So What is Tonic?

Updated: May 16, 2019

From South America, to Great Briton, this story is all over the globe.

Well like all good drinking stories I was having a hard time actually finding and credible sources as to the origins of the tonic water. However either everyone was listening to the same person and the telephone chain didn't hit any major snags or this story in part is fairly accurate.

Heres the ClifNotes version. Tonic waters invention is credited to British officers stationed in India in the 19th century, when they took their quinine & gin rations and combined them with sugar, water and lime.

with that out of the way the story is written below to the best of my knowledge and I will also dive into the specific ingredients in our house made tonic water and their health benefits.

So keep reading, this article is designed to make you feel better about drinking those G&T's! It's medicinal.......?

The great Indian Tonic Water story

Ok lets get a few assumptions out of the way. Fist off I'm assuming you know that the whole point and bitter flavoring of tonic water is because of this substance know as quinine. Quinine is the victory in this story so the story focuses on this malaria fighting tree bark.

Bark from the Chinchona tree, the original source of quinine

So the story goes...

A Spanish noblewomen (The Countess of Chinchona) was traveling through Peru in the 1630's when she contracted malaria (a really nasty disease transmitted through mosquitos and still claims lives to this day). Feeling desperate her husband the Count, went to the local Inca people and asked if they know of anything that would help his beloved wife. The elders of the tribes told the Count to use water that was contaminated by quinquina tree (local to that area) as a treatment for the Countess.

The treatment worked, and she was quickly restored to health. As most conquerors do, they remained the native tree, naming it Chinchona in her honor, and disregarding what the native Inca have called their tree for thousands of years.

Armed with this know knowledge the Countess took the bark back to the other side of the world, then sometime in the early 1800's French scientist figured out how to extract the quinine to make a powder. The powder was bought and sold as a drug to fight malaria. The British purchased the powder and rationed it to their soldiers in malaria stricken colonies they were conquering. By some accounts as early as 1825 the British officers were messing about with trying to figure out how to make their crazy bitter medicine rations go down easier. It wasn't long before they dissolved their powder into water, with sugar and lime juice, then as most brits do they added gin to it. Thus the birth of the gin and tonic. It's not clear who started to carbonate the tonic water but it's not a huge surprise because at this point in history carbonated watch was thought to have great health benefits.

So there you have it, the birth of tonic neatly summarized by yours truly, with no real sources to site.

House Made Tonic syrup and everything in it.

Now onto our tonic and whats in it.

Pau D' Arco bark

Chinchona bark

Juniper berries



Dried orange peels

Citric acid

Angelica root

Cardamon pods

Black pepper

Allspice berries


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