The tradition in saunas is to be beaten with a pine branch, and so I sought solace in the swelter that was Manhattan on Saturday in the great juniper based cocktail that is a gin and tonic. For that I went straight to Boqueria at its Flatirons location, from which I had received a promotional mailing about a new “program” featuring the cocktail as it is made in Spain. It was an easy sale.
I have been devoted to ginebra y tonica ever since sitting down on a warm terrace in the Galician city of Vigo and experiencing the drink as something far subtler and varied than anything I have found stateside. For one thing, I was offered a choice of tonics (here it is almost always Schweppes or Canada Dry, or something anonymous from a spout). It was served in a large bowl shaped glass (rather than a tumbler). It was made with care and with some sort of special touch that I couldn’t identify, and of course with a very good gin. The result was that rare moment when you can say of a thing that it is the best of its kind that you have ever had. My eyes thus opened, I discovered that the gin and tonic is a Spanish specialty, that having a choice of tonics is as prized at some establishments as having a good selection of gins, and that individual drink makers enhance the drink in ways appropriate to a spirit and a mixer that are each botanical in origin.
Which brings me back to Boqueria and its new Spanish style “gintonics”. I chose the “Clavo”, consisting of Hendricks, Fever Tree (my favorite tonic so far), cloves and cucumber. You can see both the slices and the cloves in the photo. It is not easy to duplicate the glories of a great food or drink outside of the original culture, but the Clavo did so admirably, certainly qualifying as the best gin and tonic I have ever had outside of Spain itself, and the equal of the best I have had there. I can’t wait to try the others, especially if it’s another sauna of a day and I need “algo beber”.
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