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Eat & Drink

The top 10 gin and tonics in Toronto

Posted by Jen Hunter / January 24, 2014

Gin and Tonic TorontoGin and Tonics were afterthought drinks for Toronto bartenders a couple of years ago. Had you ordered one back then, virtually every bar in the city would have handed you a glass of Beefeater & Canada Dry Tonic Water with a lime wedge on the rim. Since the craft cocktail explosion, however, it's become very much en vogue to jazz this standard bar order up in some fashion, be it by infusing the gin or by making the tonic from scratch.

Here's a roundup of the top 10 Gin and Tonics you can order here in Toronto. Honourable mentions should also go to Food and Liquor, Bar Isabel and Weslodge.

Nota Bene
Rather than creating a single drink, Nota Bene opt for a whole menu of different options, whereby you can choose from a range of gins, ices, and tonics, including a housemade recipe that is carbonated using a sodastream (as opposed to topping it with soda). It's a hefty $17, but that gives you carte blanche to do whatever you want. The whole thing is served with additional juniper berries, dried hibiscus flowers, and slices of cucumber.

Toronto Temperance Society
TTS was one of the original bars to adopt my favourite of the housemade tonic syrups on this list, and combines it with gin, fresh lime, and soda water for a distinctly refreshing drink. They have a knack for providing just the right glassware at Temperance. Combined with the convivial atmosphere, enjoying one here makes for a great all-round experience.

Cava
Kyle Burch's recipe calls for a liberal splash of Citadelle gin and a tonic composed of various spices found in gin recipes: angelica, orris root, grains of paradise, juniper, quinine and allspice all make an appearance in this fabulously fragrant drink.

The County General
The County General's option has terrific flavour, and gets bonus points for being served in an enormous half-litre mason jar. The complex recipe's a bit of a trade secret, but I understand that there's agave syrup in there (as opposed to sugar) as well as cinchona bark, cardamom, and juniper berries.

Salt
Salt uses food-grade leather, and ages their gin for anywhere between 2-7 days. The end result is a beautifully coloured drink, with the bitterness of the tonic mellowed by the warm tones of the leather.

Barchef
Barchef offers a variation involving dill bitters and a rosemary syrup. Given Frankie Solarik's propensity to spend a (very) long time making the drinks, these arrive relatively quickly, and taste unlike anything else on the list. (or I have ever tried)

Chantecler
Parkdale's charming little kitchen space also knocks out some excellent cocktails to accompany the tasting menus. The house recipe here is complemented with fresh grapefruit, which adds a deliciously fruity edge to the bitter tonic.

Churchill
Sandy de Almeida's recipe uses a cedar-infused tonic syrup. She sprays the oils from a huge grapefruit zest all around the inside of the glass before topping with soda water. It's best to go on a weeknight, as this place gets absolutely packed on Fridays and Saturdays, when grabbing much more than a beer can be little crazy.

Ursa
Robin Goodfellow's take on the G&T isn't a million miles away from that used at Churchill, though he infuses cedar flavour directly into his gin, which seems to impart a more distinct (and delicious) woody note. This one is also garnished with grapefruit zest.

Yours Truly
The tonic syrup here is in keeping with the rest of the bar menu, well-crafted twists on established classics. Based off cinchona bark with a variety of citrus peels and juice alongside coriander seeds, allspice berries, star anise and a hefty pour of Beefeater gin.

BONUS

Hole in the Wall
Only available at this Junction hotspot in the summer, this beautiful drink with lavender-infused gin, house-made tonic and soda would be far higher up this list if it was available year-round, but you'll have to wait until the weather improves.

Photo by my selected... in the blogTO Flickr pool

Discussion

19 Comments

Serin / January 24, 2014 at 11:43 am
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When will this pretentious "craft cocktail" fad come to an end? I'm sick of "house-made" everything that winds up tasting muddled and medicinal. Also fed up with paying nearly as much for a drink as you would for a bottle of booze.
Mckegs replying to a comment from Serin / January 24, 2014 at 12:28 pm
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@Serin Then go to a bar and order a rail with mix and shut the fuck up.
Lola / January 24, 2014 at 01:07 pm
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What is "food grade leather" (Salt) and why have I only heard now that you can eat leather?
Ryan replying to a comment from Mckegs / January 24, 2014 at 01:44 pm
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You people will be the first to be eaten when this whole society thing goes bad.
Bob But Not Doug / January 24, 2014 at 02:35 pm
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And yet they all taste like a gin and tonic.
Meathamper / January 24, 2014 at 03:35 pm
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There is a huge difference between a bad gin and tonic and a good one but a not really noticeable one between a good and a really excellent one. Pretty much any bar in the city that doesn't look like a bomb has gone off will be fine.
bestginny / January 24, 2014 at 03:50 pm
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My recipe for success: 1/3 Tanqueray, 2/3 Canada Dry Tonic and juice of an entire lime. Industrial-strength drink that never disappoints. :P

