Trend Alert: Try These 8 Spanish-Style Gin & Tonics Now

The European favorite makes the rounds in the U.S.
September 12, 2017
by Meredith Heil

Originally proliferated by British vacationers, the Spanish-style gin and tonic has evolved into something of an art form, with its multitude of variations, impressive presentations and bevy of flavorful garnishes like star anise, whole juniper berries, cucumbers, orange rinds and pineapple zest. And, now more than ever, these festive cocktails have started popping up in bars all across America.

From California to Chicago, these eight bars and restaurants are serving up some of the country’s finest and most creative G&Ts, doing their part to bring a dose of Spanish-style flair to American shores. 

Courtesy of SOCA

SOCA in Los Angeles, CA
Opened in March 2017, this Sherman Oaks steakhouse is committed to exposing patrons to the wonders of Spanish-style G&Ts. “A lot of our guests are sometimes convinced they don’t like gin because they’ve had a bad experience or drank one that they didn’t enjoy,” says GM, partner and beverage director, Rory Snipes. “Spanish gin tonics are a great way to reintroduce people who are reluctant to try a gin cocktail because the drinks are just sufficiently familiar-sounding to be safe, and they can totally change someone’s perception.” Snipes’ list includes a variety of originals, including a citrusy, brilliantly herbaceous number spiked with Yellow Chartreuse, Satsuma mandarins, cucumbers and a sprig of lemon thyme.

14015 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; 818-301-4300

Courtesy of AC Hotel Atlanta

AC Hotel Lounge 
A Marriott offshoot with roots in Spain, this 90-property boutique hotel chain has spread its love for gin and tonics throughout 10 different countries, going so far as to collaborate with Bombay Sapphire to create the world’s first glass specifically crafted for its official cocktail. And with more and more bars helping to revitalize gin by getting into the Spanish-style game, glass designer and AC global brand ambassador Nigel Baker sees this as the ideal moment to jump on this zesty trend. “Gin’s about to undergo a big renaissance and it's exciting because it’s such an unusual spirit that marries so well with many different things,” he says. “It's a perfect storm right now for a hotel like the AC to make our drink of choice a gin and tonic and it’s also true to its origins because the Spanish put gin and tonic back on the map.”

Multiple locations

Courtesy of Michelle Banovic/Sable

Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago, IL
This sleek River North mainstay’s constantly evolving gin and tonic program highlights fresh, seasonal garnishes and artisanal, small-batch products like its very own housemade tonic syrup. “Our Sable tonic syrup is made with lemongrass, orange, Orris root (think earthy, raspberry notes) and wormwood,” notes head bartender Mike Jones, who’s been behind the stick there since 2011. “Oppidan [pictured below] is made with hibiscus and cinnamon. This G&T is fragrant, with floral, citrus and anise notes and warm Allspice on the palette.”

505 N. State St., Suite 101; 312-755-9704

Courtesy of Kelly Puleio/Barcino

Barcino in San Francisco, CA 
A recent addition to the Absinthe Group’s growing collection, this sunny Hayes Valley outpost takes a DIY approach to the classic Spanish-style G&T, allowing customers to choose from a massive curated list of gins and tonics to pair with finely executed Catalan fare. “Our offerings are organized by style: classic, fruit, botanical and earth. Each category earns a different garnish based on the gin selected,” explains bar manager Tammy Hagans. “The aromatics take you on a journey as soon as you bring it up to your nose — when you take your first sip, all the herbs and botanicals come together, the tonic heightening those flavors.” To further customize the experience, these inventive cocktails are also “deconstructed” (i.e. tonic on the side), so the drinker can add as little or as much bubbly as they choose.

399 Grove Street; 415-430-6590

Courtesy of Proxi

Proxi in Chicago, IL
Sister to the über-popular Sepia, this modern West Loop newcomer — it debuted in June 2017 — couples elevated street eats with a round-up of expertly mixed cocktails. The gin and tonics on offer range from a delicate, cucumber and rose petal–infused sipper to a savory option dosed with cardamom, bay leaf and lemon rind. Head bartender Josh Relkin was first introduced to the European tipple as a bartender at fellow list-maker Sable, but it wasn’t until traveling through Spain on his honeymoon that he truly fell in love. “It felt like every bar in Barcelona had a few different versions, which was a ton of fun,” remembers the seasoned barkeep. “I just knew they had to be included at Proxi, with our globally inspired food and desire to do similar things with the bar program.”

565 W. Randolph Street; 312-466-1950

Courtesy of RPM Steak

RPM Steak in Chicago, IL
This tony steakhouse recently introduced a trio of gin and tonics named R, P and M, showcasing the River North destination’s boozy ingenuity and providing the Manhattan and martini crowd with a curiously effervescent alternative to the standard orders. “The M gin and tonic is a wonderful tribute to the fall months with rustic yet bold and savory flavors,” notes staff sommelier Joseph Lapi, describing the burnt orange–hued beverage. “It starts local with Blaum Bros. Oak Reserve gin, accentuated by Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, star anise, cinnamon and dehydrated orange wheels, and finished with Fernet Branca and a tableside pour of Fever Tree Indian Tonic.”

66 W. Kinzie Street; 312-284-4990

Courtesy of Sarah King Photography/Vaca

Vaca in Costa Mesa, CA
For Michael Rooney, bar manager at Top Chef Amar Santana’s buzzy eatery in Orange County, designating the gin and tonic — or gintonica, as he calls it — as his program’s signature cocktail was a no brainer — but that didn’t mean he went with the traditional presentation. “The Vaca Tonic is a frozen gin gimlet built inside a frozen beverage machine,” he notes. “The slushie-style gimlet is then served into a sea of Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic, and garnished with vibrant, purple basil blossoms.” The unconventional cocktail mirrors the establishment’s cutting-edge approach to tapas favorites, prepared and served with a devotion to Spanish cuisine. “Drinking in Spain is one of life's delights,” he adds. “From the glass, to the ice, to their graceful dance using only tongs as they create the drinks, everything about it exudes passion, which is what we've always been about in our restaurants. It seemed impossible to us to have a Spanish restaurant where gin wasn't the beloved king.”

695 Town Center Drive; 714-463-6060

Courtesy of AJ Trela/Cindy's 

Cindy’s Rooftop in Chicago, IL
Perched atop the hipster-chic Chicago Athletic Association hotel, this year-round oasis’ gin and tonic recipe incorporates hyperlocal ingredients like Chicago-distilled Letherbee gin, a bright, earthy tailor-made tonic crafted in collaboration with Bittercube Bitters as well as flowers, spices and herbs straight from the bar’s on-site garden. “The perfect cocktail to receive the bounty is the Spanish gin tonic,” says the bar’s spirit guide, Nandini Khaund. “The garnishes change depending on what’s in bloom. This one has African blue basil with a smattering of red gem marigold.”

12 S. Michigan Avenue; 312-792-3502

gin and tonic
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