Firstly let us start with the G, namely gin. A little science to start us off, gin is made by redistilling ethanol (effectively vodka) with juniper and other botanicals. The word gin itself is derived from Genievre (French) and Jenever (Dutch), both early juniper spirits. Jenever is possibly the source of the term “Dutch courage” where English soldiers picked up a liking for the juniper spirit in the 1618 30 year war.
This leads me nicely onto the T, the humble tonic has its origins in British East India Company, where the colonial troops were under constant threat of Malaria. In the 1700s it was discovered by Scottish doctor George Cleghorn that extracts from the bark of the Cinchona tree could be used to prevent and treat the disease.
However in this case the bark really was worse than the bite, quinine powder is extremely bitter, so much so that the British began mixing the powder with soda water and sugar to make it more palatable, this was effectively the first prototype tonic water.
What is the next logical step to improve this unpleasant concoction you may ask ? Well, being British the answer of course was to add gin to it. As I previously mentioned gin already had a long, if not sordid, history in Britain up to this point, so much so that soldiers in India were given a daily ration of half a pint of gin, so really it was only a matter of time before it was mixed with the quinine tonic.
It wasn’t long before the drink caught on with non-colonials, at first these tonic waters were homemade brews, but this all changed in 1858 when Erasmus Bond patented the “improved aerated tonic liquid”, and the modern tonic was born.
Of course these days the tonic is no longer used as an antimalarial cure so consequentially contains much less quinine, which is now used as a subtle flavouring rather than a curative, so make sure to take your medication – a gin and tonic might help with many things but it certainly won’t prevent malaria.