Shaun Layton shares his tips and recipes for crafting the ultimate version of the classic cocktail.

Bartender Shaun Layton was already a bartending legend (and a WL Foodie of the Year) before he took off for an extended drinking tour of Europe last year. He returned to create and open the bar at Vancouver’s Juniper with the singular goal of resurrecting the once proud G&T from the rubbish bin. No more throwing flat tonic and well gin haphazardly together and calling it a drink—the cocktail’s nobility and versatility have been reborn.

Welcome to the G&T renaissance

The gin culture in Spain, and Barcelona in particular, is incredible. Every cocktail bar I went to had a list of G&Ts sometimes 20 deep, with different combinations of gin, tonic and garnish. These were all carefully paired and made with precision and pride. Yes, it sounds simple, but putting together the right combinations isn’t always that easy. Also, patrons seemed to love it and not feel intimidated by it. Often I see cocktails that are so complex, where the bartenders need to talk about them and themselves—they lose why the guest is there: for the experience and a tasty drink.

Lesson #1: Your mix is as important as your spirit

Right now at Juniper we have nine different tonics. The ones most readily available in the West are Fentimans and the line from Fever-Tree, and there are more coming. I love the Mediterranean tonic from Fever-Tree for its mix of floral notes and citrus. I also love Indi and Co. tonic from Spain for its beautiful Seville orange notes. Fentimans is the “jack of all trades” tonic that goes well with many combos.

Lesson #2: Your spirit is still pretty important

There are so many gins I love! The great thing about G&Ts is that you can make most gins drinkable with the right accompaniments. Not all gins are drinkable neat or in a classic martini, but a G&T is different. My favourite gins for G&Ts right now are Defender Island (Naramata), Tanqueray Rangpur (England), Fords (U.S.), Gin Mare (Spain) and Long Table Cucumber (Vancouver).

3 G&T Recipes to Try This Weekend

gin-recipes-western-living1. Simon’s G&TA little lemon, a little vermouth and a few olives.

2. CatalanGrapefruit and thyme garnish this beautiful drink.3. Brit G&TSource some cucumber bitters—it’s worth it. 

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