The Life Saving Gin and Tonic that Kept British Empire Healthy

drinks gin history recipe recipes tonic

The venerable “G and T” is much beloved amongst drinkers young and old, despite critics’ claim that its taste resembles pine needles. Leave the tree chewing naysayers to themselves and pour another. The gin and tonic has, in its two hundred years of existence, never been out of style.

Gin and Tonic

Winston Churchill even once declared, “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.” This might seem preposterous, or even a good jest, but would Churchill lie to you? It all began in an exotic, far off land.

India: the jewel of the British Empire. While Britain colonized this vast country throughout the 19th century, a large part of travelers and colonists suffered from malaria. The fever has a history of ravaging scores of Europeans, but in the 17th century the Spanish discovered that indigenous peoples in present-day Peru used a bark to treat various fevers. A bark stolen off the cinchona tree became a favored treatment for malaria in Europe. It was soon learned that it not only treated malaria, it worked preventatively.

Gin and Tonic History

The active ingredient within the bark, quinine, became a powerful weapon for the British Empire, as it allowed its soldiers to rule in distant lands. However, there was one problem. Quinine powder was intensely bitter and hard to swallow. Naturally, the Brits diluted it in sugar water and “tonic water” in its earliest form was born.

Not long after the widespread popularity of quinine Schweppes introduced in 1870 the “Indian Quinine Tonic”, targeting the growing population of Brits overseas who were encouraged to take a daily dose of quinine. Eventually tonic found its way back to the motherland as a healthy beverage.

Gin liquor was also rising in popularity in the 19th century. It was only a matter of time and opportunity before a colonist decided to take his Indian Quinine Tonic with a glass of gin. Could there be a better place than the hot tropics of India to enjoy a cool, refreshing provision as the gin and tonic?

The gin and tonic rose in popularity for its delicious palate and purpose. And soon after Churchill was quoted for its life saving properties. It’s also perfectly simple to make with only two ingredients and a lime wedge for freshness. Measure two ounces of gin in a cute jigger like this into a glass with ice. Top it off with your “Indian Quinine Tonic” and garnish with a lime wedge.

Make sure to have a glass or two. It’s good for your health, after all.

Gin and Tonic Drinks

Gin & Tonic Recipe


  • 2 oz. gin
  • 3 oz. tonic water
  • 1 lime wedge


  1. Fill glass with ice
  2. Add gin, top with tonic and garnish with a lime wedge


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