Tonic Water
Image from Fever Tree

Tonic Water – An Interesting History

Gin and Tonic is a popular drink around the world. Until a few years ago, we took the Tonic Water for granted, we just asked for a G and T or a V and T. Now it’s big business, Gin sales are booming and we now have premium tonic brands to match. So here is our take on this popular mixer.

The History of Tonic Water

For centuries, Quinine had been known to help treat Malaria. Quinine is an extract from the bark of the Cinchona tree, in raw form it is extremely bitter. In the early nineteenth century, it was given in powder form to British troops based in malarial areas in India and Africa as a prevention against the disease. To make it more palatable, the powder was mixed with the newly available soda (carbonated) water and sugar. Tonic water was born. The first commercial brand appeared in the 1860s, Schweppes Tonic Water dates back to 1871.

Who first came up with the idea of mixing it with Gin is sadly unknown. All we know is that it became the staple drink during British rule of India hence its full name Indian Tonic Water. Having started life as a medicine it has made the transition to something more enjoyable.


Tonic water still contains Quinine, providing the distinctive bitter taste component. The amount though is a fraction of that needed to protect you from Malaria, apparently you would need to drink something like 20 litres of today’s product to be effective against the disease. Apart from carbonated water, the other key ingredients are sweeteners and preservatives.

Consumers are getting more selective. As with Gin, where consumers are now much more likely to ask for a particular brand. The same is also true of tonic. Schweppes, now part of Coca Cola did of course market their name, but from a marketing perspective, thinks have moved to a new level.

Fever Tree established as recently as 2004 seized the opportunity to create a premium tonic to coincide with the growing spirits market. In under twenty years they’ve become a powerhouse in the market worldwide. Their strapline “If ¾ of your drink is the mixer, Mix with the best” says it all and forms the basis of their story. Other companies have also jumped at the opportunity, Fentimans which has been making a distinctive Ginger Beer since 1905, now offer a range of award winning premium mixers. And Schweppes of course with the power of Coca Cola behind them has not gone away.


Check Also

Craft Gin Club Vino Club Special!

Treat yourself or someone special to a gin membership like no other from Craft Gin …

Wait, why not sign up to
our free newsletter?

Don't miss out on some fantastic advice, News, Offers, Competitions & More from the world of wine! Get the best direct to your inbox! Sign up today...