northern Spain. Whilst the English chose the Tom Collins, the Spanish developed the Copa de Balon. The balloon glass grew in popularity around seven years ago when Michelin star chefs found that Bordeaux red wine glasses would keep their gin and tonics cooler in hot kitchens.

Of course, a great glass is useless if it isn’t properly cool to start with. You can put your gin and glasses in the freezer for 15 minutes before serving for an extra refreshing taste.

For the bold, novelty gin cups (sometimes with tea, no space for tonic) are popular with Hendricks drinkers.

Read more on the Portobello Road Gin website.

how to drink gin
how to drink gin

Tip #3: Plenty Of Ice

how to drink gin

With a drink that has as few ingredients as a gin and tonic, even the ice must be on point. Ice cubes made from tap water can have impurities that will ruin the flavour of your drink. Equally, ice that is overly distilled can have a dull taste that doesn’t add to the drink.

Filling an ice tray with water from a filtered jug should result in a good balanced flavour. Some bartenders recommend making the ice from tonic water itself due to the melting process, but a drink that is too sugary will mask the appealing bitterness of the spirit.

The shape and quantity of ice cube are also worth considering. You want to make the drink cool but avoid the ice melting into the tonic water. The larger the quantity of ice, the less likely it will be that the ice will melt.

Larger, squarer blocks with a thicker surface area will melt more slowly resulting in less dilution. Many bartenders recommend the king cube ice tray, which makes blocks larger than an inch on each side.

Tip #4: Flavour is key

how to drink gin
Miran Chauhan

A strong gin can still be immensely pleasurable and flavoursome – in the right drink. Potenially too potent for a gin and tonic, a gin with a high alcohol percentage belongs in a gin martini. Miran Chauhan is a mixologist in the Edinburgh bar The Bon Vivant. He believes that: “Drinks enthusiasts should try out higher proof, navy strength gins, such as Elephant Gin’s new ‘Elephant Strength’ gin.” The spirit comes in at a high 57%, but Chauhan believes in the drink: “It has a freshness – like picking an apple off a tree and having that first juicy bite. 

“When mixing with other spirits and liqueurs, navy strength gin becomes more pronounced and acts as a conductor, where all the other flavours orchestrate around it harmoniously. When mixed well, navy strength gin really comes into its own and the botanical structure and flavour is allowed to shine. Try it in a classic martini, a classic drink that will have everlasting recognition and order. Elephant Strength nails the martini extremely well – it’s well balanced, structured and very pleasurable.”

Tip #5: Follow the experts

Elephant Martini

50ml Elephant Gin
dash Absinthe
dash Lillet Blanc
Lemon twist
Black pepper
Lemon bitters

Wash the ice with the vermouth and absinthe, strain out and add the gin with the black pepper and stir down.

Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Created by Dan Thomson (Milk & Honey London, B.Y.O.C.)

Recipe and image from Elephant Gin

how to drink gin

Mons Meg

Serve in a flute (tall sparkling wine glass)

One Shot (30ml) Caorunn gin

Half a shot (15ml) Farm Apple Shrub*

Top Up (90ml) Sparkling Wine

Red Apple Slice (to garnish)

Keep all your ingredients in the fridge and your glassware in the freezer until you’re ready to serve. Measure and pour the Caorunn and Farm Apple Shrub into your flute and carefully top up with your Sparkling Wine of choice before adding the finishing touch, a juicy Red Apple Slice to the rim of the glass. Stir gently and garnish.

*To make the Farm Apple Shrub

Combine equal parts Cloudy Apple Juice, Cider Vinegar and Heather Honey, stirring until the honey dissolves. You can add a little heat to speed up the process, but make sure everything is cooled down before adding to the cocktail.

Will keep in the fridge for at least three months.

Recipe and image from Caorunn Gin

how to drink gin

Heading out for a gin tonight? Carry these: