Where Does Tonic Come From?

Do you know where your tonic comes from?

The clear, bitter, refreshing cocktail we know as the Gin & Tonic today barely resembles the authentic origin of the drink. The G&T was born in British India in the mid-1800s for the purpose of basic human survival against a formidable foe- Malaria.


Authentic tonic originated in the Andes Mountains of South America, where the Quechua people of Peru used the bark of the Cinchona Tree to alleviate fever caused by malaria. Jesuit missionaries and Spanish colonialists helped to spur trade of the miraculous anti-malarial bark back to Europe in the 1700s, where treatments for Malaria at the time were limited to blood-letting and removal of limbs.

Worldwide demand for cinchona, the natural source of quinine, skyrocketed after its introduction into Europe. European colonialists wanted to cultivate a reliable source of cinchona to treat their soldiers, but production of the bark was limited to the Andes. Export of whole trees and seeds from Peru was strictly prohibited, but from the 1840s-1860s several enterprising Englishmen succeeded in smuggling cinchona tree seeds to Europe and cultivated them in modern-day Indonesia and India. 


With a reliable supply of cinchona, British soldiers of the British East India Company kept malaria at bay with a daily dose of ground quinine bark. Quinine bark on its own is incredibly bitter, so the soldiers concocted variations of tea to disguise the taste. They also were given a ration of navy strength gin, bottled at 57% alcohol by volume- boozy enough that if a bottle broke on the gunpowder, the gunpowder would still light. One day a soldier mixed his gin with his quinine tea and the first Gin & Tonic was born. 

Today, our tonic water falls short of the original, with natural ingredients being replaced with synthetic quinine and high fructose corn syrup. We’re trying to fix that. Our True Tonic Syrup is made from real cinchona bark and raw cane sugar, made into a spiced tea the way soldiers in British India made it in the 1840s. Pick up a bottle and bring back the real G&T.