What’s better than serving gin and tonics at a party? Having a whole gin and tonic bar, that’s what. A few weeks ago I went to a media event for Beefeater. They had your traditional bar there, with a bartender mixing up fancy cocktails. There was also a DIY Gin & Tonic bar. You could ask the bartender for just a glass with ice and gin in it, and then use the assortment of tonic waters and accouterment on the table to build your own. The idea was so fun I started doing it whenever I had friends over… and it was a big hit.
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There’s something fun about mixing your own drinks, at least in my opinion. We all want to pretend we’re masters at cocktails, but truth be told most of us have pretty much no idea what we’re doing. A gin & tonic bar is a pretty low-key attempt at an open bar. Even for those that have never had a G&T before, it’s a tough one to really screw up. For the most part, you can put whatever you want on the bar as options, and (almost) any concoction your guests come up with will be drinkable.
As someone who always becomes the default bartender in my group of friends, I really liked not being in charge of everyone’s drinks for once, and everyone in attendance seemed to really like experimenting on their own.
Image credit: E.Price
Here’s what you need to build your own:
- Get a few bottles of gin. Different gins will have different flavours. It can be fun to experiment with different options. Some of my favourites include: The Botanist, Aviator, and Bulldog.
- Get a few tonic water options. Just like the gin, tonic water will add different flavours to your G&T. I love Fever Tree’s Tonic water. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you can also make your own.
- Cut up fruit and veggies and put them on a plate. In general, grapefruit, cucumbers, lime and oranges go well with gin and tonics. I’ve seen people use more adventurous fruits like strawberries, watermelon, peaches and blueberries as well. Grab at least three or four options from your local grocery and cut them up, displaying them on a plate for guests.
- Offer a few spices. I really love muddling a bit of basil in the bottom of a glass and pairing that with grapefruit for a G&T. Fresh basil and rosemary can both be great options to have on hand. Cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, juniper berries, and cardamon can also be big hits. Think about what flavours you like in a G&T and then pick things that will enhance that. You can lay these out in their respective containers, or put them in small bowls.
Set everything up on a side table (I use a long, short bookshelf near my dining room table). You’ll want to lay out everything I listed above, and then put some (small) glasses and a bucket of ice (as well as something to scoop it out) on the table as well. Small glasses are key here. That means your guests can make a few drinks over the course of the night, and nobody gets carried away and uses half a bottle of gin to make something horrible.
Image credit: E.Price
Image credit: E. Price
For guests that don’t know what they’re doing, I’d suggest starting with a basic 1:1 recipe of gin to tonic water, and then telling them to select just one or two ingredients from the table to enhance it. Light drinkers can double the amount of tonic. It’s VERY hard to go wrong with just adding a few of the fruits (although I’m sure someone can do it). Spices should be used sparingly, but those are pretty difficult to screw up as well as long as you’re limiting your selection to just a small amount of one.
As the night progresses, you’ll be surprised what awesome creations your guests come up with, and they will definitely be talking about it much more than they would if you labored over their drinks all night.
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