12 Tonics to Christmas

The quest to finding the most delicious gin has been high on the list of duties in 2018. 

During the initial gin-drinking stages of my quest, there has been a limited number of Tonic Water brands (and flavours) available to enhance and celebrate the intricate herbal nuances of the current “craft gin” craze.  

However, things have changed; 2018 saw the uprising of the “craft tonic” market.  

Even Oasis sang, “I’m feeling supersonic, give me a gin and tonic”. It’s a well-known fact that gin has enjoyed a major comeback in recent years…
And some of this renewed acclaim has rightly rubbed off on gin’s own partner-in-crime, tonic water.


A variety of flavours, colours, brands and limited edition Tonic Waters are now readily available on the market.  

For the stout gin-aficionados and purists they shudder at the thought of craft tonic water with their traditional gin, yet, for the inexperienced gin-drinker the addition of a flavoured (and much sweeter) alternative is tempting to acquire the gin-drinker palate.

But don’t let any gin traditionalist tell you how to enjoy your (newly acquired) gin taste.

Here’s a little more information about this “medicinal miracle water”….

History of Tonic Water

The history of tonic water begins in 17th, century Peru when Spanish colonists discovered a treatment for malaria in the bark of the quinaquina tree. One account insists that the Countess of Chinchon, the Peruvian viceroy’s wife, took the bark to Spain around 1640 after it saved her from malaria. Another proposes that a Jesuit missionary named Barnabe de Cobo made the first trans-Atlantic delivery in 1632. Whichever the case may be, the ground bark became known as both “Countess’s powder” and “Jesuit’s powder” throughout Europe. In the 18th century Carolus Linnaeus chose to classify the quinaquina tree as genus “cinchona (sĭngkō`nə) or chinchona (chĭngkō`nə), name for species of the genus Cinchona, ” in honor of the legendary lady”. 

In 1817 French scientists Pelletier and Caventou found a method for extracting the bark’s most medically powerful compound, quinine before the development of more effective synthetic drugs. They quickly established a factory to produce it, and sold the drug as a means of preventing malaria. As early as *1825 British officers in India devised a way to make their bitter, daily dose more pleasurable. They combined it with sold water, sugar, lime and gin, inventing a potent precursor to the classic gin-and-tonic. Bottles of sweetened quinine water soon appeared, to be drunk with or without the alcohol. Carbonated tonic water was introduced towards the end of the 19th century. 

*Indian Tonic Water: 
During the British occupation of India, soldiers who contracted malaria were treated with quinine water. They found the taste improved if combined with gin. Hence the gin and tonic drink was first mixed in India.

With many colonies in malaria-prone areas, the British and the Dutch needed large quantities of quinine. Over-harvesting brought cinchona trees to the brink of extinction, and quinine became as valuable as gold. Eager to find a way to supply their own demand, both the British and the Dutch smuggled cinchona seeds out of South America,  in the mid-19th century. The Dutch, however, proved more adept at cultivating the trees. By World War l, the Dutch nearly monopolized the quinine trade from their plantations in Java.

During World War II, the Japanese occupied Java, creating a need among Allied nations for a new source of quinine. Cinchona trees were planted in Africa while scientists tried to create a synthetic variety. Both initiatives were successful: today most natural quinine comes from Africa, while some prescription quinine is synthetic. 

Tonic water has become much less therapeutic over the years. When it was first produced for medicinal use, it contained a prescription dose of quinine too large for casual drinking. Today, by law, tonic water must contain less than one-tenth of a gram of quinine per liter. However, even in small amounts, quinine is thought to be beneficial in stimulating digestion and easing muscle cramps. On the other hand, excessive quinine intake can cause side effects

By the 1980s, soft drink companies began sweetening soda and tonic water with High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  

Now that you have some background on the mysterious (glow-in-the-dark) liquid which turns our drinks into moments of pleasure, follow me on a journey of 12 days worth of dedicated Tonic Water-exploration.  Each day I will create a drink featuring a trendy Tonic Water and provide you with the inspiration to sip outside of your normal gin-and-tonics. 

Links to each of the 12 Tonics to Christmas:

#12 Blueberry Collins

#11 Vodka Ninja

#10 Castaway

#9 Breakfast of Champs

#8 Grapefruit Fizz

#7 Spanish Sunset

#6 Green Elf

#5 Espresso Tonic

#4 Rosemary & Pear Lollies

#3 Caprese Cocktail

#2 Middle Eastern Rose and Cardamom Gin & Tonic

#1 T&T

Ultimate Christmas Tonic 


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