When making a Gin & Tonic cocktail, creativity is limited to choosing a Gin base and pairing it with suitable tonic water. You can play with ratios or add a few botanicals to accentuate the flavors in the base spirit, but that's about it. -Usually.
There's one way you can keep the original recipe and tweak the flavor of this fantastic Highball - a Gin and Tonic with bitters. The bitters, also known as aromatic bitters or cocktail bitters, bring plenty of extra flavor to your G&T.
To find the best bitters for this classic cocktail, here's a list of 7 bitters that can bring a kick to your standard Gin and Tonic.
How we tested our Gin and Tonic with bitters
The flavor profiles of Gins vary a lot, and the same goes for tonic water. We decided on a test setup of a Gin with a classic flavor profile and standard tonic water. The ratio is 1 part Gin to 3 parts tonic water.
We don't add more than 1-2 dashes of bitters to our Gin and Tonic and tasted over 30 bottles from various brands. We start with one dash first and only increase if the flavors are not strong enough. Here's the recipe we used:
- 1.5 oz Sipsmith London Dry Gin (41.6% alcohol content)
- 4.5 oz Fever-Tree Indian tonic water
- 1-2 dashes of bitters
The cocktail is prepared and served in a Highball glass over plenty of ice. No additional garnish like a lime wedge or lemon peel.
1. Fee Brothers - Orange bitters
Citrus-flavored cocktail bitters work extremely well in G&T recipes. Grapefruit, lemon, or lime work as well, but the ones from Fee Brothers were our favorite.
They match perfectly with Gins that have a classic flavor profile but also work great with New Western or Contemporary Gins. Especially those including fruity or herbal botanicals that pair well with oranges.
2. The Bitter Truth - Celery bitters
Celery bitters are an amazing addition to all kinds of cocktails. They're perfect for enhancing the flavors in savory cocktails like a Bloody Mary but also add a nice touch to a G&T.
The elixir produced by The Bitter Truth is our favorite when combined with Gin and Tonic cocktails. Besides celery, they add more beautiful flavors of lemongrass, Sencha tea, and grapes.
3. Angostura aromatic bitters
Angostura bitters play a vital part in many cocktails. These aromatic bitters work incredibly well with all sorts of spirits and cocktail ingredients. In combination with a classic Gin and Indian tonic water, they also add a lot of flavors that make the drink refreshingly different.
Actually, I'm not even sure whether I should say that we're adding the bitters to the drink or if we're adding a tonic to a Pink Gin cocktail. The Pink Gin drink is made with only Gin and Angostura aromatic bitters - but with 3-4 dashes instead of only one or two.
4. Woodford Reserve - Spiced Cherry Bourbon bitters
Probably the most unexpected entry on our list is the spiced cherry bitters from Woodford Reserve. These bitters are aged in ex-Bourbon barrels and are meant to be paired with dark and aged spirits like Whiskey or Cognac.
However, they're also worth experimenting with in other drinks like a Gin and Tonic with bitters. The spicy note is not overly pronounced, instead, the bitters are full of spot-on cherry flavor.
5. Fee Brothers - Peach bitters
Peach is probably not the first thing coming to mind when flavoring a classic G&T. Still, these bitters are an excellent choice to add a sweet and fruity touch to the basic recipe.
The taste is quite subtle, so you may want to use 2, maybe even three dashes of them. Combined with the complex flavors in a Gin, these bitters make for a tasty summer drink.
6. The Bitter Truth - Tonic bitters
These bitters from The Bitter Truth are brilliant and meant to go into your G&T. A herbal flavor combination with strong notes of citrus, spices, green tea, juniper, and coriander seeds makes for a welcome addition to the drink.
It feels like these bitters even have the ability to turn a "bad" Gin into something more drinkable. The reason for this is their flavor profile which strongly resembles a set of ingredients that often go into Gin.
7. Scrappy's Bitters - Lavender
These lavender bitters are the flagship product of Scrappy's Bitters. The brand did an excellent job of capturing the flavors of these delicate flowers and keeping a complex bitter note.
Usually, we thought lavender bitters were too sweet and didn't pair well with the other two ingredients. -But these ones are great and paired well with the juniper berry notes in the gin. Just one or two dashes turn your ordinary Gin Tonic into a bittersweet floral drink that's perfect during spring and summer.
Of course, there are other ways to spice up the cocktail recipe like adding a splash (0.5 oz) of liqueur or tangy fruit juice to the mix. Flavorful options like Aperol, St Germain, or Italicus are all excellent liqueur choices. For juices, try blood orange juice or classics like lemon or fresh lime juice in combination with just a bit of simple syrup.
If you're looking for more ways to make a perfect Gin and Tonic, check out our Guide to the best Gins to make this drink. We also give recommendations for suitable tonic water to pair with the spirit.