Ready to drink Gin & Tonics – are they any good?
While a Gin & Tonic is hardly the most challenging drink to assemble there exists a range of ready made versions for reasons that mystify me somewhat as to their purpose. None-the-less I regularly amble by them at the supermarket and am nothing if not a curious fellow. Thus purely for that reason I have endeavoured to test a number such that us serious embibers might know the answer to the eternal question: “Canned G&Ts – are they shite or what?” So I swept the shelf at my local “Appie” and then as an afterthought added a couple more I found at my favourite bottle shop. I then drank them all and noted my thoughts on them as detailed below. Bear in mind that tastes vary so this might be somewhat subjective but also consider this to be a evaluation of the entire concept of park-ready G&Ts and their relative merits and value for money. The sacrifices I make for you guys…
I served myself all the competitors in the same way – as pictured – in a balloon glass with plenty of ice and a swathe of fresh lemon peel. This may not be the way they are intended to be drunk (ie. Out of the can at a party or in a park) but it’s the best way for me to compare then to a “proper” Gin & Tonic. As it would clearly be madness to drink these one after another I had one a day over a week and under similar circumstances (ie. Sober). All are marked out of 10. If something gets a 10/10 that means it is as good as say 50ml of Tanqueray export with 200ml of Fever Tree Indian tonic properly made. Let’s see what happened!
Tanqueray 275ml bottle. 6.5% abv. 69Kcal per 100ml. €2.99 at a bottle shop.
Unusual amongst the contenders in being in a rather nice green bottle that holds a little more that the others I held high hopes for this one as Tanqueray is essentially my house gin. I could hardly wait to get the screw cap off and then I could hardly get the screw cap off. That thing was on there tight. I was about to reach for a pipe wrench but decided to give it one last go with a damp cloth and finally it came loose. Not exactly ideal for the park but then maybe they are not all that impregnable? Despite the odds being stacked in its advantage, once finally in the glass I was a little disappointed with Tanqueray’s offering. It was a pretty decent G&T but was a bit dull and, let’s say, “safe”. There was certainly nothing offensive about it but it just came over a bit weak and lacking in flavour. The balance was in a mildly citrusy direction but I suspect that the choice of tonic (which is the wild card in all of these as we are not informed which tonic is used) was a bit uninspired. Nice try Tanqueray but while perfectly drinkable it was distinctly unchallenging. As one of the more expensive of the group I can only give it a 6/10.
Bobby’s 250ml can. 9% abv. 78Kcal per 100ml. €3.99 at a bottle shop.
By far the most expensive in the group Dutch made Bobby’s is a kick-ass 9% which makes up somewhat for that. Bobby’s gin is also by far the most expensive base gin here so I’m not going to murder it on the basis of the price. It comes in a slim 250ml can (as do the rest aside from the Tanqueray) with a nice simple zig-zag decoration similar to the bottles and says proudly on the front Amplified Mixed Drink. No shizzle! We’ve got 21.4% of the content being the gin and Bobby’s is a 42% abv gin. All good news. I had no troubles getting the can open and was pretty soon sipping on a very interesting G&T. There was a massive hit of clove and spice that while very pleasing might get a bit tiring if you were to go for a second one. Now Bobby’s gin is a spice forward gin but to me its lovely lemongrass notes were getting completely swamped by the additional clove/allspice flavours which must be coming from the tonic. It’s a decent and exciting drink – the polar opposite of the Tanqueray – but in my view could have been more nuanced if the tonic was a bit milder. Not a bad effort though and worthy of a 7/10.
Sloane’s 250ml can. 10% abv. Kcal not stated. €2.19 at the supermarket.
Wait. 10% alcohol for €2.19? Can that be right? Indeed it is. It looks like Sloane’s looked at Bobby’s and said, “Hold my beer!” It says right on the can that 23% of the content is Sloane’s gin, which, by the way, is not a budget gin. These are the proportions of a pretty stiff G&T and therefore highly laudable. While Sloane’s is the only base gin here I’m not familiar with it’s a pretty well regarded Dutch gin and therefore this is looking like amazing value for money although it might be a bit more alcoholic than some would prefer. Things were looking pretty promising for the Sloane’s – despite the pretty dreary looking can – but unfortunately, once tasted, I felt the combination was massively hindered by the choice of tonic. While it’s impossible to know for certain it tastes to me like they use local Royal Club tonic which I find to have a nasty artificial and metallic bitterness that overpowers the flavours in the gin. In my opinion this is a (probably) good gin let down by an inferior tonic. Nuts – I really wanted to like this one! Please change your tonic guys otherwise I can’t give more than 5/10.
Bombay Sapphire 250ml can. 6.5% abv. Kcal not stated. €1.99 at the supermarket.
So we have a pretty decent, if unspectacular, base gin premixed to a sensible strength at a reasonable price – what could possibly go wrong? Well, as we’re learning, it all comes down to the tonic used and it seems Bombay Sapphire haven’t quite nailed it either. It’s not terrible, being nicely carbonated and having a strong woody/herby balance and yet still remaining “bright”. But I feel there’s a lack of quinine content (there’s no subtle blue shine when held to the light) and that it’s, again, not a good fit with the gin as the tonic takes the lead role – and not for the best. It does puzzle me that the makers allow this to happen to their gins. Is too little money and attention being devoted to the tonic? If so it’s certainly not only this horse who is falling at the same hurdle. It doesn’t exactly help that a mere 16% of the can’s content is the gin. I’ll admit that some might like this one more than I do so I might be being a touch harsh with my 5/10.
Gordon’s 250ml can. 6.4% abv. 65Kcal per 100ml. €1.85 at the supermarket.
Gordon’s is the cheapest gin in our test as well as being (marginally) the weakest. It’s not looking good for poor old Gordon’s. But wait – what’s this? Once freed from it’s prosaic looking tin this one finally tastes close to a proper Gin & Tonic. Huzzah! And guess what – it’s all because they used a decent tonic that matches well with the botanicals in the gin. When held to the sunlight we see that blue tinge that indicates some quinine content and indeed it specifically says so on the label. If I had to guess – and I do – I think they might have used Schweppes or at least something with a similar profile. Yes, it could have had a bit more gin in it and a touch more carbonation but otherwise we have a nicely balanced drink. Gordon’s (Diagio group) is a big manufacturer with a main product that seems a bit unexciting and left behind by recent developments but I think they knocked it out of the park here by just keeping it simple. In my view this is by far the best ready-to-drink G&T in the test despite being the cheapest by a decent margin. It’s not perfect but it’s well worth 8/10.
Inspired by the success of Gordon’s I also picked up a can of Gordon’s Pink Gin & Tonic. It was hideously sweet so I threw it down the sink after one sip and didn’t look back. ‘Nuff said.
TL;DR It’s all about the tonic! And Gordon’s knows it.