The classic combination of herbal gin with dry and snappy tonic is beloved the world over, from teenagers in Spain to partiers in Hong Kong to croquet-playing ladies in South Carolina. A global phenomenon since the 1800s, the G & T needs no introduction. But gin’s eternal permutability begs the question, does tonic exist only to serve gin’s whims?
While the British were busy colonizing the wilds of India and Africa in the 19th century, tonic was used to stave off malaria (thanks to its key Rx ingredient, quinine)—hence its path into a glass of gin with lime. But just because tonic’s introduction to cocktails was through England’s spirit of choice, doesn’t bind it exclusively to a Collins glass. With a recent wave of quinine-based syrups and sodas creeping onto grocers’ shelves, tonic has begun to steal the limelight, sans gin. And likewise, it’s begun to find its way into cocktails without a trace of juniper.
These are drinks like the BBT (bourbon, bitters and tonic) in which an Old-Fashioned gets a lift and lengthen from a splash of tonic. Or the Citrus & Smoke, a cocktail that mimics a G & T, but with savory mezcal and a honey-salt rim. Created from a collaboration between W & P Design (the Brooklyn-based design team behind The Mason Shaker) and century-old Boylan Bottling Company in New Jersey, this collection of alternative tonic drinks by W & P sheds light on the under-appreciated malleability of a great tonic.
Boylan Heritage Tonic strikes a balance of flavors not often found in the plastic bottles lining soda aisle shelves. Supremely lime-y and tart and softly effervescent, it’s a match to gin when mixed classically, as in the Cucumber G & T. But it also holds its own when paired up against brawny red wine in the Tinto Tónica or with aged rum and in the Tonic Cubano, a fresh play on the Cuba Libre highball.
So while it’s tough to beat the simplicity and freshness of a classic G & T, tonic—good tonic—is hardly a one-trick pony. Here’s proof.