I came across Fentiman’s Tonic Water recently. I had tried a few boutique tonics before and hadn’t seen a lot of difference between them and the standby Schweppes. But given that I still had most of my 16 varieties of gin left in the bar, I bought a 6-pack of this ‘botanically brewed’ tonic water.
I found that on its own, Fentiman’s is less sweet than Schweppes. It also has some underlying flavors in addition to the quinine traditional to tonic water. Even the quinine taste is a little more crisp with this tonic water.
All of this would make you think that it makes a better gin and tonic. You’d be mostly wrong. When mixed with Tanqueray and Gordon’s, the 2 ‘blue collar’ winners of our tasting, the Fentiman’s just doesn’t stand up. The gin overpowers the more delicate tonic and the drink comes across as too harsh.
But when mixed with some of the boutique gins, the Fentiman’s really shines. Mixed with Hayman’s Old Tom gin or the Damrak genever, it is much more balanced than the sweeter Schweppes (or Canada Dry).
The lesson for today: If you find yourself in possession of a bunch of boutique gins, finding some fancy tonic water might be helpful. But otherwise save yourself a few bucks and stick with the small bottles with the yellow labels.