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TONIC BOOM

Tarquins-Pink-Gin
Tarquins-Pink-Gin

On World Gin Day (June 11) or any other day of the year, if asked to draw up a list of the world’s great humanitarians who have served humanity and left the world a better place, you would have to include a German jeweller and an iron puddler from Cleckheaton in Yorkshire.

And the man who discovered oxygen.

And a man called Bond.

Erasmus Bond.

Patenting his “improved aerated tonic water” in 1858, he popularized “Jesuit bark” and is the father of the modern effervescence movement.

In 1767, “impregnating water with fixed air”- Joseph Priestly – the man who discovered oxygen- suspended a bucket of water above a local brewery’s fermentation vat in Leeds. England. He found that doing so resulted in refreshing water which with lime was used to help sailors fight scurvy.

He called it “Pyrmont Water” and effused about its “special spirit and virtues”.

German Johann Jacob Schweppe was you know who…

The man who founded “Schweppes” in Geneva in 1783 and commercialized carbonated “Malvern Water.”

In 1905, Yorkshireman Thomas Fentiman, came up with the idea of botanically brewed ginger beer. Further popularizing carbonated beverages. His drinks were first stored in ‘grey hen’ stone jars portraying his dog ‘Fearless’ who was a Cruft’s champion.

Now, the Northumberland-based family business is more famous for its chic “Pink Grapefruit” and hyssop and myrtle botanical tonic waters, hip sparkling infusions and trendy,” surprisingly nuanced” “Rose Lemonade” mixers.With other enterprising mixologists, “Fentiman’s” is aiding the new cock and mocktail generation.

Mixers are booming. Tonic sales are picking up. The tonic water industry is bubbling worldwide. We are becoming more tonic literate.

In seventeenth century Peru, Spanish colonists discovered a treatment for malaria using quinaquina tree bark. A concoction saved the the viceroy’s wife’s life. In 1632, Jesuit missionary Barnabe de Cobo made the first trans-Atlantic delivery and the medicinal ground bark became known as both “Countess’s powder” and “Jesuit’s powder”.

British officers in India devised a way to make their bitter, daily anti-malarial prophylactic more pleasurable. It helped the medicine go down. The French developed “Dubonnet” for the same reason.

Bottles of sweetened quinine water soon appeared. By 1840, the British in India were annually consuming 700 tonnes of the health-giving bark.

At one point, the cost of “fever tree” powder was literally worth its weight in gold. In 1862, Charles Ledger smuggled Cinchona seedlings out of Peru and sold them to the Dutch government. Holland set up large plantations in Java, their colony in Indonesia. Until World War II, Indonesia supplied almost 95% of the world’s quinine.

By World War l, the Dutch monopolized the quinine trade. Today most natural quinine comes from Africa, particularly the Congo/ Rwanda border.

By law, tonic water must contain less than one-tenth of a gram of quinine per liter. Quinine is thought to be beneficial in stimulating digestion and easing muscle cramps.

There are now many go-to artisanal tonics made by the likes of “Fever Tree”, “Square Root” in Hackney m Matt Mahatme and Jordan Palmer’s Lixir and Nick Crispini and Lawrence Mason’s Bermondsey Mixer Co based in an old antique shop. They sell south American quinine in ready-to-drink or syrup form.

This is the form quinine would have been originally drunk by the British in India,” says film graduate-turned-tonic meister Mason.

Merchant’s Heart” (2015) offers carbonated “pink peppercorn” (try with Martin Miller’s) and “hibiscus” (good with “Pinkster”) enhancers.

Staffordshire’s “Franklin& Sons (1886) is still respected and recommended by many of the new gin makers. Natural is better than synthetic.

The supposedly superior heritage makes have been shaken up by the new boys. And have had to adapt and innovate. Bubbles are popping up everywhere.

Spanton-Tonic
Spanton-Tonic

Peter Spanton makes chocolate as well as cardamom and lemongrass tonics. “I had given up alcohol and was searching for a drink

Cushie1
Cushie

In Scotland , there is Andrew Ligertwood’s Cushiedoos Superior Tonic” , named after Scottish wood pigeons. One sits proudly on the cap of every bottle.

Cushiedoos” is a blend of Scottish heather and silver birch, with yellow gentian and wormwood for bitterness and British sugar beet for sweetness. It is sourced from artisan springs on Deeside in the Cairngorms National Park.

I think that quinine can spoil the taste of your drink so we don’t use it and instead use better quality and healthy ingredients. Quinine tends to dry the palate. And you can’t catch malaria from Scottish midges. So what’s the point of quinine!”

lixir
lixir

The idea came from a romantic dinner out at the Knockendarroch Restaurant in Pitlochry with his wife Gilly, who runs her own bespoke bed linen business. .

The menu was Scottish but when my wife and I asked for a G&T , our Scottish craft gin came with a bottle of Sssh-you-know-what ( Schweppes)! That was the moment I decided Scotland deserved its own special tonic with Scottish water and wildy-foraged Scottish botanicals like silver birch and heather, now from Wester Ross and yellow gentian and wormwood from the Secret Herb Garden on the outskirts of Edinburgh

“Cushiedoos is more mountain stream than mainstream.”

Twelve Below”, based at Hughenden Valley in the Chiltern Hills, Buckinghamshire, offers “the first 100% natural, genuinely low sugar tonic”. Ingredients are inspired by founder Melanie McNeilly’s garden. Her co-founder is Ross Smethurst who worked for many years within the diabetes sector. At 12 calories per 100ml their low sugar tonics and mixers are sweetened by organic agave. They contain no artificial preservatives or sweeteners.

Former letting agent Melanie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and spent 2017 on the sofa having treatment and recovering.  Part of her recovery was to embrace a healthier lifestyle, which led to her completing her first Triathlon in 2018 and becoming so inspired that she qualified as a Triathlon coach with a desire to motivate and support other complete novices in the sport.  At the same time adopting a healthy diet was important in particular, reducing sugar intake, which has been linked with combating cancer. 

Bored with lime sodas, I started to drink tonic water as a soft drink but was amazed at how much sugar was in them – sometimes equivalent to that found in a Coke!

BTW1
BTW

The light, diet and slimline versions were either not that low in sugar (just 30% less than standard versions) or contained artificial sweeteners leaving a nasty aftertaste.  So we set about researching a natural sugar which they could use to develop a range of genuinely low sugar tonics. To be classified as a low sugar drink, it should contain less than 2.5g of sugar per 100ml.  Then we began creating some British flavour combinations whilst researching natural sugars. 

Organic agave works really well in the tonic.”

Sir Winston Churchill claimed gin and tonic saved “more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.”

He also advised against adulterating gin. “Glance at the vermouth bottle very briefly while pouring the juniper distillate.”

TEN NEW OR PERHAPS UNFAMILIAR GINS TO TRY WITH TONIC

Terlingham Vineyards Bacchus Dry Gin , Kent.

Adnams Copper House, Suffolk

Fortnum & