Nota Bene’s Gin & Tonic Bar: DIY for the Wiser
There’s something beautiful about customization. Many times we’re given prix fixe, chef-selected, or options based around appetizer-entree-dessert. I’d like to think that after you’ve become a master at dining and having drinks, you can start making selections for yourself. While I’m nowhere near a master at dining and mixology, I sometimes think I’m nearing the 10,000 hour mark. And therefore, we tend to think we can start getting outside of the box a little and start choosing-our-own-adventure.
Gin & Tonic bars aren’t the norm in Toronto, however Nota Bene has introduced as popular in Spain. The idea is simple: choose from a lengthy selection of gins, lightly flavoured tonics, and your iced method. Then you get a few sprinkles of dried berries, flowers, and cucumber to top it off.
The gin selection at Nota Bene is very healthy, including options anywhere from France to Canada and back overseas. While Hendrick’s is generally my go-to in any gin heavy scenario, I opted to try other options. Why splurge on a $50 bottle without knowing what it truly tastes like first?
The Citadelle from France instantly topped my list of favourite gins – ever. The Sipsmith is a popular choice for many, but it’s safe to say my distaste for floral gins was apparent. Rounding off my final selection was the Tanqueray No. 10: a solid choice if you’re looking to stay within the realm of Hendrick’s.
Next was the tonics. The three options included two bubbly (one which was a Nota Bene house brand), and the third less bubbly and more clear. I hate champagne and nearly anything that’s bubbly, so the Fever Tree was an obvious for me. I did give the house tonic a try, and while it did have a cool shade of brown from the bark they’ve used, it started to get a little fizzy up in here.
Lastly, you get to choose how you’d like your ice. It’s pretty simple here. Crushed ice tastes good with gin & tonics immediately, however it dillutes your drink faster than you can reach the bottom of the glass. Cubed is the standard here, for the average Joe. The large cube is for the connoisseurs, who know the proper way to mix: drop your toppings on the surface and pour your gin on top of it.
Luckily I brought along my eternal drinking buddy @dashingfactor, and with the help of Alex, the super helpful, stock-despising, video-gaming bartender, we put together a few expert pointers on your next trip:
- Get the large cube. Drop the cucumber on it, then add the dried berries and flowers on it. Pour the gin directly on it. Let it sit for a little so the flavours soak it in.
- Add your additives piece by piece. Take a drink and decide whether you need a bit more flavour, then add more accordingly.
- No need to go all-in with your gin: pour it in 3 glasses and try different combinations.
- Citadelle is a must. The scent is rich and provides maximum flavour. You’ll love me for it.
The G&T Bar Menu also offers a few snacks to nom on. The sliders are very juicy, ceviche tostada has a very helpful serving, and the sweet & sour fried chicken is highly reminiscent of the fried chicken at 416 Snack Bar. All between $8-10.
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of people: people who love and swear by gin & tonic, then there are those who just aren’t into it. Chances are, if you’re not into it, you may have stopped consuming at Beefeater or Bombay. Now’s your chance to fully realize how good gin can get. Your way.
Thanks Cheryl, Alex, and Brian for having me! -RR