Not many mixers have a story, but Tonic Water sure does have a gripping one. The bitter-tasting carbonated beverage that has now graduated as the quintessential Gin mixer wasn’t always one.
Traced its origins in the 1600’s Peru, Tonic Water started as a medicine for the cure of Malaria. Back then, the bark of Cinchona trees were consumed to fight various diseases. Later, after being introduced in Europe, first in Spain, the French scientists found that it was actually quinine that was the antidote. But, being rivals to the British, the Spaniards and the French didn’t let the goodness reach the UK. It was during the 1820s that the British found the same compound drunk in India as a daily tonic, thus coining the term – Tonic Water.
THE BRITISH, MALARIA, AND INDIAN TONIC WATER
While the British were taking over the world, they were fighting another battle and losing. It was a battle their armies were fighting back home against a deadly water-borne disease of Malaria. The situation grew so bad that Africa became the ‘White Man’s grave’. This was owing to the soldiers dying at home, and at voyages. When they failed to fight this conundrum, it were the Sardars of the British India Army who saved their denizens. Considered a ‘tonic’ by the urban and rural India, Quinine, the main ingredient used for making Tonic water today, came to the rescue. In 1825, the British Army officers stationed in India began blending quinine with sugar, water, and Gin to create a multi-tasking, malaria-fighting antidote. From there, the way we drink our Tonics, and Gins changed forever.
INDIA’S CONNECTION WITH TONIC WATER
Medically speaking, Tonic Water has helped against pains and cramps. However, it was difficult to consume it in its original form given it overwhelmingly bitter taste. Thus, it was suggested to soak quinine in water, add sugar to combat the bitterness, citrus to curb the savouriness, and Gin, well why not, and consume it as a mix. Much like most alcohols, this one began as a tale that was meant to stay for the generations to come.
TONIC WATERS TODAY
With various styles and brands present in the market today, Tonic Waters can now be found on shelves of every super market across the world. From a medicine, they have now become an easy beverage on their own. There’re many variants now, flavoured with the likes of grapefruit, herbs, fruits, florals, citruses, spices, and cucumber. Many companies are producing tonics with zero sugar and calorie free.
THE INDIAN BREED TO TONICS
Svami, Sepoy & Co, Jade Forest, and Bengal Bay, are some of the better-known homegrown brands that are focused on bringing the Indian Tonic Water back in fashion. They’ve been quick to mobilise their resources, and rekindling the Indian connection with Tonic Waters to the world. While the finest of ingredients may travel from across the world to reach the local shores and contribute to the brilliance and balance of their produce, the essence, the affection, and the craftsmanship remains desi!