The Drink: Gin and tonic
The Location: Johnny’s Half Shell, 400 North Capitol St. NW, (202) 737-0400
The Price: $9
The Buzz: Bon Appétit, in its August issue, proclaimed the highball this summer’s “it” cocktail. The magazine justified its pronouncement by supplying the kind of evidence Augusto Pinochet required to execute dissidents in Chile. No matter. I’ll play along. A highball is not actually a single cocktail, but a class of them. As drinkstreet.com notes, “A highball is a quickly poured drink served in a highball glass with liquor and water or soda.” The cocktails, according to the Web site, got their name from the old railway station practice of placing a ball atop a high pole to indicate that a train was running behind schedule—-just enough time, in other words, for one more belt. In honor of the old tradition—-and to celebrate another dubiously dubbed trend—-I decided to stop by Johnny’s Half Shell, near Union Station, to knock back a highball. I wanted a Moscow Mule, but neither my waitress nor anyone behind the bar had heard of it. So I fell back on that highball classic, the gin and tonic. I substituted Bombay Sapphire for the rail bottle of Aristocrat, which pushed the price up to $9. Not cheap. But, holy Christ, that’s a good cocktail. (Even if it’s served in a rocks glass!) Part of the secret to Johnny’s G&T is its ice—-too often overlooked in a great cocktail—-which is clear and clean. The ice allows the gin and tonic to shine, without muddying their flavors with municipal tap sludge. Every sip of my G&T carries a different flavor or sensation, sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter, sometimes astringent. Sometimes it tastes like anise. It’s one of those cocktails that you don’t want to end. With or without Bon Appétit‘s stamp of approval, the gin and tonic is going to be my summer “it” drink.