Cinchona Tree

You have read The History of Gin but what about the humble Tonic?

Tonic is a frequent mixer in cocktails, most famous for its use in Gin and Tonic, though vodka with tonic water is also popular. This beverage may additionally be used with sweet alcohols, like vermouth, to produce a balanced taste.


First patented in England in the mid 19th century, tonic became widely popular during the mid 20th century when a popular beverage company known for their ginger ale, introduced it to the United States. It has been popular in both countries since it was first mass-marketed.


Tonic water is a carbonated mixer that derives its bitter taste from the addition of quinine, flavoured with lemon and or lime with lots of sugar. You may not know that it often contains caffeine.


Urban Legend – Quinine


  • Recognized in the 17th century as a relatively safe cure and preventative treatment for malaria.
  • Chemical compound derives from the Cinchona Tree grown in the Andes.
  • The British occupation of India was helped by quinine, since it allowed the British officers to stay healthy.


Quinine tastes pretty bad on its own. So our British soldiers often would take the quinine medication diluted with a great deal of Gin, some lemon or lime, and sugar. When tonic water was first produced, people naturally and incorrectly assumed that a few Gin and Tonics would be good for the health and prevent malaria.




  • Tonic contains too little quinine to actually prevent malaria.
  • Much larger doses of laboratory produced quinine are now used in medicine.
  • Quinine therapy does not kill malaria either; it reduces the symptoms of malaria, such as fever.
  • Malaria needs to be treated with antibiotics to produce full recovery.
  • You would need to drink at least 1.77 litres of tonic water a day, or the equivalent of ten gin and tonics, to treat malaria, and we wouldn’t want you to do that.
  • It still is called a “tonic” — meaning essentially healthful — from its use of quinine.
  • There is no known benefit to consuming tonic water, which has a sugar content equivalent to most fizzy pops.


This little lesson was brought to you today by the team at Oliver Twist Gin™.  We are pleased to educate you in the History of Gin and Tonic.  Armed with the facts we rest assured that you will carry forth the knowledge and correct the local know it all who will insist on telling you that Gin and Tonic is in fact a cure for Malaria.  Of course we do not refute that the British Empire was built on this wonderful tipple!


So the next time you are sat in the garden on a barmy summers evening or enjoying a refreshing OTT (Oliver Twist & Tonic) in your favourite bar, remember; Tonic Water is not a mosquito repellent, it taste a lot better than that!


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One Response to You have read The History of Gin but what about the humble Tonic?

  1. John says:

    Gin you say?

    This conversation reminded me of the Infant Phenomenon in Charles Dickens’
    Nicholas Nickleby

    ‘May I ask how old she is?’ inquired Nicholas.
    >> ‘You may, sir,’ replied Mr Crummles, looking steadily in his questioner’s
    >> face, as some men do when they have doubts about being implicitly believed
    >> in what they are going to say. ‘She is ten years of age, sir.’
    >> ‘Not more!’
    >> ‘Not a day.’
    >> ‘Dear me!’ said Nicholas, ‘it’s extraordinary.’
    >> It was; for the infant phenomenon, though of short stature, had a
    >> comparatively aged countenance, and had moreover been precisely the same
    >> age–not perhaps to the full extent of the memory of the oldest
    >> inhabitant,
    >> but certainly for five good years. But she had been kept up late every
    night, and put upon an unlimited allowance of GIN AND WATER! from infancy, to prevent her growing tall, and perhaps this system of training had produced in the infant phenomenon these additional phenomena.

    And on that suitably Dickensian note – a happy Christmas to all!

    John W


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