Tonic Water

(n.) This soda flavored with quinine became popular as a malaria-prevention tonic in the 18th century. In the 17th century, by way of the Peruvian Incas, it became known that malaria symptoms could be treated by ingesting the bark of the cinchona tree. British colonialists in India figured out a way to make quinine, the bitter extract of the bark, tolerable by mixing it with sugar, gin and (newly invented) soda water. The Schweppes Company devised a recipe for the first commercial tonic water in 1771, a mix of sugar, quinine and soda water, with the name a reference to the health benefits. As other cures for malaria have been developed over time, the ingredients have been cheapened by using synthetic quinine and corn syrup. Boutique tonic waters that have recently come to market, however, mark a vast improvement over the supermarket brands. Producers worth seeking out include Fever Tree, Fentimans, Q Tonic or Tomr’s.

Tagged: mixer, quinine, tonic