Origins of the Gin Tonic?

It has been a question that made many a drinker, bartender, and writer wonder for many years; when was the Gin & Tonic invented? I recall one noted writer saying something like, “If tonic water was invented in the morning, then the Gin & Tonic was invented in the afternoon – after all, they usually drank beer in the morning.” A nod to how obvious the combination now seems.

Unless it was impeccably documented, the first occurrence of the two being combined will be impossible to ascertain. Even drinks created in the last few decades have suffered a similar fate. At best, writers can find the earliest possible references.

My starting point was 1858, when there are records of Erasmus Bond’s patent for “improved aerated tonic liquid” and, given that the oldest detailed recipe I have come across from a 1938 advertisement for Gilbey’s Gin, the first reference must pre-date that.

The Earliest Reference so far:

August 4th 1875 – The Medical Press & Circular – Page 88

Article titled:
“Indian Medical Notes – XLII  (From Our Special Correspondent) – Meerut, June 1875

Meerut is a city in the Uttar Pradesh Province in India’s North, about 200km south of the Himalayas. In this article, the correspondent talks about health and well-being, in particular warnings of avoiding “savoury sausage made with offal-fed pork, carrion, stale fish, sour beer, bad milk, or the cool refreshing cucumber.“

The correspondent goes onto the suggest that:

“Careful officers have a cup of tea about five in the morning, then, perhaps, about nine or ten, oatmeal porridge, fried mullet, strawberries, or sliced tomatoes – perhaps a light lunch of cold chicken, perhaps none; perhaps sherry and bitters at the club – the comfortable Wheler Club – perhaps a gin tonic well iced – anything to sustain Nature until eight o’clock dinner when the cautious drink claret or a little sherry”

“PERHAPS A GIN TONIC – WELL ICED”

What is noteworthy is the term “Gin Tonic” – no “and” or ampersand – and that it is iced, putting play to the idea that the British don’t like ice in their gin tonics; it is possible that a Mel Gibson character in the 1982 film, “The Year of Living Dangerously” is responsible for this.

GIN TONIC HISTORY INDIAN MEDICAL NOTES - 1875

My one concern was that “gin tonic” may refer to some other sort of medicinal mix, but a reference in the 1883 book, “Sunny Lands and Seas: A Voyage in the S.S. Ceylon” adds clarity. The author seeks consolation of “tin gonics” after an encounter at Hill’s Hotel in Lucknow, another Indian city in Utter Pradesh, on 17th January 1882.

In the foot notes, “tin gonics” are explained as: “gin tonics, vis. gin & tonic water”.

So it seems that, at the time that the Indian article was written, “gin tonic” did refer to gin and tonic water. It also suggests that tonic was an entity in its own right, i.e. not a home-brewed concoction.

What would it have tasted like?

This is a difficult question to answer, but we do have some information:
· 1875 was after the advent of continuous distillation and a time when gin was sold in bottles. It was also becoming dryer. Gin brands of the time included Tanqueray, Booth’s, Gordon’s, Plymouth, Gilbey’s, and Beefeater.

· The 1870s is when Schweppes released and began to export their “Indian Tonic Water”, so the tonic water was quite possibly sparkling and pre-bottles.

· The opening of the Suez Canal and introduction of the steam ship would have made it quicker and cheaper to obtain British export in India.

The next step
I firmly believe that there are other nuggets of information that can shed more light on the Gin Tonic’s origins and maybe even push its proven date of origin back a few more years. I look forward to further revelations.

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Introducing Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic

I’ve been a fan of the Pink Gin & Tonic – described as a Gin & Tonic with a dash of Angostura Bitters or a Pink Gin with added tonic – for at least a decade. In fact, it was once my go-to post-work drink.

Some brands have created a Pink Gin (a combination of gin and bitters), so you only have to add tonic, but – until now – there has never been a tonic where the flavours of bitters have been conveniently added.

