Best tonic water: Make a cracking cocktail with these excellent tonics

 

Perfect mixers that will suit your G&T to a T

We can thank our colonial ancestors for tonic water. Nineteenth-century Brits stationed in India were prescribed medicinal quinine to ward off malaria – and found that the bitter stuff was a lot more palatable when mixed with sweetened fizzy water and a dose of gin. Thus was born a sundowner classic, and the drink has become a pre-dinner staple at home as well as overseas.

There’s never been a single definitive recipe for tonic water, however. Today, it can be found in an increasing variety of styles and flavours. So which will best suit your choice of gin (or vodka)? We’ve sipped our way through the mixer aisle to find out.

How to buy the best tonic water

The classic tonic water recipe combines sugar, quinine and carbonated water for a distinctive bitter-sweet taste. The quinine is still crucial, but is no longer added in medicinal doses and today simply adds flavour.

Flavoured tonic water: For almost as long as tonic water has been around, it’s been offered in citrus-flavoured variants (the first bitter lemon mixer was produced in 1834). Lime, grapefruit and orange are all popular, adding a refreshing sweet-sour tang that complements the bitter quinine notes and offsets the dryness of gin.

Tonic water with botanicals: Herbs and edible flowers – such as thyme, rosemary, lime flower and myrtle – add subtle hints of flavour to the standard tonic taste. These tonics mix well with neutral flavours such as vodka or a simple dry gin.

Low-calorie tonic water: Plenty of tonics are offered in a slimline variant – but bartenders recommend avoiding artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, as these have an aftertaste of their own that conflicts with the flavour of the quinine. If you’re watching your figure, try a light tonic water with natural fructose instead.

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