14 Ways To Upgrade Your Gin And Tonic From Basic To Bougie

Sometimes nothing in the world is more refreshing than a classic gin and tonic. The drink is simple to make; just mix 2 ounces of your favorite gin with 5 ounces of tonic and serve over ice with some lime slices. The herbal juniper taste of gin pairs beautifully with the crisp, slightly bitter taste of the quinine in the tonic. In fact, there's a scientific reason gin and tonic go together so well, but you don't need science to tell you how enjoyable a G&T can be before dinner or as the sun goes down on a summery evening.

Members of the East India Company were the first to mix gin with tonic, as it helped them ingest quinine, which warded off malaria in 18th-century India. Today, it's a favorite liquor and mixer for many in the U.S. and plenty of other places too. There's been a real renaissance of gin drinking in recent years and it's inspired a whole new way of enjoying a G&T. Varieties of gins are more interesting and varied than ever, as are tonics, and there are many great garnish ideas. Now there's no excuse not to upgrade your gin and tonic from basic to bougie.

1. Pour a gin that perfectly pairs with tonic

The way gin is distilled, and the ingredients that create it, ensure that no two are the same. Distilleries are all over the world; most are based in the U.K., with the U.S. coming in second and producing hundreds of varieties. Some of these include the award-winning Gothic Gin and Modern Love Reserve Gin, both of which are produced in California. Liquor.com recommends Hendrick's as a top gin to pair with tonic, with Tanqueray and Vermont brand Barr Hill making the grade.

London Dry is the most popular type of gin, while New World gins are modern and often feature quite different ingredients. If you only pour out the G&Ts on special occasions, rather than to celebrate a Monday night, then be wary of dusting off a bottle that's been hanging around since the last decade. The quality of opened gin declines and is past its best after a couple of years. The less there is in the bottle, the quicker it'll oxidize. The way around this is to decant the gin to a smaller bottle. Of course, if you're planning on a bougie evening with friends that starts with a G&T, then you might want to invest in a new bottle.

2. Add tonic in the right way

Gin and tonic isn't a cocktail, as it definitely doesn't need to be shaken or stirred. To fix this drink you usually just drop a few ice cubes into a glass, add a few slices of lemon or lime, a measure of gin, and then top up with tonic. However, if you're just pouring the tonic in willy-nilly, then you could be making your G&T lose its fizz. And there's nothing as basic as a flat drink. How you pour your tonic is important.

Don't just splash tonic in fast as this can disperse the bubbles. Pouring quickly creates lots of effervescence but this means that the carbon dioxide, which makes your drink fizzy, is escaping. Instead, hold your glass at a slight angle and slowly pour the tonic in. The mixer should touch the glass before it hits the gin making sure your drink is fabulously bubbly. Another option is to pour the tonic onto a bar spoon in the glass first. Don't stir as this will release the CO2 too. Make sure your tonic is chilled and not at room temperature. The warmer it is, the quicker it'll go flat.

3. Use a quality tonic water

Gin lovers don't just focus on the liquor. Tonic makes up the majority of the drink. It's the bitterness of the tonic that stands out and complements the essence of the gin, too. A quality tonic can absolutely transform a G&T from ordinary to extraordinary, so to be a real G&T connoisseur and go beyond basic, use quality tonic water to create a bougie drink. 

While some people love regular tonic, others like to cut down on the sugar and pour a slimline or low-calorie version. Either way, try some of the best tonic waters to see which one you like. If you love more intense bitterness and sweetness, you may want to try Franklin & Sons. Meanwhile, celeb couple Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively not only own a gin brand, Aviation American Gin, but also Betty Buzz tonic water. Surely this adds a little A-list glamor to pre-dinner drinks and canapés. Fever-Tree or The London Essence Co. tonics instantly upgrade a G&T and both brands offer a range of subtly flavored tonics made with botanicals. Meanwhile, Liquor.com votes Fentimans Tonic Water as the best to pair with gin for a G&T for 2023.

4. Line glasses with wafer-thin cucumber slices

Paper parasols, sparklers, and foil stirrers in cocktails are fun on holiday but they're hardly the height of sophistication. Meanwhile, a G&T can look a little plain in comparison, which is not exactly evoking the luxury lifestyle either. To elevate your gin and tonic add some creative flair and turn it into an artistic aperitif, all you need is a cucumber and a vegetable peeler.

Thinly slice a cucumber lengthways and line a highball with the slices so that they follow the curve of the glass. They should stick to the sides easily and the swirling design is uber-cool. Just make sure to add the gin and tonic slowly so that the cucumber doesn't fall off. If this is a bit fiddly, then just add a couple of the thin slices into the drink itself. You can also infuse gin with cucumber slices in a mason jar by leaving it in the fridge overnight. The Gin Guide recommends pairing cucumber with a light-tasting gin such as Hendrick's, Oregon-made Uncle Val's Botanical Gin, and Pipehouse Earl Grey & Cucumber Gin.

