It’s the 19th of May, do you know what that means? It means summer is right around the corner, pals, and that we are in the thick and warming part of spring, both of which combine to mean that you’d better start stocking up on your cooling drinks, your lighter liquid assistants that make the warmer and sunshine-y-er days hum hummingly. Drinks like Lillet Rouge and Tonic. Lovely in flavor, lighter in alcohol than those winter warmers being currently shed like so many woolly sweaters, this treat utilizes here Lillet Rouge, the orange-berry-and-spice member of the Lillet family, though both Lillet Blanc and Lillet Rose would be absolutely smashing, too. You might want to adjust the amount of tonic syrup, if you went one of the latter two routes. That’s right, we’re going tonic syrup here, specifically &Tonic tonic syrup (made in WA, dontcha know). For one, it’s bursting with flavor. For two, and this is the joy of tonic syrup, you can maintain control the amount of it and soda, changing easily to taste and occasion. You can find the right balance of it and whichever Lillet you’re using, the right balance for your taste, or the day, or the occasion. Neat, right? Right! And now you have one more (or multiple more, really), slings in your summer drink quiver.
1. Fill a brandy snifter or tumbler (I really like my whathaveyou-and-tonic drinks in a snifter, cause it looks cool and maybe helps the scents flow into your nose, and helps the poor dusty snifter glasses come out year round) halfway with ice cubes. Add the syrup and Lillet. Stir briefly.
2. Add the soda, stir to combine, and garnish with the twist.
I mean no disrespect at all to my old friend gin-and-tonic (with whom I’ve shared many a fine morning, afternoon, and evening, and with whom I plan to spend many more), but I hope in today’s modern drinking age (which should be the name of a magazine, just saying), with our influx of better tonics (and many bottles items), that drinkers are expanding their horizons and sipping other-things-and-tonic, too. Especially as we roll into springtime with eyes all bright and sunshine all jaunty in the sky during more and more days, expanding your things-and-tonic list provides a nice range of refreshing flavorful sippers. Take example A: the Lillet Rouge and Tonic I’m drinking as I type. First, let me say that I think Lillet Blanc and Lillet Rose would both be dandy with tonic, too. But today it’s Lillet Rouge. Like all Lillets, it’s a French-wine-based aperitif (here it’s Merlot and Cab Sav), one with deep ripe fruit (dark berries, orange, a little cherry) notes accented by vanilla spice and just a whisper of bitter. For the tonic side of things, I’m a proponent of tonic syrups when available (I like the rich flavors and ability to control the amount), and went with locally-made-in-WA &Tonic tonic syrup, which has a lovely citrus panache (it’s made from hand-zested organic limes, lemons, and oranges) backed by the traditional tonic water tang, provided by Peruvian Cinchona bark. Combined with the Lillet Rouge, and a little soda, we end up with a springtime hit that’s both effervescently-packed with flavors. So, I’m not saying get rid of your G-and-Ts, but augment them with some L-and-Ts – you’ll be happier for it!
1. Fill a brandy snifter or tumbler (I really like my whathaveyou-and-tonic drinks in a snifter, cause it looks cool and maybe helps the scents flow into your nose, but you be you) halfway with ice cubes. Add the syrup and Lillet. Stir briefly.
2. Add the soda, stir to combine, and garnish with the twist.
A Note: The beauty in tonic syrup is you can really control the amount of it and soda to taste and occasion. I might go 3/4 of an ounce instead of a half, and 5 ounces soda? More soda on a hot day is nice! And the flavors still shine. Play around with it all, have fun – that’s what drinking is about!
Here’s a question that I’m curious about – in our modern (and here, I’m thinking super modern and recent, in the last years) drinking world here in the U.S., why hasn’t genever become more of a regular base spirit for drinks? I mean, I understand it wasn’t widely available until said recency, and sometimes it’s hard to change, and for a while, even I only really knew about one brand (Bols Genever, which is a dandy spot to start, and which I used recently in a Genever Julep recipe). But recently, I was able to sample a whole range, and it’s really interesting that there are many variations on the theme. If you don’t know (and again, don’t feel bad if you don’t – recency and all. But now you will), genever has been consumed for health and happiness since the 1500s, and is made from malt wine. Think malty-ness a bit like whiskey, but a juniper and herbal profile like gin, with all the variations therein. It was used more, I think, way back in the day, and so I’ve been going the classic route, and it’s still late summer, so I’ve also been hitting the G&Ts (I don’t need to tell you how G&Ts and summer go together). Then it hit me – why not Genever & Tonic? I used Bobby’s Schiedam Jenever (side note: sometimes you see Jenever as well as Genever), which utilizes that malt wine base and then a juniper, cubeb pepper, lemongrass, cardamom herb package. Yummy! But, admittedly, not super available over here yet – don’t worry! Other genevers, and I think Bols, for example, would be delicious here. But you need to have a great tonic, and I used locally-made &Tonic, a tonic syrup (if you’re not on top of tonic syrups, read this tonic syrup article), handcrafted and ridiculously good. Try this drink, as soon as you can!
You may think this the title refers to some sort-of ear-bursting occurrence, but actually, it’s a taste-exploding occurrence, because it refers to the new tonic syrups available in Washington state – which are awesome and which will change your life. Not just for G&Ts, but for many more drinks, these crafted-with-care ingredients are swell. So well that I wrote a tonic syrup Seattle magazine article, which you should read, so you can be swell, too. So, get your Tonic Boom on.
I was recently in the U.K. (London, Dover, Warehorne) with wife Nat and some of my bestest pals, Jon and Nicole. It was a groovy trip (you should visit all three places, right now!), and we had oodles of English fun. At the beginning, in old Londinius, we had a little apartment, and while we visited some swell bars (especially Oriole, which is wonderfully dreamy), we also hung out in the apartment drinking G&Ts. To do it right, the G we used was from the East London Liquor Company, picked up at their stall at the bountiful Borough Market.
The first distillery in London’s east end in over a century, the East London makes vodka, rum, whisky, and of course gin, including their flagship Dry Gin, which is what we had! Made from 100% British wheat and using both vapor and direct infusion of spices, citrus, and juniper, it boasts a clear juniper and lemon/grapefruit taste underlined by cardamom, coriander, and more. Yummy stuff. We also picked up a bottle of 3/4Ounce Tonic Maison tonic syrup – from Montreal! We were very international. The Maison has a steady bit of cinchona bitterness and spices and mingled nicely with the gin. It all made from some wonderful moments, sitting around with good friends sipping while discussing the wonders of London.
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More