Gin and tonic go hand in hand. The marriage of the subtly floral spirit and distinctive, tart mixer feels a reliably refreshing pairing, particularly when laced with a fresh wedge of citrus.

But the enduring drink is facing growing competition from a variation in the form of gin and soda. “As people become more savvy to gin, they’re looking for lighter alternatives to tonics and lemonades,” says Jenna Hemsworth. Their reasoning, according to the award-winning bartender at Sydney’s Restaurant Hubert, is “soda allows you to still have a flavourful drink that lets the gin shine.”

Beyond the appeal (to some) of a sugar-free mixer, another element at play is the rise of quality small-batch gin in Australia, particularly ones that experiment with ingredients.

“A gin and soda will let the botanicals of the specific gin come through more noticeably,” says Hemsworth. “It’s better if you’re wanting to taste the subtleties of the gin. Tonic will give you that extra bitter hit, but also sweetens the drink. It makes it less about the gin and more about the mixer.”

Hemsworth has more than a decade's worth of bartending experience. During Hubert’s happy hour, which offers $5 gin and tonics made with Cascade Tonic from 4pm to 6pm, Hemsworth says it’s clear more people lately are ordering gin and sodas, which Hubert makes with Cascade Soda Water.

So, which side does Hemsworth come down on? “I personally love soda as a mixer with most spirits,” she says. “It highlights the spirit you’re drinking and lightens it up.”

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