Sure, the new wave of RTDs might have cool labels and no carbs or whatever, but for Sam Brooks, none come close to the perfection held within that little yellow can.
RTDs are coming back, if they were ever really gone. I remember the halcyon days of getting drunk off Purple Goannas, off Taboos, even off a Smirnoff or a Smirnoff Ice (what’s the difference? Nobody tell me!). And then I realised that there was more sugar in them than alcohol, and the amount of empties left to clean up was more hassle than it was worth, and I moved onto wine and spirits. In short: I graduated university, and graduated from having ‘1’ at the start of my age to having ‘2’. I also graduated to having friends who looked at me sideways for still drinking RTDs. It’s hard to be taken seriously in conversation when you have to put your hand inside your shirt to open an Archers Schnapps.
Nowadays, RTDs are fancy. Fleabag did a whole bit about them. We tasted, at a conservative guess, 5000 of them and told you which were our favourites. They’re healthy now, or at least healthier than they used to be, which is not at all. The labels boast that they are sugar-free, carb-free and locally made. Those claims are often true, and sometimes they’re worth drinking, and maybe even buying. But have any of them become staples? Do you go to them first when you’re perusing your local liquor store, as the cashier looks at you glumly over the counter, knowing he’s seen you more times this week than your loved ones? No, you do not.
But there’s one RTD that has stood the test of time, taste and temperature: the Gordon’s Gin & Tonic RTD, with a twist of lemon flavour. (I exclude the new-ish Pink Gin RTD from this tribute, as it’s closer to someone doing a spit take in your face after drinking a gin and juice than it is to an actual RTD.)
The Gordon’s G&T isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s not taking out carbs, it’s not taking out sugar. A not-insignificant amount of the pleasure with alcohol is that you know it’s not good for you, and that there’s a cost to it. Where’s the fun if there’s no sugar, no carbs, no short-term damage to your body and brain?
No, the Gordon’s G&T is exactly what it says on the easily dented tin. It’s a gin and tonic, with Gordon’s gin. It’s refreshing, and it’s the best goddamned mixed gin and tonic you’re going to get for $25 for a 12 pack ($15 for a six pack, depending on your vendor). It’s not the best gin and tonic – Gordon’s simply isn’t the best gin, it’s the best gin for a certain price point – but it’s definitely the best gin and tonic you’re going to get with Gordon’s in the mix.
Recently, I’ve taken to attending social cricket. It’s a great chance to get out into the sun, and an even better chance to read a book because the rules of cricket are so foreign to me that they might as well be beamed in via satellite. The dilemma with social cricket, as I’m sure many of you social cricketeers know, is there’s often no paid bar so you have to provide your own poison. Do you bring wine and drink it from a plastic cup? Do you act like a complete degenerate and bring a mixed beverage of your own concoction? Do you drink beer, like a… fairly reasonable person, I suppose?
RTDs are a suitable choice to bring to these events, if you’re not going to drink beer. If you find one you like, they’re consistent, and if you happen to be deprived of a chilly bin, they stay fairly drinkable even as they warm up. With this in mind, when I scanned the liquor store shelf not so long ago, nodding to that glum cashier, I saw a decently priced gin RTD and thought: “Why the hell not? If it’s good enough for Phoebe Waller-Bridge, it’s good enough for me.”
That first experiment with the Gordons G&T was a roaring success, according to this audience of one. Four hours of cricket flew by. Find Me, the devastating sequel to André Aciman’s novel Call Me By Your Name, flew by. And even as they warmed up, the Gordon’s RTDs never lost their refreshing, very mildly tangy, definitely junipery appeal. Cans one through six were worth every cent of the $15 I paid for them.
It’s time for a shocking confession, especially for a fan of gin: I’m not actually the biggest fan of the gin and tonic.
As a low-level gin connoisseur, meaning that I buy gin based on pretty bottles rather than alcohol content, I actually like to taste the gin I’m spending money on rather than the tonic I’ve spent $3 to $5 on. I prefer to mix my gin with soda or sparkling water (yes, I know they’re basically the same thing, and yes, I’ve gaslit myself into believing they’re different) so I can taste the gin. If you’re mixing your spirit to hide the taste of the spirit, then you’re not doing it right.
The Gordon’s G&T RTD (say that 10 times fast) converted me to gin and tonic. RTDs can rarely be described as the perfect mix of alcohol to mixer; more often than not they’re heavy on mixer and with merely the whispered afterthought of alcohol. Gordon’s RTD is not only the platonic ideal of Gordon’s gin – the gin that exists to be mixed rather than tasted – but the platonic ideal of tonic. It’s better than any mixture of Gordon’s gin and tonic water that you could possibly make at home.
You can often say that an RTD is a fine mixture of its ingredients. You can rarely, if ever, say that it actually improves all of its ingredients. And after all, if you’re buying something that’s ready to go, shouldn’t it be better than what you can make yourself?