A Manhattan—always a classic. A martini—always a bit Roger Moore. A gin and tonic, on the other hand, might just be the chameleon drink of the cocktail world, one that varies vastly in personality depending on context. A default drink at a too-loud bar, and it's pedestrian; highball in hand while sailing in Maine and it's sublime (I say both from experience). But like everything else in the food and drink world, it's really the quality of the parts that determine the sum.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet Charles Rolls, who might be more of an expert on these two parts than anyone else. He's known for revitalizing Plymouth Gin, Winston Churchill's spirit of choice, a few years back, and this summer, he's rolling out Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water (plus other mixers like club soda, ginger ale, and bitter lemon) in the U.S. Its backstory sounds like the stuff of legend: The quinine used is from a cinchona (or fever tree) plantation in Rwanda, which Rolls claimed he stumbled upon during a volcano climbing expedition nearby.
As for the actual stuff? While I'd heard raves about Fever-Tree from Jim Meehan, F&W's spirits consultant, I got my first taste only very recently in our Test Kitchen, and again yesterday, in a tasting against other mixers in Riedel "O" glasses. As expected, the tonic water was super clean tasting, with a lovely bitter kick and no cloying aftertaste. There's nothing pedestrian about it, no matter the context in which it's drunk.