Gin and tonic is arguably Britain’s favourite cocktail and one of the most popular in the world. In the last few years, consumption has skyrocketed and, served in countless, imaginative ways, it has become known as a sophisticated yet cool cocktail. It all began, however, centuries ago…
A DUTCH INVENTION
The name ‘gin’ comes from ‘genièvre‘, the French term for the juniper berry, and it is said that it was invented in 17th-century Leiden in the Netherlands by a professor of medicine called Franciscus Sylvius. He distilled the juniper berry with spirits, producing an inexpensive medicinal drink with diuretic properties that was very well received. By the middle of the century, there were about four hundred distilleries in Amsterdam alone. The British soldiers who were serving in the country tried gin, loved it and took it home. Its popularity quickly spread in England, causing a so-called ‘gin craze'. Many households made their own gin, and the excessive consumption became a serious social problem; it was known as ‘mother’s ruin’!
A GLASS A DAY...
In the 19th century, the British officials in India used to take quinine, a substance extracted from the cinchona tree, native to Peru, to prevent malaria. In fact, it is said that the Spanish colonists in America introduced this remedy in Europe after seeing indigenous peoples use it to treat fevers. But quinine was quite bitter and, to make it more palatable, the British dissolved it in water with sugar, creating an early form of tonic water. Schweppes soon introduced the Indian Quinine Tonic, advertising it as the daily dose of quinine that Winston Churchill himself encouraged people to take. It was only a matter of time before some spirit was added to the mixture, and soon gin and tonic became the perfect refreshment for Brits in the hot Indian climate.
THE 21st CENTURY GIN CRAZE
The worldwide success of gin and tonic has led to the rise of many new distillers and recipes; some bars even have a gin & tonic zone, with bartenders making them all night. Although the ingredients list has grown longer and longer, you really only need some gin, a a bottle of tonic water, some ice cubes and a wedge of lime to make your own G&T.