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Jun 13, 2007 04:39 PM

What is "it" in "gin and it"?

I have often read in my British detective novels that people would order "gin and it" and I have never been able to find out what the "it" is. Vermouth? Tonic? Bitters? Does anyone have a definitive answer (or any answer at all)?

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  1. I've only ever heard "G&T" used as shorthand for Gin & Tonic, although I can't imagine "it" being anything other than tonic.

    1. The "it" refers to Italian vermouth, aka sweet vermouth. Some vintage bartending manuals from the early and mid-20th century have recipes for it; here's one from David Embury's The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, first published in 1948:

      Gin and It
      3 parts gin
      1 part Italian vermouth

      Stir with ice and serve in a cocktail glass or over ice in an Old Fashioned glass.

      Not a bad cocktail, especially if you tip in a dash or two of orange bitters.

      11 Replies
      1. re: pclarke

        Aha! I shall try one as soon as the proper mood strikes. Thank you for this solution to what has been a vexing mystery.

        1. re: pclarke

          Yes, basically it's a Sweet Martini or more properly called a Martinez, the original form of the Martini from back in the mid to late 1800's. The original proportions were around 4 parts of sweet vermouth and one part gin. It evolved until it was a a fifty fifty mix and (around 1900 you ordered a "Fitty Fitty"), also sometime around then dry vermouth was traded for the sweet vermouth. Eventually a Gin and It was what you ordered if you wanted the more original and earlier version of the Martini. Presently proportions for the Gin and It vary from a fifty fifty to four parts gin to one part vermouth according to which recipe you get and when the recipe was originally recorded. Also in many older recipes no ice is used in making the drink. It can be made with or without bitters, but orange bitters was used in making it in many of its original permutations.

          1. re: JMF

            Wow - thanks for such a complete response! It feels so nice to have an answer to a questions that has been quietly nagging me for years. Do you happen to know if the Martinez had anything to do with the town of Martinez in California?

            1. re: Marsha

              The cocktail called the Martinez, that eventually became todays Martini, has a double handful of origin stories connected to it. There are European variants and US variants, with all the proof lying in the US origin. BUT, then there are the left coast and right coast theories as well. I just moved and my research library is scattered in boxes and on shelves with no rhyme or reason to it so I can't answer that question fully right now. I do know that one origin story does refer to that town, but if I remember correctly that story was debunked. I think it all depends upon whose history you read, as to how it got its name and was created.

            2. re: JMF

              Not to put TOO much of a damper on JMF's theory about the Gin and It, but it's pretty much bunk. The "Martinez" started off with Old Tom Gin, Sweet Vermouth, various dashes of curacao/marashcino etc and was a drink that was dressed up for the ball.

              "Fitty Fitty" would not have been in the parlance of the times and is more properly ordered in the Pegu Club in NYC where it is a concoction of 1/2 Plymouth Gin and 1/2 Dry Vermouth. (Notice that the formula is Plymouth (not Tom) gin and French (not Italian) Vermouth

              The "Gin and IT" doesn't occur in my (somewhat vast) library until sometime after prohibition. I'll stipulate that Gin and Italian Vermouth have a stupid affinity for each other and therefore it's difficult to track down the exact moment when they were INITIALLY tastily mixed, (and it's a fools' errand to try to do it), but in those early dayz, "Italian" vermouth was the default vermouth and one wouldn't have specified "Gin and 'It'"--you'd say something along the lines of something else.

              My guess is that the "Gin and It" was ordered as a way of differentiating your tipple from the guy next to you who wanted a "Duplex" or (God forfend), a "Bronx".

              It's a decent way to add Gin to your diet but like Nero's mother, I wouldn't wait around for him to set the town on fire with his fiddle playing, if you know what I mean.


              1. re: Thirstin Howl

                Actually, I don't know what you mean. I'll also add that your story regarding the "definitive" Martinez is bunk as well, in that there is no solid documentation regarding the origins of 19th century cocktails like that. Your source is as good or worse than JMF's source.

                As far as the Gin and It, I always thought it was a given that it was 50/50, but there is David Embury supplying a 3 to 1 ratio.

                1. re: Alcachofa

                  I have to agree that there are so many 'stories' about 19th century cocktails origins that it is hard to definitively say 'this is how the drink was named or invented' because information is so scarce and convoluted that you can read almost anything into it. I have dozens of books on cocktails and they all come to slightly different conclusions. Hey, it's all fun and tasty no matter what version you buy into.

                  1. re: Alcachofa

                    Don't trust Embury for ratios. That man was always trying to squeeze out extra ABV per cocktail in any way he could (including 8:2:1 recipes).

                    And the Gin & It as a name for the drink came during Prohibition.


              2. re: pclarke

                Usually the Italian vermouth used is Campari - which is quite bitter due to the quinine - although I've had them served with Campari too.

                If you really want to have a fabulous drink substitute chinato for the campari or vermouth.

                1. re: drbooze

                  Campari is an amaro (a bitter liqueur), and not an aromatized wine like vermouth. While there are gin and Campari cocktail recipes out there, I have never seen one called a Gin & It.

                  1. re: drbooze

                    I think there's a typo. Perhaps the intention was something like, "Usually the Italian vermouth used is" .... Punt e Mes? That would make sense in the context of the sentence.

                    While I'm on it, I ordered "something interesting and challenging" at the new Bergamot in Somerville, MA and got a Martinez variation with Gin (don't know which one, Punt e Mes, a touch of Campari (probably no more than a tsp) and dashes of (I think) Regan's and Peychaud bitters. I liked it. A lot.

                2. Hi Marsha

                  I just had a "gin and it" at a British friend's home. He asked if I want one, but what I heard was 'gin and T', which I thought would be a gin and tonic. I said sure a gin and tonic sounded lovely and he said oh dear I don't think I have any tonic. Well what did you offer I asked. A 'gin and it,' with the it being short for Italian he said. His recipe was 50-50 gin and sweet vermouth, preferably and Italian vermouth and not a French one with one ice cube floating in it. It is a lovely color, a bit on the sweet side, but I like sweet drinks.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: missywah

                    Aha - real life experience! I shall try this thing.