Perhaps it's the never-ending heat, or perhaps it's just because gin and tonics are so dang delicious, but restaurants around L.A. are really stepping up their G&T game. From gins infused in-house to the addition of rare spices to homemade tonics, there's no end to the ways the colonialist creation (it was invented by British soldiers in India) can be tinkered with.
Lucques, A.O.C., Tavern
The head barman at restaurants Lucques, A.O.C. and Tavern is Christiaan Rollich, one of L.A.'s most respected and prolific mixologists. He makes his own tonic, of course, but he also infused gin right in the restaurants. Add to that grapefruit and lemongrass, and you've got a spritzy delight in your hand.
Cafe Pinot enjoys a great location adjacent to the lovely L.A. Central Library, and the garden area is a great place for a cocktail. The restaurant has added a slew of gin & tonics to its bar menu and dubbed it a Gin & Tonic Garden Bar, the better to embrace the old-fashioned romance of the place. The bar offers an array of gin options, paired with various flavors and ingredients, such as rosemary and lavender, grapefruit and cilantro, and jalapeño and cucumber.
700 Fifth St., downtown; (213) 239-6500, patinagroup.com.
Gin & tonics are wildly popular in Spain, and newish Valley restaurant SOCA has tapped into that with its gin-centric bar program: There are more than 50 gin labels at the bar. It's serving up 12 different “Spanish” gin & tonics right now, all with flavorful additions such as kumquats, dehydrated blueberries, white peaches and pink peppercorns. Pictured above is the Spanish Gin & Tonic No. 5, made with Spirit Guild Astral Gin, Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic, satsumas, lemongrass and a lime leaf.
14015 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 301-4300, soca-la.com.
The Bazaar by José Andrés
The classic Bazaar G&T starts with Hendricks gin and Fever Tree tonic, but from Oct. 19 to Nov. 19 the bar will offer 10 varieties of the cocktail. One version, called the Fall, is made with Hendricks gin, sherry, apple and star anise; the Green Shades is made with Green Hat gin, Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic, rosemary, cucumber and lime; the London Fog contains Tanqueray Nº TEN gin, London Fog syrup, Fever Tree Indian tonic water, lime, white peppercorns, mint and grapefruit. These cocktails are $17 each, and while that is an outrageous sum, right now is a really good time to support chef José Andrés, who's working so hard to feed people in Puerto Rico.
465 S. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 246-5555, sbe.com.
The downtown Italian hot spot Officine Brera makes its own tonic, used in the “They made the gin … We made the tonic” cocktail. It includes cinchona bark, juniper berries, lemon, a variety of citrus zests and jasmine — if you want to try your hand at making this ancient malaria cure, the recipe is below. Cinchona bark will be hard to find, but I believe in you.
1331 E. Sixth St., downtown; (213) 553-8006, officinebrera.com.
Officine Berra’s House-made Tonic Recipe
4 oz. cinchona bark chunks
4 pods of black long pepper (crushed)
6 pieces dried star anise (crushed)
cardamom pods or powdered cardamom
10 dried juniper berries (crushed)
zest of 4 lemons
zest of 6 limes
zest of 3 oranges
zest of half a ruby red grapefruit
A big handful of jasmine (flowers and stems)
? cup of citric acid
4 cups of filtered water
Let all of the ingredients sit in a covered jar in the fridge for three days, agitating the mixture once a day. Next, strain out the solids, first through a large fine strainer and then through cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Finally, combine the tonic base with an equivalent volume of a rich simple syrup.