“A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way”
( Excerpt from the Lyrics of A Spoonful of Sugar in the movie Mary Poppins, an 1964 American musical fantasy film.)
The process of making any child take their medicine involves plenty of guile and quick action. Maybe such a trick was used by the Scottish doctor George Cleghorn to ensure that quinine had reached the officers in the malaria prone areas of the Indian subcontinent and other tropical regions (1700s).
“The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.” Winston Churchill
To mark the bitter taste of quinine, a traditional cure for malaria, it was drunk in tonic water to mask the bitter taste. The early 19th century saw the British officers add a mixture of water, sugar, lime and gin to the quinine in order to make the drink more palatable, thus leading to the birth of gin and tonic. With the passage of years and evolution of modern medicine, the quinine in tonic water has been tapered down to a bare minimum. In hindsight, science has proved that essentially this practice of quinine intake was impractical for malaria prophylaxis or even treatment. Keeping those facts aside, it is the “gin and tonic” that stays on.
“When life gives you juniper berries, make gin!” Laurie Buchanan
Today gin and tonic serves as a highball cocktail with the ratio of gin to tonic varying as per taste, strength of the gin, the presence of other drink mixers; although most recipes mention a ratio between 1:1 to 1:3. The classical garnish was with a slice or wedge of lime. The mixers today include lime juice, lemon juice, orange juice, spiced simple syrup, grenadine, tea or a dash of champagne (the Parisian), super smokey whiskey (the Ol’ Smokey), peach liqueur and grapefruit bitters (Tonic Delight), mint bitters and chocolate liqueur (the Guilty Pleasure) and the like or simply mixed with a sorbet. From the classical lime wheel garnish to the orange peel, a slice of ginger, star anise, thyme-elder flower or the more exotic combinations of pink grapefruit and rosemary, mint and black peppercorns, strawberry and basil the evolution of the garnishes for gin and tonic is depending on own taste and local availability. The Spanish variation of gin and tonic has the drink from being fruit based or the use of herbs and vegetables served in a balloon glass as the latter helps to appreciate the aroma of the drink better.
On similar lines to gin and tonic, the Dubonnet, a sweet, aromatised wine-based aperitif made as a blend of fortified wine, herbs, and spices with alcohol was first sold by Joseph Dubonnet (1846) to find a way of persuading French Foreign Legionnaires in North Africa to drink quinine. Likewise the “Lillet” and quinquina were similar aperitif wines initially made for medical reasons with the latter purpose made obsolete over time.
The popularity of the variations of the gin and tonic has led to the establishment of exclusive Gin-Tonic bars, in which customers can choose their preferred gin, tonic, and garnish from a menu. With the creativity streak coming to the forefront at gatherings especially when supplies are limited, the different variations of gin and tonic bring forth recipes and mixes worth the change.