origin of gin and tonic

The Surprising Indian Origin of Gin and Tonic

During the summer, there’s nothing better than a cool and refreshing gin and tonic. It’s considered a quintessential British drink, however, it actually originated in India!

Gin was supposedly created in 16th century Holland and was originally prescribed as a medical treatment to help aid circulation. It was called Genever at the time which is the Dutch word for Juniper – the botanical base of gin. During the Thirty Year War, British Solider fighting on Dutch land discovered Genever. It was at this point that the term ‘Dutch Courage’ was created as the Dutch army seemed fearless as they drank ‘Genever’ before going into battle.  It soon made its way to the UK where is was a low-cost drink of choice. In 1720, it was estimated that a quarter of London households were making their own gin. Popularity only grew and by 1750, over 11 million gallons of gin was consumed by Londoners alone, every year. By the mid-19th century, gin had upgraded its status to be a ‘gentleman’s drink’. 

In 1857, Britain had taken over the governance of India and more Brits were venturing towards the tropical subcontinent. The change of climate for Brits also was accompanied by new illnesses, and in particular, malaria. The medicine? The classic Gin and Tonic. 

Tonic water is infused with quinine, an extract from the cinchona trees in South America. It was known colloquially and locally as fever tree. The cinchona bark was brought to Europe in the 1640s when it was proven to both cure and prevent malaria. Naturally, as the British Empire grew across multiple continents, tonic water became an essential. 

Although essential, the taste wasn’t exactly palatable for most. Quinine gives tonic water a very bitter taste. As an antidote to the bitter taste, the British residents in India added gin, sugar, ice, and citrus. Thus, the iconic Gin and Tonic was born in India. It became revered, in fact, Winston Churchill once said, “The gin and tonic drink has saved more Englishmen’s lives and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.”

Now, the Gin and Tonic has the largest following than ever. Whether you have it with lime or cucumber, ice or no ice, the Gin an Tonic will remain a classic. Created in India, you’ll be reminded with every sip of ‘Indian Tonic Water’.