Fever-Tree Aromatic Angostura Tonic FINAL1

That has changed in the summer of 2016, with the release of Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic Water, which is made with angostura bark. The tonic also has fresh citrus, cardamom, ginger, and pimento berry (All Spice) as ingredients.

It is worth mentioning that Angostura Bitters made by the House of Angostura (the bottle with the over-sized label) does not actually have angostura bark as an ingredient, although another old brand of bitters, Abbott’s, did.

Both have long been associated with the health and well-being of the sailors of the Royal Navy, with surgeons prescribing angostura bark as an alternative or supplementary anti-fever treatment to quinine bark. As such, it seems like a natural companion to the natural quinine in Fever-Tree Tonic.

On its own
Colour: Pale rose
Nose: Fragrant citrus, along with cola nut, cherry blossom, and woody, aromatic spice.
Fizz: A medium-level of fizz, with a pleasant intensity on the tongue as the bubbles burst.
Taste: Exotic spice to start, then almond and wintergreen, before moving onto cherry and citrus blossom. Pimento and cardamom then make a subtle appearance. This has a long, dry citrus finish with deep and clean, bitter, earthy notes.

Fever-Tree suggest that their Angostura Tonic goes particularly well with juniper-forward gins, so I thought I’d try it out with some of my favourites.

Fever-Tree Aromatic Angostura Tonic FINAL 2

With Plymouth Gin
There is a pleasant harmony between the gin and the tonic, likely in part because of some shared ingredients, including cardamom. There is a sweet lift at the end, accompanied by woody spice notes.

With Hayman’s Royal Dock
The extra strength of flavour and alcoholic power from this combination really gives the drink an additional “Wow!” factor. The gin adds a clean, crisp basis to the drink, whilst the tonic adds a lively character with citrus and spice. Refreshing to the last drop and well-balanced with a bitter finish.

With Makar
The crisp juniper of the gin counteracts the sweeter spice notes of the tonic, resulting in a deep and complex flavour, and a particularly dry Gin Tonic.

With Hayman’s Family Reserve
The light, woody notes and strong botanical flavours work well with the citrus and woody spice of the tonic. The result is a flavoursome mix that still provides lots of refreshment.

With Crossbill 200
Even though the tonic has a strong character, this punchy gin holds its down. The resinous vanilla and juniper wood notes of the gin, along with the floral rosehip, are neatly complementd by the spice and citrus of the tonic, creating a well-rounded drink.

In Conclusion
Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic is a great addition to their range, getting the balance between extra flavour and mixability just right. It is also one of the tastiest tonics to drink on its own, my favourite since I tried Fever-Tree Mediterranean. It also works well when mixed with vodka and I’d love to try it with aquavit.

All-in-all, this is well-worth trying and will be available in Waitrose from July 2016.

Tanqueray & Tonic – An Investigation into the Best Garnish for Tanqueray Gins

Tanqueray GinTonica Title

This is the first part of my investigation into garnishes for Tanqueray Gin. I’ve spent a little time recently thinking about the lemon vs. lime argument. For World Gin Day, I made a Gin & Tonic according to a 1938 recipe using Mason’s Gin, which used lemon and/or lime (you had the choice). Having recently returned from Spain, I also fancied experimenting a little more with the Gin Tonica serve for this classic drink.

Naturally, after a quick reflection, I decided the best way to investigate this subject would be to do a taste test. I extended my normal citrus selection to include: lemon, lime, orange, pink grapefruit and red grapefruit.

I shall be tasting both of the following gins in my Gin & Tonics:

Tanqueray Export Strength (43.1%ABV) – from hereon referred to as “Original” – which is made using 4 botanicals: Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, and Liquorice; and

Tanqueray No:10 (47.3%ABV), whose botanicals include: Juniper, Angelica, Coriander, Chamomile, White Grapefruit, Lime and Orange (for the citrus, the whole fruit is used, not just the peel).

Each drink will be mixed with Fevertree Tonic. I will add a double measure of gin to a tonica glass filled with ice and then add 150ml of Fevertree Tonic. Each one will be garnished with a wedge of the fruit being tested and a little spritz of oil from the peel over the top of the drink, for aroma.

