The Gin and Tonic is one of the most popular drinks in England, if not the world. According to The Free Library, as of 2008, about 11,379,000 cases of gin were sold by the major manufacturers. That equates to 26,171,700 gallons. This, of course, is not counting smaller bottles or bigger bottles. The case size in question is 9 liters. Imagine that… A gallon of gin for every man, woman, and child in the combined populations of Greece and Holland (well, technically, the gin would fall about a million gallons short. But who’s counting when we get to numbers that high?). According to the same source, roughly 80% of that gin is estimated to be consumed with tonic water, making that famous cocktail. That is about 20,937,360 gallons of gin that is going into gin and tonics around the world. Granted, this is a very small number when compared to vodka, where the Russian consumption alone is between 2 and 4 BILLION liters per year, or 1.05 billion gallons at the high estimate.
Getting back to the juniper berry spirit, it had an auspicious 1650 beginning in Holland as a medicine intended to cure kidney ailments. Within 5 years, it was being commercially produced in England, due to the popularity of the spirit among British soldiers serving in North Europe. Within 100 years, the English are consuming 11 million gallons of gin per year, or roughly 2 gallons per man, woman, and child. That’s a lot of kidney medicine!
Similarly, Tonic Water was also originally intended as a medicine due to the inclusion of quinine as a main ingredient. Quinine has many medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory, antifever, pain-killing, and more importantly for this article, antimalarial. Soldiers with the British East India Company were serving in, you guessed it, India. A major problem for the company was malaria, and to combat this, tonic water was issued to the soldiers due to the malaria-fighting quinine. Unfortunately for the soldiers, quinine carries an incredibly bitter taste that was considered by many to be unbearable. In order to make the tonic water more palatable, and to prevent themselves from dying of malaria, the soldiers began introducing gin in order to diffuse the bitterness. Thus, the gin and tonic was born.
Tonic water ended up being patented as an alcohol mixer in 1858, and though there is no clear record when the gin and tonic was first mixed by the British soldiers, we can safely conclude that the gin and tonic is one of the oldest cocktails.
The way that this drink came together almost seems like the workings of destiny, with the gin being invented as a cure for kidney disorders, while the tonic water was put together to cure malaria. Though these two came about two hundred years apart from one another, it still reeks of coincidence that two medicines were combined together and formed to create one of the modern era’s most recreational drinks, which according to Miss Charming, enjoyed by the likes of Queen Elizabeth, and President Gerald Ford.