The layers of a humble gin and tonic
The layers of a humble gin and tonic
The gin and tonic is a timeless cocktail and one of the easiest to make. However, the origins of this ubiquitous drink are more complex than they seem.
A medicinal elixir
Legend has it that the gin and tonic was invented to encourage British soldiers and officials to take their quinine, a key ingredient in fighting malaria, a deadly disease back then. But the real story behind this effortless blend of gin and tonic water has a more complicated origin, with the English people being the only common thread.
The introduction of gin
The name “gin” comes from the Flemish “genever” and was discovered by English soldiers in 1580 during the Dutch War of Independence in Holland, where they nicknamed it “Dutch Courage.” However, another narrative traces the drink to a Dutch physician, Sylvius de Bouve, who invented a highly alcoholic medicinal concoction called jenever. This elixir was believed to improve circulation and cure various ailments. It is possible that English soldiers in Holland developed a liking for the doctor’s invention and brought the drink back to England.
On British soil, gin quickly became popular, and production began on a large scale, leading to a boom in gin consumption. This led Parliament to impose a tax on the drink, which caused riots in 1743 in response to the increase in the cost of gin.
The addition of tonic
The quintessential ingredient in tonic water is quinine, an anti-malarial alkaloid extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree. Initially, it was used to treat shivers during a common cold. However, during the 1850s, the English started settling in India with their families, bringing their favorite alcoholic drink, gin, with them. Malaria infection became a significant health concern, especially among soldiers, and taking quinine to fight the disease was unpalatable due to its bitter taste. Gin was added to tonic water to reduce the bitterness, making it more palatable.
As a result, quinine played a significant role in the global dominance of European power, and manufacturing tonic water to supply their colonies at risk of malarial fever and other conditions ensured their continued rule over the colonies.
The recent resurgence of gin and tonic
Gin has become more popular due to the craft spirits movement, gin’s versatility, and affordability. Craft distilleries have tapped into the science of creatively macerating botanicals to deliver unique flavors enjoyed worldwide. Not to be outdone, tonic water makers have experimented with aromatics and flavors that complement the new gins.
G&Ts at The Book Club in Shoreditch
Discover some of the finest gins by ordering a G&T from The Book Club in Shoreditch.
Portobello – A gin with a strong juniper base, fresh citrus mid-palate, and infused with lemon, bitter orange, coriander, liquorice, and nutmeg botanicals. Edinburgh – An unmistakable London Dry from the magical city of Edinburgh infused with 14 botanicals. Bulldog – Experience 12 distinctive botanicals from around the world macerated in grain neutral spirit before distilling. Plymouth – A balanced blend of seven hand-selected botanicals provides a rich and smooth taste. Beefeater London – The quintessential and authentic London Dry gin with big juniper and citrus notes. Beefeater Pink – A vibrant pink gin made with the original Beefeater London Dry Recipe and natural strawberry flavoring. Beefeater Blood Orange – A true London Dry gin with a squeeze of hand-selected blood oranges, providing a zesty tipple. Hendrick’s – An unusual gin created from eleven fine botanicals and imbued with infusions of rose and cucumber.
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