Control (No Garnish)

Original: A rather classic Gin & Tonic with dry, piney juniper, some angelica and sweet liquorice. Cooling and refreshing, this works very well straight-up without a garnish.

Ten: A crisp and clean Gin & Tonic, with lots of citrus notes and some sweetness, such as liquorice, coming through. A hint of floral notes, too. Even without a garnish, this also works very well.

TanquerayGinTonica Lemon FINAL

Lemon

Original: A good version of the drink, this is more floral than when using lime and provides a little more sweetness, too. It’s a very accessible and refreshing drink that makes you go back for seconds.

Ten: The slightly sweet notes of the lemon seem to muddle the more complex flavour of the Tanqueray No:10; it is still a quite acceptable drink, but I think that the lemon does the gin a disservice.

TanquerayGinTonica Lime FINAL

Lime

Original: Classic in style, this drink is dry, with a tiny hint of bitterness and a great citrus liveliness courtesy of the lime. A very classic serve and flavour, providing more bite to the drink than the lemon version.

Ten: Wow! A great example of how a garnish can add life and vitality to a drink. Lime is a great match for Tanqueray No:10. The drink on its own is good, but the lime really is the cherry on the cake and finishes the drink nicely. Easy to drink and rather morish.

TanquerayGinTonica Evans FINAL

Evans

Original: Works well with the two citrus fruits; the lemon adds sweet juiciness and the lime adds a crisp liveliness to the drink. Also, on the eye, the yellow and green are rather attractive. A good choice for Original Tanqueray.

Ten: Better than just lemon on its own: the lively lime works well with the gin but, alas, the lemon detracts too much and the flavour again becomes a bit muddied. Fans of strong juniper and coriander notes may like it, though, as these flavours seem to be amplified by the combination.

TanquerayGinTonica Orange FINAL

Orange

Original: Quite a soft Gin & Tonic. The orange is okay, but seems to clutter the underlying flavours of the gin somewhat and gives the drink a tannic quality.

Ten: Very fragrant and inviting, this serve highlights the gin’s juiciness. The orange works well with some of the lively bitterness from the pink grapefruit botanical, making this a much better match than with the Original Tanqueray.

TanquerayGinTonica PinkGrapefruit FINAL

Pink Grapefruit

Original: Just superb: you immediately get some citrus and floral notes from the garnish. The pink grapefruit adds a zesty succulence to the drink, but doesn’t overpower the gin, allowing Tanqueray’s underlying botanical character to come through strong. Simple, but effective, this is refreshing and definitely quaffable.

Ten: I thought that the Original Tanqueray went well with pink grapefruit, but I think that Tanqueray No:10 works even better. There is that same fresh, zesty, juicy citrus note coming through, but it’s accompanied by some more complex notes, such as a little bitterness akin to that of dark chocolate. This makes for a very sophisticated drink and one I could enjoy again and again.

TanquerayGinTonica RedGrapefruit FINAL

Red Grapefruit

Original: The orange and pink of the garnish looks particularly attractive in the glass and provides an enticing aroma. It creates a very dry Gin & Tonic with a little zestiness at the end; a slight squeeze or muddle of the fruit invigorates the drink, making it juicier and more lively.

Ten: Simply excellent. There are some very rich, bold flavours here, but they work really well together: the fresh fruit is succulent and refreshing, with a little zesty bitterness right at the end. Some very faint hints of vanilla come through, too.

In Conclusion

It is certainly true that the garnish really does impact upon the flavour and overall experience of the drink. Tanqueray No:10 seemed to pair particularly well with the citrus, more so than the Original Tanqueray, probably due to the citrus botanicals used in the gin.

I think that lime (the garnish suggested by Tanqueray themselves) worked well for both gins. Both pink and red grapefruit also worked well with both (unfortunately Waitrose didn’t have any white grapefruit, so I have yet to try that). Lemon seemed much stronger with the regular Tanqueray then the Tanqueray No:10, and I’d probably avoid orange all together, considering how good the other combinations were.

