I’m not normally a big fan of hard liquor; beer and wine are usually fine with me. And if I were to ever have hard liquor, I can guarantee you that it wouldn’t be a gin and tonic. That drink seems relegated to an older era of Mad Men and bridge parties, anything but modern day tastes. That’s why I was shocked to find that in Spain one of the hottest types of bar to go to, no matter your age, is a gin and tonic bar.
That is also why I walked into the bar at Els Caçadors with some friends with a little trepidation. I’ve been to wine tastings, whiskey tastings, beer tastings and even tequila tastings, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from a gin and tonic tasting. It is, after all, a mixed drink with certain prescribed ingredients. According to the interwebs, the classic gin and tonic, or G&T for those cool cats in the know, is as follows:
Not too much to it really, in fact it’s downright simple. As with most subjective things in life though a little knowledge and a lot of passion can turn anything as prosaic as a gin and tonic into a potent potable experience.
Set in the town of Ribes de Freser, Els Caçadors is a third generation establishment that includes a hotel and a Michelin restaurant. The gin and tonic bar is definitely a passion for the owner Ramon Pau, I could see it in the twinkle in his eye as he started to explain the gins. Oh the gins.
On in ordinary day in an ordinary place I hate gin, I think it tastes like eating a shrub, but this was no ordinary day and this was no ordinary place. Ramon has a process for his gin creations and he puts credit in a few key details.
The quality of the gin is obviously important, and he offers dozens of brands from a half dozen countries to suit the tastes of his clientele. The size of the glass is also important, he says. A small glass would never do, a large one must be used and it must be chilled. Why must it be large, well because of the next key aspect in gin and tonic creation, the ice. The ice cubes have to be a certain size and must be whole, not chopped. The desire is to chill the drink, not water it down. After the gin has been poured, the tonic is gently and artistically added and then garnished with some berries, depending on your choice of gin. So what’s the result?
Speaking not only as someone who doesn’t care for gin and tonics but actually hates them, I have to say that Ramon makes a hell of a drink. They were strong without being too intense and the flavors were well balanced. The giant glass did make me feel as if I was drinking out of a fishbowl, but other than that it was a lot of fun. I’m not talking about the drinking part necessarily, although that was nice too, but the entire process of learning about this strangely trendy beverage from a master was enlightening. I had no idea so much thought and preparation went into what is decidedly a fairly simple beverage.
So the next time you’re in Ribes, high in the Spanish Pyrenees, stop by Els Caçadors and ask Ramon to show you his gin secrets, just be sure not to ask for crushed ice.
Post Script: To answer the question in the title of this post, the Spanish lovingly call Gin & Tonic…Gin & Tonic. Weird, but such is life.