5. Supersize your ice cubes

What's cooler than being cool? A supersized ice cube in your G&T. The sound of a big ice cube clinking in a fine glass feels boss. While crushed ice is pretty and looks like a glass full of crystals, it melts quickly. This is fine for cocktails that have fruit purees or syrups in them, but it's going to turn your gin and tonic into a weaker, watered-down version of what it should be.

Big cubes keep your drink chilled without adding water to it and upsetting the taste. If you've ever taken a slurp once the ice has melted, you'll know exactly how unappealing it can be. If you check out our ice cube hacks you can make clear-as-anything ice that looks as if it's been made in an upscale bar. You do this by freezing water into a block first. Once you've cut your crystal-clear cube, you can shape it into a bougie ball with your hands. If this sounds like hard work, you can always invest in large spherical ice molds.

6. Celebrate with a pink gin

If you're planning a swanky summer party, you might want to serve some garden party savory bites. As the sun shines and the good times roll, the perfect drink to serve is a refreshing gin and tonic. It's a light and long drink that could save you from a headache if you're enjoying a glass or two during the day compared to a potent cocktail or richly tannic red wine. To celebrate the occasion in style, why not break open a bottle of pink gin?

World-renowned brand Gordon's makes a delicately hued gin made with strawberries, raspberries, and redcurrants. If designated drivers want to be part of the celebrations, there's also a non-alcoholic pink gin. While pink gin is on-trend right now, its history goes way back and is anything but bougie. Bitters were given to sailors in the 19th century to help with sea sickness. Because they tasted so awful, they were added to gin, creating a pink drink that was way easier on the palate. You can also turn regular gin pink by adding a colored tonic. Fever-Tree's Aromatic Tonic water is made with angostura bark and pairs well with gin and an orange garnish twist.

7. Craft with herbs for a botanical boost

Botanicals have been on-trend for a while now. In fact, gin is distilled with the natural aromatic qualities of juniper, coriander, and angelica. More gins are being launched that are made with a beautiful combination of different plants, flowers, herbs, and spices. Our rundown of popular gin brands ranked worst to best puts The Botanist Islay Dry Gin in the top position. The Scottish brand boasts its gin has cassia nose notes with a finish that includes mint, hawthorn, and cinnamon.

Using natural ingredients as a garnish can totally transform a drink. They add a sense of artistry and look incredible. All you need to add is a red carpet catwalk along your drinks cabinet to line up your botanical beauties. London's Sipsmith craft gin distiller recommends some interesting garnishes from tomatoes, chili peppers, and peppercorns to rosemary and lavender. What about adding some black pepper to your next G&T or adding a herby twist with some sprigs of fresh thyme?

8. Choose a beautiful glass

There isn't a right or wrong glass to use for serving a G&T. You might prefer a tall, slim highball, an oversized wine-glass-style goblet, or even a tumbler. Which glass you choose might depend on what garnishes you add, the size of your ice cubes, and the occasion.

A long glass filled with ice is perfect when you want to keep the whole drink, and glass, chilled. It's elegant and understated, perfect for a quality gin and tonic with nothing more than ice and a slice. A Copa glass with a stem is perfect for showcasing spices, fruit slices, and herbs. With a wider mouth, you'll be able to take in more of the aromatics. Colored glass elements or a crackle finish create a trendy design flourish. Meanwhile, a shorter, sturdier glass can evoke a retro look if it's crystal, or a contemporary hipster vibe if it features a funky shape such as the geometric design of Root7's Geo Glasses. Plus, smaller glasses are perfect for those who don't want too much tonic added to their G&T.

9. Serve drinks with a fancy bottle

If you're pouring gin and tonics at a gathering at home, nothing adds class quite like a fancy-looking bottle. A supersized cheap bottle of gin plonked on the bar with a bag of ice can do in a pinch, but we wouldn't call that bougie. And it might be psychological, but pretty paraphernalia seems to make a G&T taste better somehow. A good example is the famed baubles of gin that are released each festive season by Pickering's Gin. Pouring a Figgy Pudding gin from a Christmas tree decoration at a party is certainly a far cry from basic.

A gin bottle can look like a work of art, especially when paired with some gorgeous glasses to elevate the G&T experience. From the Gin Shelf showcases some gin-bottle showstoppers such as Brooklyn Gym, with its bronze medallion design and copper top; Chinese Porcelain Gin, which comes in a bottle that looks like a hand-painted vase; Mermaid Gin, from the Isle of Wight, which comes in an azure bottle with a fish scale design; and Scottish Achroous Gin, which comes in a vibrant crimson opaque bottle with a simple, striking, plastic-free design. 