~

The Tanqueray Website

Tanqueray On Twitter: USA

Tanqueray on Facebook

Tanqueray (43.1% ABV) is available for around £20 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

Tanqueray (47.3% ABV) is available for around £22 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

Tanqueray No:10 is available for around £28 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

 

New Tonic Water – Fevertree Elderflower

From the articles of the last few weeks, it’s clear that the gin industry is a lively and growing industry, but what about gin’s perfect partner, tonic water? As you can imagine, some individuals have decided to focus their attention here, rather than with the juniper spirit itself, and I applaud that. So, today, let’s look at one of these new products: Fevertree Elderflower Tonic.

Fevertree ELderflower Tonic

This follows on from the boutique brand’s Original, Mediterranean and Lemon Tonics, and is made using oil essences from hand-picked elderflowers. Tonic connoisseurs may recall that we reviewed Thomas Henry’s Elderflower Tonic here, and it’s surprising to me that, given the fondness of the British population for this flower, that there hasn’t been a British elderflower tonic before now.

On its own
Large bubbles and a medium-level of fizz. Sweet elderflower to start, then citrus, followed by a clean, dry bitter notes of quinine on the finish. Good balance of flavour.

with Plymouth Gin
Works superbly – rich and juicy, succulent and refreshing. This works very well with Plymouth; it has a particularly lovely finish, making for a very moreish drink, indeed.

Fevertree Elderflower Gin and tonic

with Knockeen Hills Elderflower
Absolutely superb: rich and juicy, and very flavourful. The elderflower comes through strongly, but there’s an additional freshness to the drink from the citrus. Lovely and smooth, too.

In Conclusion
I think Fevertree Elderflower is a great addition to the Fevertree Mixer range and is also one of the nicest tonic waters to drink on its own as a soft drink.

About the Gin

Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin (43%ABV) is part of Knockeen Hills a family run company established in 1997. In addition they make a Heather Gin and a range of Irish Poteens. All products are, unusually, made with Irish Whey Spirit.

They do not currently have US distribution but for more information please contact: info@irish-poteen.com

The Gin & Tonic of… THE FUTURE!

A fair bit has been written about the history of the Gin & Tonic and I’ve written previously on its variations, but what you see less of in blind speculation is regarding its future! So I’ve peaked at the tea leaves and carefully analysed the shapes formed by the condensation on my cocktail shaker to provide some suggestions.What follows is a list of three tonic innovations behind which I have noticed have a growing following.
.
Pioneers: 6 O'Clock Gin and its Companion Tonic Water

Pioneers: 6 O'Clock Gin and its Companion Tonic Water

1) Companion Tonics

This is where a gin producer also creates a tonic water that has been specially designed to harmonise and be the perfect partner to their juniper spirit.I first heard about this from Michael of Bramley & Gage with his 6 O’Clock Gin and I’m pleased to have been one of the first to write about it on this very site. That was a year ago and since then the popularity of the drink and the concept, as well as its availability, has increased. There have been a few enhancements of the packaging and the tonic is now available in a handy four-pack of individual bottle serves.

When combined, 6 O’Clock Gin and 6 O’Clock Tonic create a soft, yet flavourful drink, which is probably one of the most relaxing Gin & Tonics I have ever had. That is not to say that it doesn’t have much flavour, as there is, without a doubt, a distinctive mix of juniper and quinine. It really is very good.

Gin Mare and 1724 Tonic Water

Gin Mare and 1724 Tonic Water

Since then, the idea has taken of a little, with rumours of other boutique gins following suit. The folks behind Gin Mare have brought out 1724 Tonic and, whilst not designed solely for Gin Mare, its mixability with this gin was a consideration.

Broker’s Gin (who seem to be on a bit of an award-winning roll of late) have a companion tonic water available in Spain. This isn’t actually created/produced by Broker’s, but rather by a third party that decided to do to it on their behalf, with the gin company’s blessing. I’ve yet to try it, but am looking forward to doing so.

