Cocktail of the Week: A Spanish-Style Refresher by Ky Belk at Linger

Spanish Gin-Tonic at Linger
The menu at Linger touches almost every continent on Earth, bringing regional dishes from all over the world to the mortuary-turned-restaurant in the LoHi neighborhood. And that globally inspired mission is not lost on Ky Belk, who manages the bar and oversees Linger’s diverse cocktail program: He’s got his eyes on what the world is drinking. “In the past five years or so,” he says, “the Spaniards went crazy for gin and tonics.” This is true especially in Northern Spain, he adds, where gin bars have been popping up. That’s right — gin bars.

“They’ll ask you what kind of gin you want,” he says, “and they’ll pair it with a particular tonic, based on the botanicals in the gin you chose.” Those drinks are then garnished with aromatics and herbs based on the dominant ingredients in the gin and in the tonic water. About a month ago, Belk created a drink he calls the Spanish Gin-Tonic. It’s a bubbly, refreshing, fragrant and gorgeous cocktail that’s sure to be a hit on Linger’s rooftop patio come summertime.

Here’s what’s in it:

2 ounces Broker’s gin
.5 ounce grapefruit juice
4 ounce INDI tonic water
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bar spoon of juniper berries
3 dashes Fee Brothers grapefruit bitters
Like the gin and tonics in Spain, Belk serves his in a ballon-shaped wine glass, as that shape helps to capture the aromas of the fresh ingredients he’s using. “I put the juniper berries and the thyme in the bottom of the glass first,” Belk explains, “then the grapefruit bitters, and then top that with ice to try to trap some of the aromas of the berries and herbs.”

After adding the grapefruit juice and tonic, Belk garnishes the drink with a wedge of grapefruit. “I like it best when it looks kind of like stained glass,” he says, “and you can see the grapefruit and the thyme and the juniper berries all sort of suspended in the cocktail.” When people see the drink across the dining room, the orders for Belk’s gin and tonic start rolling in.
Belk uses Broker’s gin for its flavor and strength. “It’s 94 proof,” he says. “It’s a little higher-octane, so it stands up to tonic in a cocktail. It’s definitely a little bit more assertive, in that classic London dry style, without a lot of additional floral components. That lets us fuss with it and add some of our own aromatics.”

While the gin is from Britain, the tonic is from Spain. INDI tonic water starts as a three-week maceration of cardamom, quinine and lemon, lime and orange peels in a mixture of water and alcohol. It is then distilled, carbonated and sweetened with cane sugar. There is no alcohol in the tonic water at the end of this process.

“I really wanted to play with the more bitter aromatic angle,” Belk says. To do that, he added a few dashes of Fee Brother’s grapefruit bitters. “I like Fee’s. It’s kind of my go-to brand. Their grapefruit bitters has a great floral element.”

Belk suggests enjoying this drink with Linger’s seared fish taco ($5), made with Alaskan cod, cabbage slaw, roasted poblano crema, pineapple pico and chile-lime tortilla strips. “They are fantastic,” he says. “There’s a lot of different flavors and textures in the dish that I think matches up really well.”

Even though it’s only been on the menu for about a month, he’s starting to see the Spanish gin-tonic become popular. “It’s light, it’s refreshing, it’s a little complex,” he says. “The grapefruit juice and the grapefruit bitters kind of lighten it up a bit. I imagine that as it gets warmer, I’ll be selling more and more of them.”
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Kevin Galaba
Contact: Kevin Galaba