"NorCal" gin & tonic

Summer has arrived, and with it the desire for outdoors parties.  Is there a healthier alternative to summer's classic drink, the gin & tonic ?

Paleo dieters will no doubt be familiar with the "NorCal margarita," designed to reduce the amount of damage caused by sugar, acid, and cheap tequila that one would get with a regular margarita.  The NorCal substitutes lime and club soda for Cointreau and margarita mix.

The NorCal margarita is a fine drink, but personally, as an Anglophile and gin-o-holic, I prefer to drink the time-honored G&T during the summer.  Gin is a great alcohol, and tonic water and lime slice go perfectly with this booze.  While there are actually a variety of cocktails one can make with gin, only the dirty martini (gin, vermouth, olive brine, olives to garnish) rivals the G&T for enjoyment. But the martini is an autumn and winter drink.

Problem is, tonic water is basically like mixing soda-pop with your gin (in fact, if you're not trying to cut out HFCS, try Pepsi and Beefeater's sometime--a combo that surprisingly works well at the level of Cap'n'n'Coke--yes there should be two "'n"s in that name--bet you never thought of that before, huh?).  So what is a Paleo-conscious gin drinker to do?

The solution is simple and was suggested to me by Hendrick's gin, which encourages a G&T with a cucumber in it.

G&T with cucumber garnish doesn't solve the problem, but why stop at garnish?  Simply make cucumber the mixer, too.  Easy to do with R.W. Knudsen sparkling essence of cucumber.  Just substitute RWK cucumber essence for tonic water.  I tried Hendrick's gin with RWK's sparkling cucumber essence, and it's great.

Although I don't live in Northern California and have never visited Robb Wolf's gym, I'm dubbing this the "NorCal gin & tonic".  You need to find the right balance of gin and cucumber essence for yourself, but you can start off with maybe a 1 part gin, 3 parts cucumber essence ratio and go from there.
  1. 1 part Hendrick's gin
  2. 3 parts R.W. Knudsen sparkling essence of cucumber
  3. cucumber garnish if desired (seems superfluous to me)

The pedant will complain that this NorCal G&T doesn't actually have any tonic in it.  Well, that's true, and if you are set on the sugary stuff, you could try mixing the RWK sparkling cucumber essence with a little Q tonic, or similar artisanal, low-sugar variety.  But I have to say that, while I was expecting the NorCal G&T to be lacking in sweetness, I didn't actually miss the tonic water.  The cucumber essence is bright, fresh, and summery, and that's the quintessence of the classic G&T, too.  Also, if you keep your gin:essence ratio on the high side, the gin alcohols have some natural sweetness.

The biggest drawback to this recipe is that it requires the precise ingredients described.  If you can't find RWK cucumber essence and don't use Amazon, you could try marinating cucumber in Hendrick's or simply adding it to the drink and using seltzer, but I doubt this will turn out as well.

Also, be warned, I tried this recipe with Tanqueray #10 gin, and it didn't really work.  The Hendrick's has a special affinity for cucumber, it seems.

Finally, note that R.W. Knudsen also makes sparkling essence of mint, which suggests the possibility of a NorCal mint julep, although I haven't tried that.