I have come to enjoy gin and tonics. I like that I can taste the gin but also have the contrasting quinine flavor of tonic. I have tried gin and seltzer, but it is bland. Can you suggest a different pairing for gin that will allow its flavor to shine but that will add a subtle second flavor?
If you want to stick with long drinks, you’re on the right track with the seltzer water — just add a splash of something else and you’ll have it. A bit of grapefruit juice mixed into your gin and soda shouldn’t fall too far from your original gin and tonic, as the grapefruit is almost as bitter. A half-jigger of Campari would be fun as well. (At that point, you’re making basically an Americano, with gin substituting for the sweet vermouth.)
If you want to move away from the highballs, let’s start by sticking with the Campari; try a Negroni, which would pair gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in equal measures. Here we’ve got several different flavors competing with the gin, but its crisp botanicals are strong enough to fight through the mix and remain prominent. Another option would be the Martinez, an early precursor to the martini which uses sweet vermouth, bitters, and a bit of Luxardo to complement the taste of your gin. There’s always the gimlet, as well, though it won’t be nearly as bitter with the use of sweetened lime juice.
I’m remiss, though, if I don’t mention my newly rediscovered favorite drink, the simple martini. You might not think it fits your profile exactly, but if you make your martinis fairly wet — maybe a 10-1 gin-to-vermouth ratio, or even 8-1 — you’ll find you’re getting the balance you are looking for.
One final suggestion: check out our article this week on the Queen Elizabeth, which is essentially a flat gin-and-tonic, substituting Dubonnet for tonic water. It’s not just the kind of substitution you’re looking for; it’s also a great conversation starter.