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The best garnish for a gin and tonic – perfect G&T garnishes

Find out what a garnish is, how to match them with your favourite gins - and which weird and wonderful garnishes are out there, waiting to be tried!

The garnish is the fruit, herb or even vegetable that’s added to your gin and tonic, serving one of two (or potentially three) purposes:

  • To harmonise with the gin – accentuating a flavour that’s already in the gin
  • To balance the gin – by adding a flavour that’s not in the gin
  • To make your gin and tonic look amazing and beautiful

It’s important for you to remember that every gin is unique and it’s possible to ruin a G&T by overpowering it with a garnish. It’s also worth stating that you don’t have to add a garnish at all: one of our directors drinks York Gin with tonic and ice. And that’s it – because she thinks it’s perfect as it is. So don’t feel like you have to add weird and wonderful garnishes. But they can add whole new dimensions to your G&T – read on to find out how.

The rise of the garnish

Until recent years, the only garnish question from most British bartenders was:

‘Do you want ice and a slice?’

At which point you’d usually either get a sad bit of pickled lemon floating on top of your G&T - or not, depending on your answer.

Now, in great part due to the Spanish penchant for the Copa (balloon) glass and extravagant garnishes, the tide has turned. In many bars, you’re not only offered a bewildering choice of gins, but also an amazing range of garnishes to choose from. This choice and the effort that goes into making the modern G&T is a very good thing.

Some garnishes to consider

Remember this is your drink – and there’s actually no ‘right’ answer. Choose what you love. And if you love how your G&T looks with all manner of additions, go for it!

Lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit

Most gins have a citrus botanical (the ingredients that flavour the gin). You can use one of these as a garnish to enhance the flavour. While a slice of lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit can overwhelm the gin, the peel can add just enough citrus to make a key difference. Having said that, if you love your citrus, don’t let us tell you not to add a slice!

Juniper berries

This is the one botanical that must be present if a drink is to call itself ‘gin’. If you love the taste, why not add a few berries to bring out the juniper in your G&T? The downside is that if you’re not using a straw, the odd stray berry can make its way into your mouth – which is a step too far even for juniper fiends.

Peppercorns

Again, many gins use peppercorns as an important botanical – and they can give your G&T a nice kick. You’ll often find them paired with strawberries. Again, peppercorns can be annoying if you’re not a straw user - you definitely want them to stay in the glass.

Star anise

Star anise looks beautiful in a G&T and adds a touch of sweet spiciness similar to liquorice. Watch out that it doesn’t take over the whole drink though. Many of our York Gin Old Tom fans love adding star anise to bring out the flavour that’s already present in the gin, and they take great photos too.

Strawberry and raspberry

These can add a definite feeling of summer to a G&T. Eat them afterwards and contribute to your five a day! Particularly perfect for fruit gins, like York Gin Roman Fruit

Rhubarb

This is a real favourite in the gin world at the moment – there are so many rhubarb gins around! For a more subtle touch of rhubarby tartness, use a rhubarb stick as your garnish.

Rosemary

This is a very popular savoury garnish choice. It’s pretty strong - so don’t overdo it. But it can complement juniper beautifully.

Lavender and edible flowers

Not for everyone, this floral garnish can work well in moderation. Which reminds us – edible flowers are a photogenic alternative, especially if you like posting your G&Ts on Instagram.

Other garnishes you may (or may not) want to try

Cinnamon stick: Sweet and spicy - looks great too.

Basil: Add some basil leaves to give your G&T a Mediterranean twist.

Vanilla pod: A sweet addition that works in some gins, but isn’t one for most.

Apple: If you like your apples, this can make for a subtle, sweet garnish.

We could go on, but we hope this has given you an initial insight into the World of Garnishes. Experiment - and you’ll find what you love.

More gin-fo and helpful articles

How to choose the best gin for you

How to make a perfect G&T

What is gin and what are the different types of gin

Gin jokes, one-liners and puns

A short history of gin and the G&T

Which glass should I use for my G&T

18th Dec 2020 York Gin

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