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Top Shelf: Katie Nelson 

The head bartender at Rappahannock Restaurant talks about her Spanish Highball.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST

Spanish Highball

Tanqueray No. 10 Gin
Q Tonic
Orange zest
Juniper berries
Licorice root

After mixing the gin and tonic over ice, add zest of an orange, juniper berries and licorice root.

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"Sometimes people ask why I call this the Spanish highball, as there's nothing particularly Spanish about the ingredients in the makeup of the drink — it's really more of an evocative name. I was in Spain this past September, where, countrywide, the gin and tonic is the most popular cocktail. Seems like such a simple drink, but sometimes the simplest drinks can be the most thrilling, when executed really well.

"I noticed when I was visiting bars in Madrid that bartenders would garnish a gin and tonic differently depending on the gin chosen — maybe one got a grapefruit peel, while another a lime wheel or kumquat slice. It got me thinking about what my perfect gin and tonic would be. So I settled on this rendition using Tanqueray No. 10 gin, which has a vibrantly citrus-spice nose along with bright juniper notes, and Q Tonic, an excellent dry, craft tonic with all-natural ingredients. I garnish the drink with the fragrant zest of an orange to bring out the citrus notes in the gin, a few dried juniper berries for added aroma, and a piece of licorice root, which doesn't really change the flavor of the drink unless you chew on it while you're sipping, which I recommend doing.

"I love the way the drink looks, too, with its different colors and textures from the garnishes — brings in an element of fun and whimsy, which I always appreciate." -- Katie Nelson

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