Eighteen months ago, there were no companion tonics and now there are at least three, with more in development; this is a trend if ever I saw one.

Broker's Gin, Spanish G&T Goblet and the Tonic Water

Broker's Gin, Spanish G&T Goblet and the Tonic Water


2) Tonic Syrup

A bottle of John's Premium Tonic Water Syrup

A bottle of John's Premium Tonic Water Syrup

This comes in two forms: in-house bar creations and commercial products, but the premise is the same in both instances: you take a quinine tonic syrup and then mix it with soda water to create your tonic water. Various bars create their own now, although I first encountered it in Purl.
There was a limited run of a Battersea Quinine cordial made by Hendricks, which was a similar concept.

But, interestingly enough, it has been in America where this idea has really taken off; I have already reviewed John’s Premium Tonic Water and one by Tomr. I am also aware of one made by The Jacy Rudy Cocktail Co. and there are probably others. One of the advantages of creating these as concentrated syrup is that it is easier, cheaper and greener to ship (250ml will make a litre and half of tonic), but also it means that it can be shipped further without the tonic loosing its fizz.
A third advantage is that you can use the syrup in other drinks such a Purl’s GT Turbo.

All of the various tonic syrups I have tried have been brown in colour, creating an orange-brown tonic water when mixed. They also tend to be more bitter and more herbally intense than other tonic waters, but, as someone with a palette accustomed to the flavour of quinine, I quite like this. Here is my favourite Tonic syrup cocktail.

With a plethora of home-made recipes also available, people have started to make their own non-quinine syrups and as even the Wall Street Journal has picked up on this trend, yet again I feel that this is a development well-worth watching.


3) “Final Touch” Gin & Tonic


An innovation from the gin-drinking country of Spain, this was pioneered using Sacred Gin and distillates; the idea was initially relayed to me by Ian and Hilary of Sacred. The premise is simple: you make a Gin & Tonic (something like a 3:1 ratio, tonic:gin) and then layer 5-10ml of botanical distillate on top of the drink. This results in a double drinking sensation and more intense drink: firstly, you get the nose of the distillate and then, on tasting, you get a burst of that flavour, followed by the usual fresh Gin & Tonic flavours. As the two layers reduce proportionately as you drink, the effect remains until the end.

I made up a Gin & Tonic with Sacred 47%ABV Gin and Waitrose Tonic Water – 1 part gin to 3 parts tonic – and then added 10ml of distillate on top.

i) Grapefruit
Initially, the nose is more subtle, with a hint of extra citrus. In terms of taste, there’s some fresh citrus to start with, followed by strong, clean juniper and a dry bitterness from the tonic. Although the pink grapefruit is there, it seems to accentuate the juniper more than anything.

ii) Cardamon
There’s an initial scent of cardamon; this is repeated at the start of the taste, then the more refreshing Gin & Tonic notes come through; juniper, citrus and quinine flavours are rounded off with a finish of dry juniper and a lingering hint of cardamon. This is my favourite “Final Touch” Gin & Tonic. From speaking to Ian of Sacred the general public seem to share my opinion.

iii) Cassia Bark
Very lightly louched at the top. There’s a warm, creamy earthiness at the start, followed by a more mellow Gin & Tonic. Rather than being a distinct, separate flavour, the cassia flows into the G&T to create a much softer drink.

This is a trend in its infancy, but awareness of it in the UK is growing and both Mrs. B and I think that it’s great; I hope it continues.

UPDATE: Since this article was posted last week lots of folks have mentioned this to me and how much they like it. I know it was tried out at a very consumer-focused tasting with great success. It seems it’s moving along more than I thought.

Large bottles of some of the distillates are now available here.

In Conclusion

These are just three possible future ways that the classic gin drink could progress; there are others, and if you think of any, please let us know, but I wholeheartedly believe that they all have their merits and I’d like to see them all succeed. The future certainly looks bright for this 200 year old drink.

