History Of Gin And Tonic That Kept British Empire Healthy

The venerable “G and T” is much beloved amongst drinkers young and old, despite critics’ claim that its taste resembles pine needles. Leave the tree chewing naysayers to themselves and pour another. The gin and tonic drink has, in its two hundred years of existence, never been out of style.

Gin and Tonic

Winston Churchill even once declared, “The gin and tonic drink has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.” This might seem preposterous, or even a good jest, but would Churchill lie to you? It all began in an exotic, far off land.

India: the jewel of the British Empire. While Britain colonized this vast country throughout the 19th century, a large part of travelers and colonists suffered from malaria. The fever has a history of ravaging scores of Europeans, but in the 17th century the Spanish discovered that indigenous peoples in present-day Peru used a bark to treat various fevers. A stolen cinchona bark became a favored treatment for malaria in Europe. It was soon learned that it not only treated malaria, it worked preventatively.

Gin and Tonic History

The active ingredient within the bark, quinine, became a powerful weapon for the British Empire, as it allowed its soldiers to rule in distant lands. However, there was one problem. Quinine powder was intensely bitter and hard to swallow. Naturally, the Brits diluted it in sugar water and “tonic water” in its earliest form was born.

Not long after the widespread popularity of quinine Schweppes introduced in 1870 the “Indian Quinine Tonic”, targeting the growing population of Brits overseas who were encouraged to take a daily dose of quinine. Eventually tonic found its way back to the motherland as a healthy beverage.

Gin liquor was also rising in popularity in the 19th century. It was only a matter of time and opportunity before a colonist decided to take his Indian Quinine Tonic water with a glass of gin. Could there be a better place than the hot tropics of India to enjoy a cool, refreshing provision as the gin and tonic?

The gin and tonic rose in popularity for its delicious palate and purpose. And soon after Churchill was quoted for its life-saving properties. Gin and Tonic are also perfectly simple to make with only two ingredients and a lime wedge for freshness. Measure two ounces of gin in a cute jigger like this into a glass with ice. Top it off with your “Indian Quinine Tonic” and garnish with a lime wedge.

Make sure to have a glass or two. This drink is good for your health, after all.

Gin and Tonic Drinks

Gin & Tonic Recipe


  • 2 oz. gin
  • 3 oz. tonic water
  • 1 lime wedge


  1. Fill glass with ice
  2. Add gin, top with tonic and garnish with a lime wedge
  3. Enjoy the drink!

What's interesting is that gin and tonic history is related to the army of British East India Company in India. In the 1700s, Scottish doctor George Cleghorn was the guy who studied Quinine that use to be a great cute for malaria. Back then people would consume quinine along with water but the taste was never that good. 

That's when the British officers in India which are around the early 19th century thought of mixing water, sugar, lime, and gin to the quinine so that the drink became more palatable and hence the drink was born. The soldiers back in India were already given a gin ration and so the sweet taste of the drink made sense. 

The drink is very popular in the summer. There is also scientific evidence that in 2004, a study found that consuming 500 to 1,000 ml of tonic water works as therapeutic. Today, this drink is quite famous today and you will find many fans to it. 

James bond in the book Dr.No talks about gin and tonic while his time in Kingston, Jamaica. There is also a reference to the first-ever character talked about in the billy joel song "piano man" where he is said to be making love to his gin and tonic. You can also see for the reference of gin and tonic served.  

 You will also be surprised to know that the gin and tonic day is celebrated worldwide on 19th October. 


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