Gin and tonic shows its versatility with food | Islander


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Finally, summer showed us her pretty face. Some of us are lucky enough to languish by the beach, pool, stream, or away from our usual busy lives.

It’s time to relax and let go after a hectic Christmas while enjoying thirst-quenching drinks and fresh, revitalizing foods.

I love pairing summer drinks with food. Wine is usually the ideal match – but when it’s warm and slightly tropical, cocktails and long, cool drinks and spirits are on the table.

Gin has become such a cult over the past decade, and there are tons of unknown and interesting examples of the spirit to be mixed in a long glass with your favorite tonic or garnish.

Often characterized by the flavor of juniper berries, gin makers produce gin by infusing a neutral alcohol with botanical ingredients during the distillation process. For alcohol to be classified as gin, it must contain at least 40 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).

“Ginstronomy” is one thing. Foodies explore the various complexities hidden in all of our handcrafted examples of this spirit, as well as the myriad of different styles of gin available, and bring them face to face with dishes that can keep guests entertained and satisfied.

PERFECT COMBO: To satisfy large groups, whip up pitchers of gin and tonic and lay out plates of sushi to find the right spot on a summer evening.

One of the obvious pairings with a traditional gin and tonic is smoked salmon. Add a little lemon or lime juice to pair with the citrus or herbs you use to garnish. Smoked salmon blinis, sushi, pancakes filled with cream cheese and smoked salmon, or smoked salmon roulade with pug, lettuce is pure magic together.

Afternoon tea, or a snack on a hot day, certainly calls for a cocktail or a long, cold drink. Cucumber sandwiches with avocado and lime will do.

ON A ROLL: Lobsters are a great deal this year, so indulge yourself with a lobster roll to accompany a highball gin and tonic.

ON A ROLL: Lobsters are a great deal this year, so indulge yourself with a lobster roll to accompany a highball gin and tonic.

Apparently, lobster and lobster tails will be a bit cheaper this season, and to make a good lobster roll you don’t need a lot of meat. Toss with Japanese mayonnaise and a touch of wasabi and fill a soft roll with cilantro and butter lettuce. A great mouthfeel of flavors with a gin and tonic that has a good basic juniper flavor with an oriental touch.

If you are lucky enough to be near a good fish and chips, try your appetizers with good quality breaded fish and thick fries. Gin is able to resist garlic, so choose a tartare or aioli with a generous touch of garlic.

A goat cheese or smoked cheese will pair well with a fruity citrus-based gin or try a goat pie, asparagus or artichokes as part of an antipasto platter.

Which brings me to tapas – in their true Spanish form. Smoked meats, chorizo, olives and crispy bread will round off the day perfectly with a highball gin. Choose a tonic with a few herbs and a drier than usual. Add a little spicy guacamole and you have the perfect end to a summer day.

Some traditional gins will have layers of fennel and licorice behind the juniper aromas. This makes it a great drink to enjoy with steamed mussels in their natural state with just a pinch of Tabasco.

IN THE ROSE: Pair a pink gin with a berry shortcake or a cheesecake at the end of your meal.  Photos: Shutterstock

IN THE ROSE: Pair a pink gin with a berry shortcake or a cheesecake at the end of your meal. Photos: Shutterstock

If you prefer a floral gin style, or those with a pink tint, try them with a berry mix or a strawberry shortcake with cream.

This Always in the Spirit story first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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