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Balanced Gin and Tonic

Mastery of a few really good cocktails makes for an impressive host. And what could be more classic than a G&T? Done right, this is an incredibly versatile drink that pairs well with almost anything. This gin and tonic recipe will help you find the perfect balance for a G&T anyone would love.

the problem with traditional gin and tonic recipes

G&Ts have always been tricky for me. They are lovely for refreshment on a hot day and in my head I like the flavor of them, but I’m always a little disappointed when I actually take a sip. The flavors never seem balanced, and there is often a syrupy taste I couldn’t quite figure out…until recently.

I had always thought tonic was just sparkling mineral water with quinine added. But when choosing some at the grocery store, the first bottle I picked up had lots of high fructose corn syrup. And the second bottle. And the third bottle. As it turns out, most tonic water has nasty sweeteners in it. The best exception I found is Fever-Tree, which only has sugar or fructose (fruit sugar) depending on the type. Not as nasty, but still pretty sweet. This gave me the perfect opportunity to develop a flavor-balanced G&T recipe.

my gin and tonic recipe criteria

I usually want a G&T to be light and refreshing. Here are some things I want from an easily-drinkable cocktail:

  1. Just enough alcohol. If I’m drinking outdoors in the summertime, I don’t want to be overwhelmed (and over-warmed) by the alcohol. There are plenty of cocktails I love to make strong, but this is not one of them. So in my recipe, the gin is only 1/3 of the liquid.
  2. Not too bitter. If I was making a classic G&T with only 1/3 gin, the other 2 parts would be tonic. That’s a lot of quinine – too much bitterness to be easily drinkable for me. That’s why my recipe has 1 part gin, 1 part tonic, and 1 part sparkling mineral water.
  3. Not too syrupy. Most easily-accessible tonics have high fructose corn syrup, which can make the drink too sweet syrupy for my taste. Reducing the tonic and adding sparkling water helps with this, too.
  4. More than a hint of lime. G&Ts are almost always served with a lime wedge, but I think the lime is important to balance out the bitterness of the quinine and the sweeteners. So I like to add some lime juice AND a slice of lime as a garnish.
  5. Just enough ice. I hate drinks with too much ice. In a Texas summer you’ll have a watery cocktail before you know it. A traditional G&T uses lots of ice, partially to help water down the tonic (or the gin, if there was a high proportion of it). Since this recipe already has the sparkling mineral water, that is not necessary! And the fizz is much nicer than plain old melted ice.

serve this Balanced Gin and Tonic with…

  • I’m not the world’s biggest tequila fan, so I like this balanced G&T with Tex Mex instead of a margarita. It pairs great with this guacamole as a welcoming snack and drink for guests.
  • a G&T is also great for any picnic. Try it with this watermelon gazpacho.

gin recommendations

My favorite gin (the one I always keep stocked) is Seagram’s Distiller’s Reserve. It doesn’t break the bank by any stretch of the imagination – you can usually get a 750ml bottle for less than $20. But it’s a step above the basic Seagram’s and extremely versatile. I drink this in both sweeter drinks (think Bee’s Knees) and salty (I love a veeeerrry dirty martini). And of course, it’s wonderful in this Gin and Tonic recipe.

Some other options are:

But my best recommendation is to talk to a staff member at your local liquor store! Give them your price range and describe the flavors you like in gin. Or if you don’t know exactly what you like, tell them some of your favorite gin cocktails and they will likely have a great suggestion.

Balanced Gin and Tonic

The classic drink with my time-tested proportions for perfect balance.
Total Time 3 mins
Course Drinks
Servings 1


  • 2 oz gin, see my recommendations above
  • 2 oz tonic water
  • 2 oz sparkling mineral water
  • 1/2 oz lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 thin slice of lime, for garnish
  • a few ice cubes


  • Throw a few ice cubes into a glass, then add all liquids (gin, lime juice, tonic, and sparkling water). Give it a stir and top with lime slice.
  • (If making ahead, mix liquids only in a glass and keep it refrigerated. Add ice and lime slice immediately before serving.)


  • most tonic water has nasty sweeteners (like high fructose corn syrup) added. The half sparkling water helps cut down on that, but you can set yourself up for success by buying the best and least syrupy tonic water you can find.
  • ask for help choosing a gin at your local liquor store. A knowledgeable salesperson should be able to make an excellent recommendation if you give them your price range and describe what you like in a gin. If you’re not sure what flavors you enjoy, tell them what cocktails you prefer gin in!
Keyword alcohol, cocktail, drink, gin, party