Sound the klaxon, toss away that pint and drag up a bar stool: it’s International Gin and Tonic Day – when the world celebrates one of the best things to ever happen to alcohol (and gives punters yet another excuse to pour a glass).
Celebrated annually on October 19th, the occasion honours the passing of Mary Edith Keyburn, who was a lifelong G&T devotee. Initially set-up as a family-run Facebook page, the event is now celebrated across the world.
When Mary Edith was hospitalised in 2010, she requested one final thing from her family: a gin and tonic.
Mary Edith’s grandaughter, and founder of International G&T Day, Jayne Withers, told Artefact: “She was complaining to my aunt that they wanted her to drink more water. [She said] she found it really boring and she said that she wanted a gin and tonic.
“And so my aunt got a water bottle and put gin in it and smuggled that into the hospital along with some tonic water. But her only complaint then was that it wasn’t in a proper crystal glass.” Jayne said.
Preston-based Mary Edith passed away that night, with her gin and tonic at her side. A few days later, a friend of Jayne suggested they raise a glass of gin and tonic together – marking the very first International Gin and Tonic Day.
“My friend then said: ‘You should do this every year’ – I said you’re absolutely right,” Jayne said. She quickly set-up a Facebook page to encourage friends and family to raise a glass in Mary Edith’s name.
“I thought we’d get maybe 50 people – friends and family – tops. But it’s grown incredibly, we’ve got thousands of followers now.”
Now, every year on October 19th, gin drinkers from across the world raise a glass and post a picture.
“People post photos from all over the world, wherever they’re having their gin and tonic. We’ve had as many as 24 countries participate – in Africa, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, South America, the Scandinavians,” Jayne said.
Gin is one of the world’s most popular spirits – in the UK alone, 80 million bottles were sold in 2021. When mixed with lashings of tonic water and a chunk of fruit, gin can be delicious.
So delicious, in fact, that 80% of UK gin drinkers claim they make the best G&T in the world.
So, with the clock rapidly ticking away the hours of National G&T Day, how is best to celebrate?
The London Gin Club can be found on Soho’s Great Chapel Street. For its staff, every day feels like International Gin and Tonic Day, but that doesn’t mean a G&T is any less of a novelty there.
For manager Chiara Artico, mixing the perfect G&T is an artform: “We have a selection of over 200 gins and all of those are divided by categories. Each of the categories are paired with the right tonic. You can actually increase and expand your experience of trying gin [when] paired with the right tonic.” she said.
Chiara’s personal favourite is Kinobi Gin. She told Artefact: “Kinobi is a Japanese gin on the citrus category – it goes very well with pink grapefruit and bergamot tonic. It almost tastes like it is not a gin – it’s kind of very refreshing and citrusy… I [always receive] a lot of good feedback from it.”
Elephant and Castle-based cocktail bar, Oberon, opened just five days before International G&T Day.
For locals, tourists and students, it’s a great spot for celebrating International Gin and Tonic Day.
General manager, Cambridge, told Artefact: “We’re a two-minute walk from the [Elephant and Castle] train station, we’ve got loads on the menu, cocktails, drinks. we’ve got 16 different gins. The vibe is just really fun and electric – we have loads of different DJs, loads of different nights.
“We infuse our house gin, which is Beefeater, with butterfly pea blossoms to make it a colour changing gin,” she said.
When it comes to serving the optimum gin, Cambridge recommends: “You just can’t beat the classic G&T, to be honest. Just the London Dry Beefeater and Fever Tree tonic goes down a treat. [With] three slices of lime – fresh juice only.”
For those new to the gin-drinking game, Cambridge says: “I would go for a flavoured gin if you’ve never tried gin before…go for something really yummy, that’s going to taste amazing.
“The Whitley Neill Rhubarb Ginger Gin is delicious. It has really nice overtones of rhubarb. Monkey 47 as well – it has so many different botanicals and it’s a really interesting gin to try,” she told Artefact.
Despite her relation to a famed gin buff, Jayne suggests: “Just keep it simple. Post the picture on the [Facebook] page and join the party.”
It’s time to unscrew a bottle and chop up a lime. After all, International Gin and Tonic Day “has got to be one of the biggest virtual parties out there,” says Jayne.