The Gin and tonic is one of the oldest mixed cocktails. In fact, gin and “bitters,” which comprised of gin mixed with bitter agents like the cinchona tree bark that tonic water is made from. Tonic water itself is a highly carbonated water in which quinine is dissolved to give it a bitter taste.
Today’s tonic water may also be infused with various herbs, and it is generally sweetened. The gin and tonic mixed drink itself have also undergone many variations, and you can find different recipes using herbs, fruit, and berries across the web.
Gin and tonic actually got its start with the East India Trading Company in the 18th century, but it has enjoyed a couple of periods of renaissance, including the one we are in today.
The Origin of The Gin And Tonic
Tonic water was originally developed as a method to dose British soldiers working for the East India Trading Company with quinine. Quinine is still used as a treatment for malaria today, but in the 18th century it was also thought that drinking quinine would also prevent the disease from taking hold. This theory has since been scientifically debunked with current knowledge and technology in studies as late as 2004.
The quinine was very bitter, and the tonic water with lime and sugar did make it a bit more palatable. But, to get them to drink it more regularly, soldiers began mixing the quinine tonic water with their gin rations.
Returning soldiers brought the drink home, and gin and tonics were soon a popular cocktail for Londoners due to its inexpensive and tasty nature. However, by the 19th century, the gin and tonic was considered a gentleman’s drink, and began dipping in popularity.
Bringing the gin and tonic into a new century
The 20th century brought many things of the past to the forefront, and gin and tonics were definitely one of them. You see the first great renaissance of gin and tonics in the 40s and 50s.
In the UK, beloveds like Queen Elizabeth II and Winston Churchill famously drank gin and tonics. The Queen still drinks a gin and tonic with lime before her lunch daily. In America, pop culture icons like Frank Sinatra brought gin and tonics to the fore.
Meanwhile, the literary greats of the 20th century made gin and tonic a favored beverage of literature buffs everywhere and across decades, whether they are called Bohemians, beatniks, hippies, or some other individual generally obsessed with the humanities. Famous storytellers who loved gin and tonic include Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, and Alfred Hitchcock.
The most recent gin and tonic renaissance
Gin and tonic wasn’t a drink you heard ordered often in the bars and clubs across the nation for many years, but in the 2000s it began another renaissance thanks to the Spanish gin and tonic featured during the 2000 Olympics in Barcelona. The Spanish gin and tonic is quite a bit different from the traditional mixed drink of British soldiers in the Caribbean.
Spanish gin and tonic is garnished with fruit, berries, and herbal blends. These gin and tonic cocktails are even considered a healthy way to avoid some calories, as made popular by Madonna. It also opens up a whole new world for different ways to twist the gin and tonic beverage.
And, of course, Snoop Dogg helped bring gin back into the market with his son Gin and Juice. When you think about the fact that the first gin and tonics were made with lime juice, this could very well be considered another promotion for gin and tonic in popular culture.
Variations on the gin and tonic
The Spanish gin and tonic and Snoop’s gin and juice have sparked a whole variety of twists on the original mixed drink. You can add any kind of fruit juice to a gin and tonic, although citrus fruits are usually preferred. You can also make a gin and tonic that has berries or slices of fruit, giving you a crisp and refreshing beverage with just a hint of spirits behind it. This makes it a popular daytime drink.
In addition to all of the different fruits, berries, and fresh herbs you can use to garnish gin and tonics, you can also choose from a large variety of tonic water brands with a plethora of flavors. Tonic water is still inexpensive enough that it is a simple matter to try different ones until you find one that you like the best.