Thomas Henry Mixers Review – Tonic Water, Bitter Lemon Etc…

Thomas Henry Tonic Water is just one of a range of mixers produced by this German firm that we shall be reviewing today.

I’ve long been interested in tonic water and, after a recent tot-up, I realised I have now tried over 50 different varieties; so you can imagine my intrigue when Simon Difford’s digital version of Class Magazine gave first place in their Tonic Water tasting to a product that I had never even heard of, let alone tried.

Needless to say, I quickly got on the phone to Germany to find out more about it. I spoke to Sebastian Brack, who told me that, in addition to the acclaimed tonic water, they also make Bitter Lemon, Ginger Ale, Ginger Beer and Soda Water; he was kind enough to send me samples of the first four of these.*

Thomas Henry was an apothecary from Manchester, England. He is attributed with the first production of carbonated water (the first fizzy drink/soda) in 1773; he made this  in 12-gallon barrels. The technology he used was based on the system by Joseph Priestly (who invented/discovered carbonated water in 1767). It wasn’t until 1794 that Jacob Schweppe started production of his sparkling water.

Tonic Water

1) Own
Clean, crisp, fresh and light. This is not too heavy in terms of citrus and has a balanced sweetness. It has a high-to-medium level of fizz and a good depth of flavour, with some earthy bitterness and a touch of sweet citrus at the end.
2) Gin & Tonic
i) As always in my tonic water tastings, I used Plymouth Gin for this Gin & Tonic. The drink was excellent: the full flavour of the gin comes through, with added bitter and fresh characteristics from the tonic. It was clean and crisp, with a brilliant balance; exactly how a Gin & Tonic should be.
ii) For a second G&T, I used Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin. Superb; I was surprised at how much of the flora and fruity elderflower notes from the gin were brought out by this tonic water. There was a touch of sugar at the end, but the cocktail is neither too sweet, nor cloying. This was a great way to enhance the gin and a very tasty Gin & Tonic.
3) Vodka
I used Beluga Vodka. With Thomas Henry Tonic, this made a pleasant drink, with the underlying vodka coming through. This drink seems quite clean and refreshing, and citrus notes are more prominent. Once again, the mixer complements the spirit, rather than overpowering it.

Bitter Lemon

1) Own
Good levels of citrus, sweetness and bitterness. Medium fizz with a full, but not overpowering, flavour. There’s also a good tang at the end, as well as a crisp bitterness, rather than a nasty cloying effect.
2) With Xoriguer Gin
This is a traditional way to drink this Xoriguer Mahon Gin, from Menorca; the floral and herbaceous flavours of the gin are very strong and cooling, and the bitter lemon provides a crisp, citrus finish. This gin can also be used to make a great Gin & Tonic.
3) With Sloe Gin
I used the Marks & Spencer Sloe Gin (made by Boudier, In France) Delicious; a gentle way to lengthen your sloe gin in the summer. The bitter and tangy citrus contrasts nicely with the sweet, fruity and marzipan characteristics of the sloe gin.

Ginger Ale

1) Own
Thomas Henry’s Ginger Ale has a typical ginger ale nose, with ginger, citrus, and a hint of sugar, all of which are quite light. It has a medium-to-high fizz and quite light flavours, including subtle ginger. There’s good effervescence, although it’s a touch cloying. Still, it is a fresh and unobtrusive mixture that should work well with most spirits.
2) Gin Buck
Quite nice, with a ginger-nut biscuit fieriness. Flavours of the gin come through strongly and the drink is not too sickly, although in vast quantities it may become so.
3) Horses Neck
An unobtrusive mix: the ginger ale gives the brandy room to breathe and the flavours come through. For my taste, it’s a tad sweet and could do with some more fire, but it’s still rather good.

