The annual family vacation on Nantucket went off without a hitch this year, except that the house we rented lacked a feature vital for optimal seaside relaxation: a deck facing the water where one can put one’s feet up during cocktail time, gaze out on to the ocean, and remember all over again how great life is. The shadows lengthen over the dunes as the sun sets, while the shore birds take one last, low pass along the water in search of whatever the heck it is they eat. Heaven.
So the lack of a deck was a problem. We came up with a make-do solution, though, when we found five old, rusty patio chairs sitting on the beach just outside the back of the house. They had a bit of a trailer-park feel, but were plenty comfortable and sat on a spot that provided just the sort of ocean views I had in mind. The only downside was that–we’re talking about cocktail hour here, remember—the chairs were a bit too far from the bar inside to make for the convenient fetching of refills. This turned out not to be an issue: I simply mixed the day’s gin and tonics in a large pitcher, instead of individually by the glass. Then I’d take the pitcher in one hand and a bucket of ice in the other and head out to the beach (to great applause, by the way) and keep everyone’s glass full for hours. It worked great. Better yet, the extended soaking of limes in the gin made the drink particularly refreshing. So refreshing, in fact, that next year, I might mix my gin and tonics this way summer long.
The key to making gin and tonics by the pitcher, it turns out, is to maintain the carbonation of the tonic water throughout the process. The way to do that is to tilt the pitcher slightly and then pour the tonic into it along its side, much as you pour a beer onto the side of a glass if you want to keep its head to a minimum. Beyond that, the lime slices soaking in the gin in the pitcher for all that time provides an added boost. And not having to get up again and again to mix round after round of drinks will of course be a boon to your knees.
Gin and Tonics, by the Pitcher
(Makes 4 drinks.)
6-8 oz. gin, or to taste.
20 oz. (two small bottles) tonic water.
Pour the gin into a large pitcher. You will be tempted to choose one that’s festive-looking, and that might otherwise hold Sangria or Margaritas. Resist this. The narrower the diameter, the better. If you have a Martini pitcher around, by all means use it.
Slice the lime lengthwise, then cut one of those halves crosswise into thin slices. Add the slices to the gin and macerate them lightly with a wooden spoon. If you’re a stickler, you’ll let the slices steep in the gin for a few minutes as well. But at the start of cocktail time, I just don’t have that in me. Tilt the pitcher and gently pour the in the tonic along the pitcher’s side.
Cut the remaining lime half into four wedges. Pour the gin mixture into highball glasses filled with ice, and garnish with lime wedges.