I’ve never enjoyed overly sweet alcoholic drinks.
I like my wine dry, my whiskey neat, and if I’m going to drink something with a mixer, it’s going to be a gin and tonic.
Unfortunately, all of the above are impossible to come by at the moment. Like most South Africans, my carefully stored away stash of booze ran out a while back, and alert level 3 is still some way off.
Unlike the booze, however, my craving for a sundowner on a Friday afternoon hasn’t gone anywhere.
To scratch that itch, I started looking into virgin cocktail recipes. Most of them ticked the “too sweet” box, so they were abandoned.
Then, at the eleventh hour, I found the perfect recipe for a virgin gin and tonic, per the Telegraph:
To make the juniper syrup, put the sugar and 475ml water in a saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring every now and then so that the ingredients can get to know each other. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, add the juniper berries and citrus rinds and turn the heat up until just below the boiling point. Let it simmer for around 10 minutes, then take off the heat and leave to cool.
Once it is cool, strain the syrup through a sieve into a jug or bowl then transfer to a sterilised bottle, cap it, and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks.
When you’re ready to get your drink on, add ice to a large glass, pour in a little syrup, top it up with tonic and garnish with lemons, limes or grapefruit.
If I lost you at “juniper syrup”, never fear. I found a few simpler ways to make something delicious, without having to make your own syrup, from Leaf.
Herbs and Bitters
Take your tonic, pour it over a dash of lime cordial and ice, add a few drops of bitters, and garnish with fresh coriander (or something else, because coriander is the devil’s lettuce).
If you do prefer your mocktails sweet, I’ve got one for you, too:
Sweet, But With A Kick
Combine one part pomegranate juice with two parts cranberry juice. Pour over ice and top up with tonic. Garnish with whatever you like.
If you want to play around with your own variations, remember that tonic water works best with fruits that have a bitter edge like lime and grapefruit.
The quality of the tonic water is also important. Stick to craft mixers, like those made with quadruple filtered water for ultimate purity.
Trust me, you’ll be able to taste the difference.
Finally, if you want to skip all of the above, just stock up on Fitch & Leedes Grapefruit.
It ticks all the boxes – delicate fizz, zesty grapefruit flavours, and light hints of bitterness.
If we can’t crack a cold one together just yet, we can at least enjoy a tasty non-alcoholic beverage while we wait.
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