Gin and Tonic: A Short History

One of the simplest and most satisfying beverages known around the world is the drink we call The Gin and Tonic. Gin Farallon, tonic water, ice and garnish are the only four ingredients needed, but origins of the Gin and Tonic are not nearly as simplistic. Gin, originally known as Genever (dutch for juniper) dates back to mid 16th century Holland, where it was prescribed as a medicine and was thought to aid with circulation. Genever was quite different from modern gin in that it contained as much as 50% malt wine, giving it a much darker color similar to whiskey. 

The drink gradually spread throughout the region and became quite popular by the mid 17th century, with over 400 genever distilleries in Amsterdam alone. Genever was brought to England by british soldiers introduced to the beverage during the 80 Years War, and by 1720 an estimated one in every four households in London were producing their own gin at home. To shed even more light on the popularity of the drink, during this period over 11 million gallons of genever were consumed annually by Londoners alone. 

The Brits’ incomparable infatuation with genever continued for over a century, and was first mixed with tonic around 1857, the year that England took governance over India. The tropical climate led to a rise in malaria cases and a subsequent increased usage of quinine, a bitter medication derived from the cinchona tree. The british masked this bitterness by combining quinine with sugar and water to produce a more easily consumable tonic. Naturally, this tonic was then mixed with gin and voila — the gin and tonic was born. 

Today, gin and tonics have a much lower quinine content and are made tastier through the use of various botanicals and sweeteners. Nevertheless, the classic gin and tonic still maintains many medicinal properties and we especially enjoy it as a remedy for the crippling ailment known as “the mondays.” 

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