A History of the Gin and Tonic

According to a recent YouGov poll, a gin and tonic is now the most popular drink in the UK, with over 29% of drinkers voting it as their favourite tipple. It has also leapfrogged over old favourites such as whiskey or vodka and our obsession shows no signs of wavering, with over 100 gin brands now available to try.

But how did our favourite mixed drink originate and what are its intriguing beginnings? Allow us to delve deep into the complex history of our beloved gin and tonic…

Gin’s Humble Beginnings

Invented in Holland in the 16th century, genever, known as ‘Dutch gin’ was initially prescribed as a medical treatment. A malted light whisky that contained juniper, the spirit gradually made its way over to the UK in the mid-1700’s and after being further developed, became the drink choice for the majority living in London. In fact, so high was the consumption, over 11 million gallons annually, it triggered a series of new laws and by the mid-19th century, gin was largely known as a gentleman’s drink.

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Gin and Tonic Miracle Cure

Gin was officially introduced to tonic when in 1857 the British Crown took over the governance of India. As more and more Brits made their way to warmer climes, malaria struck ruthlessly and the settlers were forced to find a cure. In those days, tonic water was heavily infused with quinine which is an extract from the cinchona tree and this was also known to locals as the miraculous ‘fever tree’. The bark from this particular tree was said to stop chills and when it was also proven to cure and prevent malaria, was brought back to Europe during the 1640’s. Although in the early days it tasted quite bitter and harsh, tonic water soon became a staple amongst the British living in India. They also found that the addition of gin, sugar, lime and ice made the cure more palatable to drink and using the limes in particular helped to keep scurvy at bay. These days, however, most tonic waters are very much sweeter to the taste. Made using only the smallest amount of quinine and plenty of sweetening agents, artisanal and modern tonic waters are also beautifully balanced in fragrance.


Visit the Sunbridgewells Gin Bar

We hope you have enjoyed learning about the history of the gin and tonic. At the Sunbridgewells Gin Bar, we believe that no gin and tonic of quality can be made without an excellent tonic water and in the words of Winston Churchill, "Gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen's lives and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire."

So when a timeless gin and tonic really does cure all ailments, well except the dreaded hangover, of course, we say there’s only one thing for it - let the fun times beGin in Bradford’s underground Victorian tunnels. Cheers!

Posted on August 1, 2018 .