One of the drinks we love in the summer is the classic Gin and Tonic. It’s an easy drink to prepare that doesn’t require any special barware and is a perfect complement to hot summer weather. Choices in tonic water have expanded over the years to include boutique specialty waters that cost as much as $3 per bottle. We were curious if these premium tonic waters make a difference, so we decided to do a blind tasting with our tasting panel of five Gin and Tonics each using a different tonic water.
Picking a gin to use for this face off was a difficult choice. While we love Organic Nation’s Gin and often mix with Dry Fly, neither of these gins are widely available nationally. We also considered Junipero Gin and Blue Coat Gin, but ultimately decided on the gold standard of gin – Beefeaters. This London Dry style gin can be found at almost every liquor store and bar nationwide, and while it’s a huge branded spirit, we quite enjoy it as it’s extremely well distilled and easy drinking.
The five tonic waters we put head to head against each other were: Fever Tree Tonic Water, Q Tonic, Fentiman’s, Canada Dry and Schweppes. It’s important to note that both Canada Dry and Schweppes are owned by the same company that produces Dr. Pepper and Seven Up, and both contain high fructose corn syrup. Both the Fever Tree and Fentiman’s sweeten their tonic water with sugar, and Q Tonic uses agave.
For our tests we used a fairly basic Gin and Tonic recipe:
2oz of Beefeater’s London Dry Gin
3oz Tonic Water
1 wedge of lime
Pour over ice, stir, add lime and serve.
Here’s how the tonic waters fared (ranked by our panel):
- Canada Dry – Much to the surprise of our panel, everyone picked the Canada Dry Gin and Tonic as their favorite. Of the five, it was the most balanced between sweet and bitter, and complemented the flavors of the Beefeaters the best. A bottle of Canada Dry is 10 oz and retails for around $1 a bottle. Canada Dry is 33 calories per 3oz used in our Gin and Tonic recipe.
- Q Tonic – Of all the tonics the Q-Tonic seemed to let the juniper notes shine the brightest. The Q Tonic was a little sour and sharp but not too bitter and made for an extremely enjoyable gin and tonic. A bottle of Q Tonic is 6.25 oz and retails around $3 per bottle. Q Tonic is only 14 calories in our per 3oz, less than half of Canada Dry or Schweppes.
- Schweppes – Much sharper than the Canada Dry or Q Tonic, Schweppes may be too sharp and much more bitter than sweet. Not bad, but probably better suited for people who are looking for more bite in their gin and tonics. From a price and calorie perspective Schweppes is identical to Canada Dry: a bottle is 10 oz and retails for around $1 a bottle. Schweppes is 33 calories per 3oz.
- Fever Tree - Of the five tonics this one had the lowest amount of carbonation which made it taste a little on the flat side. The taste was pretty sour with an undercurrent of sweet; it just didn’t impress the panel. A bottle of Fever Tree is 6.8 oz and 33 calories per 3oz and runs about $3 a bottle.
- Fentiman’s – Way too sweet with overbearing citrus notes, Fentiman’s made our gin and tonic taste more like an alcoholic 7up. Fentiman’s bottle is the smallest at 4.2 oz and the most expensive of the tonic waters at $2.75-$3 a bottle. No calorie information is available for this tonic, either on the bottle or on Fentiman’s site.
Of the five tonics we tested, only Canada Dry and Q Tonic got strong recommendations from our tasting panel with Schweppes, Fever Tree and Fentiman’s all getting decidedly low scores – not enough to really recommend.Best Tonic For Gin - Canada Dry vs Fever Tree vs Schweppes and More by Geoff Kleinman