Nothing at a bar has ever compared!
v79 / January 24, 2014 at 04:52 pm
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The only way to screw up a gin and tonic is to have the barkeep use soda instead. Unfortunately, I find a good 30% of them consistently make this unpleasant faux pas. All of these leather, cedar and bark infusions are needless.
Sigh / January 24, 2014 at 10:28 pm
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The city, as always, does not extend past east of downtown. East end needs more love.
readandfeed replying to a comment from bestginny / January 24, 2014 at 11:13 pm
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my industrial strength preference is to switch your 1/3 2/3 ratio :)
yesBestGinny replying to a comment from bestginny / January 25, 2014 at 12:19 am
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Yeah exactly, it's not rocket science. If you want to make it "special" then go ahead and buy the Hendricks or whatever when you're at the LC'. Or buy yourself some snooty specialty organic tonic water or something. But either way a G&T is not something you really need a good bartender for. It's not like it's a good mojito or pimm's cup or anything that requires some thought and technique.
Emperor Norton / January 25, 2014 at 12:29 pm
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I always find that the G&T is the most disappointing drink to order in Toronto because the 1oz pours really make a difference. The proper proportion (as commented above) is 1/3 gin,2/3 tonic, lime to taste. I stopped ordering G&Ts because bartenders constantly poured 1oz and then filled the glass with tonic.

Any suggestions that break this trend are greatly appreciated.
goodgrief / January 25, 2014 at 02:21 pm
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I agree with those who say this is a fad and like all fads will pass. Sooner or later a hipster will read on the internet that drinking cocktails is supposed to be something called "Fun" as opposed to sitting through an earnest lecture. Fellow hipsters everywhere will dump the organic bark-infused House Made Bitters and flock back to $7.99 Grasshoppers and Pink Ladies with an umbrella on top.

Too much tonic in your G&T? No problem. Ask for the tonic on the side so you can add it yourself. Not enough gin? Order a double or a triple instead of complaining to bored barkeeps that you got more alcohol in your drinks in another country. Order EXACTLY what you want beforehand instead of waiting until the drink is made to then pull the pompous ass routine. Who knows? Perhaps barstaff may actually like you instead of just pretending!
Rob Ford / January 26, 2014 at 12:21 pm
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Vodka!Vodka!Vodka! Like "Subways!Subways!Subways!", except about alcohol. i like to say things in three's because I'm drug-addled. Super, Super, Super, sorry, sorry, sorry!
Nick From Salt replying to a comment from Lola / January 27, 2014 at 04:20 pm
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Vegetable tanned leather is food safe, it gives spirits an awesome tannic back note and old world wine nose. We also have a rail gin in tonic, for 7 dollars - made just as quickly. I already love grasshoppers.
George replying to a comment from v79 / February 23, 2014 at 09:47 pm
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A Better Gin & Tonic Enjoy it!! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/987775233/the-cinchona-project
THE CINCHONA PROJECT: A Better Gin & Tonic
www.kickstarter.com
Carmen replying to a comment from goodgrief / September 28, 2014 at 02:45 am
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that's exactly what they do in other countries... they give you the glass and they poor the alcohol (not everywhere, just in clubs and busy places), and they give you the open bottle of whatever soft drink (tonic, in this case) in the side, so you can add it to taste. it is not rocket science!!!
also, when i go back home (namely, spain) and sip in my g&t, i always go like... "holy shhhhhh*t this thing is loaded" and my friend stare at me with that "whateeeeever...." look.
Carmen replying to a comment from George / September 28, 2014 at 02:48 am
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brilliant!!!
Kaila / September 28, 2014 at 05:00 pm
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What about reds, of course?? 5 pre-crafted, 3 tonics, 14 gins, botanical tray! Fever tree tonicsare amaze balls!

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