Walk into any bar or restaurant in Barcelona, and the drink of choice – the one that is definitively Spanish and ordered as often as sangria or a glass of wine – is the gin and tonic. Everywhere you go, no matter who makes it, the drink is crafted to perfection. It’s something I hadn’t experienced in Houston (most gin and tonics here are made with well gin and a syrupy tonic water from a tank) until I visited BCN Taste & Tradition, the Spanish fine dining restaurant helmed by Barcelona-born chef LUIS ROGER. So I sat down with JERRY ARGUELLES, the manager who developed their gin and tonic menu, to find out what made theirs so special.
“When I came on board, the owner, Ignacio Torras, handed me this book that was all about gin and tonics,” says Arguelles. “He said, ‘I want you to make the best gin and tonic possible,’ and that’s what we’ve tried to do.”
“We were looking to use the best ingredients, the best everything possible – the best gins, the best mixers. Each gin and tonic has the criteria of a visual, an aromatic and a taste,” Arguelles explains. “Of course, what’s important, you gotta have the right balance. We eat and drink with our eyes, so gotta do something fun visually, as well.”
There are seven gin and tonics on the regular menu, and one seasonal off-menu special – each one beautifully presented in a balloon glass, and each one with its own personality, look, smell and taste. Arguelles combined specific gins with specific tonic waters to craft the best tasting drink.
The house BCN Gin and Tonic, the most classical version of the drink, uses Hendrick’s gin, juniper berries and cucumber, and is finished off with a pour of Indian Fever Tree Tonic – great to try if you want something mild with a hint of cucumber. The extremely popular Elderflower Gin and Tonic is more floral on the nose, combining Tanqueray 10 with Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic, grapefruit and mint. There’s a Kumquat Gin and Tonic that’s very citrus-y, made of Brooklyn gin that has kumquats floating in it, and it’s finished off with a fragrant, woodsy-smelling sprig of thyme.
Whichever one you choose, they are all nothing short of perfection. Trust me, I’ve tried them all. In fact, the best way to try the entire menu is to come with friends and order every single gin and tonic on the menu. I’ve done this twice already, and each time I leave with the same thought: “Best gin and tonic in Houston.”
LAVENDER GIN & TONIC
– 2oz The Botanist Gin tinted lavender with Malva flowers
– ½ oz lavender syrup
– 6oz Fever Tree Elderflower tonic water
– 1 lemon slice
– 1 rosemary slice
– 3 juniper berries
– 3 viola flowers for garnish
Build in glass. Preferably a stemmed round glass to appreciate the aromatics better.
GIN WITH MALVA FLOWERS
– 1 liter bottle of The Botanist Gin (or your favorite brand)
– ¼ cup of dried Malva flowers Place Malva flowers in bottom of an infusion jar. Add gin and cover bottle. Let infuse for 24 hours, out of direct sunlight. Strain into fresh bottle.
– 4 cups water
– 4 cups sugar
– 1/3 cup dried lavender
Bring water, sugar and lavender to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Once mixture starts boiling, remove from heat and let cool at room temperature. Strain out the lavender.
Recipe courtesy of Jerry Arguelles