When I was a little girl and staying at my grandparents', a vast debate would take place more or less around 6 pm. The sun was over the yardarm, the bottles of gin and tonic were clinking in my grandfather's hands and here came the question... Lemon or no in the nightly G&T. This could go on for quite a few exchanges, yes, no, well, what did we have last night, let’s have that again, I liked it, no I didn’t and so on and so on. I grew up thinking that lemon was this exotic fruit that had to be handled with care.
My point is that the only garnish ever considered was a skinny slice of flabby lemon, which would be dutifully wrapped up and put in the fridge, depending on whether the addition of the lemon garnish was deemed acceptable that night or not. My grandfather thought the garnish “terribly foreign”, while my grandmother rather liked its raciness.
But that was it, a plain, simple lemon. Not even a lime. No other garnish even came close. No slice of cucumber, spring of rosemary, or, God forbid, edible flower ever crossed my grandparents' mind when it came to garnishing (or not) their evening tipple. To garnish or not, that was the question.
Fast forward forty or so years and how times have changed. Nowadays no one who orders a gin and tonic would be surprised to find a full botanical garden in their Copa glass. Today it is de riguer to top your tipple with something sexy from the garden and ostensibly, nothing is off limits when it comes to creating a cocktail with a bit of personality.
Here’s our list of the top garnishes to pimp your gin. Ready to try something new?
Practically on a par with lemon in terms of conventionality these days, Rosemary still tops our list when it comes to herb garnishes. Pick it fresh to add a powerful, savoury punch to your drink.
Bring all the flavours of the Mediterranean to your glass by muddling a few leaves in the bottom of your glass to bring out all the juices, pour over gin, add tonic, ice and if you’re feeling adventurous, a slice of cucumber and hey presto. It’s like Naples has come to you.
Keeping things Med-based, why not add a little love apple to your drink? Tomatoes are a traditional garnish in Spain, and while some people might think that they make your G&T taste like a salad (particularly when paired with basil), we think there is nothing more summery.
Enjoy a little taste of the exotic by popping a stick of lemongrass in your drink. Peel off the outer layers to release the delicate aroma, add a few coriander leaves and even a red hot chilli pepper if you’re feeling frisky. Works very well with ginger beer mixers.
Lavender is delicious when added to floral gins. Not only does it look good - and very pretty - but it also releases a wildly aromatic flavour that is guaranteed to top taste buds time after time. Use moderation, though - too much and your G&T will end up tasting like your Auntie Vera’s dish soap.
A favourite of ours, particularly when the days start drawing in. The sweet, spicy taste of cinnamon is a potent and adventurous addition to your tipple, and takes your G&T from summer gardens to winter palaces. Add an orange slice, curl up by the fire, and wait for Santa to arrive.
Black pepper has a high level of a compound called pinene, which mirrors the flavour profile of juniper, so we say yes to pepper every time. Peppercorns promise to add a savoury kick and are sure to elevate your drink, whatever time of the year. A word of warning though: be careful if you're a straw user. You definitely want these to stay in the glass.
With over 7,500 types of apple in the world, we won’t believe you if you say that you don’t like this garnish. Perfect for adding a delicate, tart twist to your drink, remember to spray a little lemon juice on the slices to stop the slices from turning brown.
Or raspberries, or blueberries … Really any kind of berry works brilliantly with the botanical flavours of gin, so find a fruity-based one, muddle a few berries in the bottom of your glass and pair with the herb of your choice (think strawberry and pepper, raspberry and mint or sage and cranberry). As the saying goes, everything works with a berry.
Probably the most en vogue fruit at the moment, rhubarb adds a subtle touch of tartness to your drink. Peel off a few slivers by using a potato peeler, pop into your glass after mixing and by jove! More British than tea and scones with The Queen. At 4pm.