Vibe Check: UnImpaired “Gin and Tonic Just Tonic”
Vibe Check is an ongoing series of guest-written reviews of Iowa City locations and venues, because we simply cannot be bothered to write them ourselves. Today’s Vibe Check comes from guest writer Caroline Caplan, a UI senior and self-proclaimed mixology expert.
When I first heard about Iowa City’s newest dry bar UnImpaired, I must admit I was skeptical. As a mixology expert myself, I look at cocktails as an art form. It takes a certain amount of skill to work the putrid taste of alcohol into a masterful collage of flavors, all while still making something I can get fucked up on. So when I heard about UnImpaired deliberately taking alcohol out of the equation, I let loose a hearty scoff.
But in the interest of my fans, I spent a night at UnImpaired and ordered my signature drink: a gin and tonic. I started the night wondering what I would be served. I ended it unsurprised and with a belly full of tonic water.
In short, this cocktail is about as straightforward as you can get. The tonic water goes unburdened by the flavors of the gin (since there is no gin) and is complimented well by the coolness of the ice cubes. The flavors are refreshing yet classic, possibly even absent entirely. The tonic gives off just enough bubbliness to make your tastebuds think “is there lime or something in here?” No, there isn’t. It’s just tonic water.
As a mixology expert, I understand that all great cocktails should tell a story. UnImpaired’s G&T is no exception, telling the story of someone who filled a cup with tonic water and then gave it to me. It may sound boring to the untrained drinker, and that’s because it was. But boring can be good sometimes. This drink comes without the usual frills and accessories, and frankly I appreciated the restraint.
I was even briefly caught off guard by how bubbly the tonic water actually was. Having never been one of the sociopaths who drinks soda water by itself, it was a fascinating twist indeed.
Of course, my mixology expert spidey-sense was tingling. I asked the bartender how he compensated for the lack of gin in the cocktail. Surely, gin’s unique juniper flavor can’t be easily replaced. What had he done? As it turns out, nothing. Nothing at all. I couldn’t believe it either. So simple. So avant-garde. Kind of genius.
Ultimately, this gin-less gin and tonic transported me to a simpler time, before I was burdened with the wisdom of a mixology expert. A time when I didn’t seek out proper balance in a screwdriver, a time when the unembellished taste of orange juice was enough. A time when my martinis were just a fancy glass full of olives. This drink fundamentally changed how I look at the cocktail world. So is the Unimpaired Gin and Tonic just tonic? Yes. And yet it’s so much more.
However, I did still leave UnImpaired completely sober. Two out of five stars.
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