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A Classic Men’s Drink: The Gin And Tonic

The Gin and Tonic

A Gin & Tonic is a fairly simple drink to make, requiring only gin and tonic water. However, because the drink is enjoying a resurgence right now, I thought it would be nice to delve a bit deeper into the drink, its history, and its components.

The History Of The Gin & Tonic

The Gin and Tonic was first served up by the British in 19th Century India, where malaria was rampant. Tonic water contains a chemical called quinine, which helps treat and prevent malaria. Due to the high levels of quinine in tonic water at the time, it was quite bitter. As a way of making the drink more palatable it was mixed with gin, and the G&T was born. Because malaria was (and continues to be) a devastating illness, the drink became very popular.

What Is Gin?

Gin is a distilled alcohol made from a mixture of grains and juniper berries. It was first made in Holland in 1650 by Dr. Franciscus de La Boie. Called Genever (from the French word genévrier, which means Juniper), it tasted good and was inexpensive to produce. At this time in history, British soldiers were fighting on the continent and they were introduced to the drink. Called ‘Dutch Courage’ the drink was wildly popular, and it returned home to England with the troops.

Genever, which the British conveniently shortened to Gin, has gone through a few changes from the original style, which was often aged in wood. In 1832 the column still was invented, and later in the 19th century the popular style of gin became what is known today as London Dry Gin. Dutch Gin, or Old Tom Gin, are more like the original, but London Dry has become the worldwide standard. There are now some variations on the standard, adding other fruits or ingredients into the mix.

What Is Tonic Water, And How Is It Different From Soda Water?

Carbonated water is basically water mixed with carbon dioxide. When combined, the two ingredients give us soda water; also known as seltzer or club soda. This mixture is the basis for modern soft drinks. Tonic water is carbonated water mixed with quinine. Quinine is a medicine made from the bark of the Cinchona tree, and is used as a medication for the treatment of malaria. Originally tonic water contained only carbonated water and quinine, and it was quite bitter. Today, quinine is a regulated substance, and is used only for flavoring in tonic water. According to Wikipedia, you would have to drink between 6 and 12 quarts of tonic water in a 24 hour period to receive a therapeutic dose of quinine. Today’s tonic water is also sweetened to help improve the taste. Interestingly, quinine will fluoresce under ultraviolet light; tonic water placed under UV light will produce a soft glow.

Making A Gin And Tonic

Start with a cold glass, from the freezer if possible. Add two ice cubes, and an ounce of gin. The type of gin and brand is entirely up to you. I use Tanqueray because that is what I make my martinis with, and I keep only a small liquor cabinet.

Top the glass with tonic water, squeeze a small slice of lime into the glass, and then drop the lime into the drink.

Notice that the carbonation was added after the liquor and ice. This is standard procedure for any carbonated beverage. You always add carbonation to the liquor, not the other way around. If you are making a stirred or shaken drink with a carbonated beverage, mix the non-carbonated ingredients, and then add the carbonation after. Shaking a carbonated beverage speeds up the release of CO2, and can cause the drink to go flat.

Notes About Mixed Drinks

Mixing any drink is a matter of ratios. Using a standard old fashioned glass(which typically holds 8-10 ounces), subtract 1-2 ounces per ice cube, leave an ounce or two of space at the top of the glass, then add an ounce of liquor. You will have room for four of five ounces of “mix”, giving you a liquor to soda ratio of about 1:4 or 1:5. This is important, because larger glasses or “tall” drinks will throw this ratio out and change the taste of the drink. Some may prefer a more diluted taste, or a stronger taste as a matter of preference.

A Note About Ice Cubes

Often when mixing a drink, people will use the old ice cubes they have in their freezer. You know, the ones that have a bit of fur on them and taste like an old tablecloth. A funny thing about ice cubes – they melt. If your ice cubes are old, fuzzy, or made with bad tasting tap water, they will pollute the flavor of the drink. It is always advisable to make new ice cubes, and even to use distilled water to make the cubes, for the best possible flavor, especially if you have funny tasting tap water in your community.


Now you have not only the perfect recipe for mixing a perfect Gin and Tonic, including proportions, you also have a bit of history about the drink and its ingredients. Enjoy!

Please Enjoy Your Alcohol Responsibly.