Gin's trusty sidekick has so much more potential.

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Tonic drinks
Credit: Carey Jones

There are many reasons why the gin and tonic is a summer staple. First, it's as refreshing as a cocktail can get. Thanks to the complex botanicals of gin and layered flavors of tonic, it's quite sophisticated for a two-ingredient drink. Also, it's easy. No fussing with a shaker or juicer or mixing glass. Grab some ice, stir, and go.

But there's an entire world of drinks that tonic can star in. The balanced sweetness and complexity of a good brand, like Fever-Tree, make tonic a true asset in cocktails. And since you might be looking to step out into the sun with a drink in hand as soon as possible, we kept them simple. Here are three summer drinks to take you well beyond the staple G&T.  

Palomonic

Tonic drinks
Credit: Carey Jones

We're huge boosters of the Paloma -- a drink that, in its simplest form, is just grapefruit soda and tequila, although we're prone to dress it up with fresh juice. So it's a little surprising it's taken us this long to try it with tonic. There's no need to make syrups, and no need to juice your grapefruit fresh (as long as you have a good grocery store brand, like Simply, or whatever they're juicing on-site). Just pour, stir, and serve. Ideally for brunch. 

Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine two ounces of grapefruit juice, two ounces of tonic, and an ounce and a half of blanco tequila. Stir briefly and garnish with a big rosemary sprig -- tapped firmly against your hand to release its aromatics -- and a half-moon slice of grapefruit.

Sherry, Baby

Tonic drinks
Credit: Carey Jones

Tonic pairs well with so many spirits, but it's also a great companion for lower-ABV bottles, like a good sherry. Here, a fino sherry -- that's the lightest, driest kind, fresh and crisp like a white wine -- serves as a refreshing but complex base. Stir the two ingredients together, add a few garnishes, and you're done. About half as boozy as a glass of wine, it makes for ideal day-drinking.

Instructions: In a small wine glass or a tall glass with ice, combine 2.5 ounces fino sherry (Tio Pepe is excellent and widely available) and 2.5 ounces tonic. Stir briefly and garnish with a few lime wheels and a big mint sprig, tapped lightly against your hand to release its aromatics.

G&T, with a Little Extra

Tonic drinks
Credit: Carey Jones

So you've probably made a G&T at some point. You might have even tried a Spanish-style G&T, served in an enormous "balloon" glass with tons of garnishes. But in this drink, we're not just dressing up the standard; we're starting by muddling lime and cucumber to add a new dimension of fresh, vibrant flavor. The resulting cocktail is equal parts familiar and intriguing; drink up.

Instructions: Cut two 2-inch lime peels, place in a rocks glass skin-side up, and press firmly with a muddler to release their citrus oils. Cut two slices of cucumber, about ¼-inch thick, and cut those into quarters; add to the glass and muddle firmly. Add an ounce and a half of gin, and stir; then fill with tonic, about three ounces, and stir again. Garnish with more thin cucumber slices and maybe a lime wedge.