10. Char fruit garnishes

When you order a drink in an on-trend speakeasy-style bar, the mixologist often makes a performance of crafting your preferred poison, even for simple drinks like G&Ts. They'll deftly maneuver bottles, pour gin in a satisfying arc, and jet tonic in using a classic old-school siphon. At the coolest bars, instead of a simple slice of lemon or lime, the bartender may ignite fruit peel. Adding some charred fruit to your gin and tonic is definitely a sign that you believe in living your best life, and it's IG-friendly, too.

Our lemon hacks suggest charring a lemon to add to the side of a glass. If you char some lemon peel and squeeze it, peel-side in, then it'll release a more intense lemony taste. You can then drop it in your drink. If you're enjoying a plant-based cookout, then you could grill some rounds of pineapple too. Mash some of the barbecued fruit into your gin before topping up with tonic. Add a charred piece to the edge of the glass for a summery lift. You can also char a fruit garnish like a lemon in a pan on the stove. As it browns, the sugars start to caramelize, adding a subtle sweetness to your drink.

11. Create floral ice cubes

Given that a gin and tonic is a clear drink, a beautiful way to turn it from basic to bougie is with some floral ice cubes. Flowers frozen and floating in translucent tonic waters look magical and ethereal. If you serve these to anyone in a G&T they're going to feel incredible that you wanted to give them flowers in such as special way. They're easy to make too, and if you have a little patience you can create quite dramatic effects. Firstly, the flowers you're using must be edible. Colorful varieties include pansies, primroses, and pea flowers. Nasturtiums and chrysanthemums are also vibrant and beautiful.

The trick to making these is to add a flower or some petals to a half-filled ice cube tray and freeze this first. You can then top up each cube with water and freeze them once again. This is to ensure the floral part doesn't just rise to the surface, instead staying suspended in the middle of the ice cube. You can follow this method and create more than two layers, adding small pieces each time and creating real design depth. You can also make herbal ice cubes with coriander, rosemary, mint, basil, or lemon verbena.

12. Make a citrus twist for simple sophistication

Traditionally, G&Ts are served with a slice of lime, although it's popular to serve them with lemon too. A good tip if you love a fresh, citrusy taste is to run a wedge of lemon or lime around the rim. That way, this is the first thing you'll taste before the drink itself. If you make a little cut in the fruit piece, you can slot the edge of the glass into this to transfer the juice. What really makes a G&T pop is a citrus twist that translates into simple sophistication.

Use a channel knife to create a thin strip of lemon peel. Alternatively, cut a round slice of lemon, lay it flat, make a cut, and remove the fruit and pith instead. This also works with lemon wedges if you want a shorter piece of peel. The easiest way to create a spiral is to wrap your lemon peel around a chopstick. You can also twist a long peel with your hands just once to create a kink and drop it in a G&T. Or squeeze a piece of lemon peel over your G&T by twisting and dropping it in so that the citrus oils are released.

13. Get fruity for a fresh burst of flavor

A cool G&T before a gourmet dinner is wonderful for warming up your appetite. Before a dinner party, it offers the perfect moment for guests to break the ice as you add some cubes to a few highballs. The crispness of a gin and tonic and fresh flavor are also reminiscent of al fresco gatherings, so summertime is the perfect season for adding a fruity burst of flavor. It's not just the taste that's elevated. Add fruit to a drink and even the humblest of garden get-togethers looks grand.

Esquire tempts with some fruity numbers such as strawberries and cracked black pepper. Another suggestion is to spike a G&T with orange juice and garnish it with cranberries. Combining blackberries and cucumber with a pink peppercorn tonic sounds divine. Sipsmith suggests fruity additions such as frozen peach slices, super-thin long strips of rhubarb, and pink grapefruit peel twists with a salted rim glass. The color, taste, and artistry of fruity gin and tonic are classy as can be.

14. Serve a G&T that sparkles

Add some bling to a G&T and you've got bougie in a glass. There's nothing basic about some edible glitter. The easiest way to do this is to wet the rim of your glass with lemon or lime juice and then dip it in some glitter in the same way that you might salt or sugar the rim of your favorite gin cocktail.

Another sparkling idea is to add edible glitter to some ice cubes. If you add flowers, too, then you can really create an eye-catching design. For the glitter to dazzle as the cubes cool your drink, you'll want them to be lovely and clear. Make the ice cubes with boiling water for better clarity because the air bubbles are dispelled. Distilled water also makes clearer cubes. Instead of glitter, you could add edible stars. To make them sparkle, add them to ice cubes and then pop them back in the freezer. They'll come out better than if you simply add water to the glitter and then freeze. As your G&T catches the light, raise your glass to your bougie lifestyle that's anything but basic.