“The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire,” said Winston Churchill. While this cannot be proven, we do know that the Gin & Tonic was created with medicinal purposes in mind. Furthermore, it may be the best way to cool off during a hot summer day.
Gin, itself, has it roots in war and medicine, and as far back as 1585, English soldiers were drinking Jenever – the juniper-flavored traditional liquor in the Netherlands, Belgium and adjoining areas of northern France and northwestern Germany that was the base for the creation of Gin – in Antwerp, while providing support for the Dutch as they fought the Spanish during the Eighty Years’ War. That’s actually where the term Dutch courage is believed to have originated.
During the early 17th Century, the distillation of a malt spirit with juniper, anise, caraway, and coriander became popular, and was sold in pharmacies to be used to treat medical problems such as kidney ailments, lumbago, stomach ailments, gallstones, and gout.
By the mid 17th Century, Gin had become widespread in England, but it was not until with mid-19th Century that the alcoholic beverage would intertwine itself with tonic.
Tonic, meanwhile, was initially infused heavily with quinine – an extract from the South American cinchona tree. Cinchona bark was first brought to Europe in the 1640s, when doctors learned it could be used to cure and prevent malaria, and, therefore, quickly became an intrinsic part of British colonialism.
In 1857, the British Crown took over the governance of India, and it was around that time that British officers in India took to adding a mixture of water, sugar, lime and gin to the quinine in order to make the drink more palatable, thus gin and tonic was born. As an added benefit, lime helps prevent scurvy.