Ginger Beer

1) Own
A very familiar nose of a good standard ginger beer. Reminds me of my standard when using the soft drink, D&G’s Old Jamaica. A cool start, with medium-to-high fizz, musky ginger and then sweeter, with medium fire from the ginger. A very good mixer and comparable to Old Jamaica, but not better.
2) Moscow Mule
Works well; the ginger beer is not too intrusive, but does add something to the mix. The drink isn’t sickly or overpowering and is a good standard for the Moscow Mule, but not spectacular.
3) Dark ‘N Stormy
Pretty tasty. The ginger beer let’s the dark burnt sugar of the rum through, whilst adding the fresh combination of lime and ginger, as well as a fiery kick. Very tasty and above average, but not exceptional.

In Conclusion

I think that it’s clear from my review that I am impressed with Thomas Henry mixers overall, the Ginger Beer and Ale being of a good standard and the Bitter Lemon being better than most of its competitors (it was the bitter-sweet balance that did it). But Thomas Henry’s Tonic Water was the real gem of the tasting; it is truly exceptional and possibly the best I have ever had (a blind run-off of my top 5 is in order, I think).
Overall, this is an excellent range. I hope that they find a UK distributor soon so that we can all get a chance to try and enjoy them.

.

The Thomas Henry Products are not available in the UK but if you are and importer/distributor and think it may be of interest please Contact Them Here.

.* Sebastian seemed a little bemused at how much e-mail interest he had been getting from the UK in the previous day; once I had explained about the article (and e-mailed him a link) it became much clearer.

Quinine-free Tonic Water Recipe

On a few occasions, including our recent Beefeater London Market masterclass with Dre Masso, I have heard that, in Japan, quinine is banned and so the tonic water is rather different there and making a good gin & tonic is difficult. I believe this fact was inspiration for Beefeater 24.

So setting aside whether you can technically have a quinine-free “tonic water” I set about making a tonic water substitute without quinine. Could you use a  different bittering agent? I had a discussion with a chap in the industry and he suggested gentian root. This is an ingredient in Angostura Bitters, Bundaburg Brewed Bitters, Aperol and the extra-bitter liqueur, Suze; so it’s flavour is not unknown to the drinks world.

Whilst attempting to source some gentian root, I found that, whilst you can easily buy wormwood, angelica root and marshmallow root in my local town, gentian is nowhere to be found! Still, I managed to find some online and so, earlier on today, I set about experimenting to produce a non-quinine-based tonic water.

I’ve never used gentian root before, so my first step was to make some tea up using a few specks of the root. With just three small pieces, it had quite a busy, bitter flavour – a good start.

The recipe given below is the second that I tried (our favourite) and is based on a tonic syrup recipe.

Zest of half a lime and half a lemon

1.5 tsp Citric Acid

1 tsp Genitian Root

8 Juniper Berries (crushed)

Pinch of spice

180 ml Water

Add ingredients to a small saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

Strain the mixture and stir in 5 tsp of sugar, ensuring that it dissolves.

Allow to cool and then bottle and keep refrigerated.

To drink, mix 3:1 or 4:1 with soda or sparkling water.


The Taste

1) Own

I mixed this with soda water 3:1. Both Mrs. B and I were surprised at the similarity to tonic water, if you are familiar with gentian flavour, you’ll pick it out but with a broader brush it’s pretty close.

2) Gin & Tonic

I also made a Gin & Tonic with Plymouth Gin in a 2:1 ratio with the diluted tonic water. This was good drink, full of flavour and perhaps with a little more bitter bite than the commercial options. The Plymouth still had room to breath and could be tasted.

3) GT Turbo

(Gin, Tonic Syrup, Lime Juice and Orange Bitters)

Another favourite cocktail of mine is Purl’s GT Turbo. This was really packed with flavour and would make a good pre-dinner cocktail, raising the appetite well. A greta combination of juniper and herbal bitterness and the tartness of citrus. Shake well to ensure it is ice cold. Lovely.

In Conclusion

Frankly I’m surprised at how well this turned out, it was a bit of a long-shot but has turned out rather well. I’ve tried about ten different recipes for tonic water syrup (using quinine) and this was easily my favourite. If you try it yourself I’d be keen to know what you think.

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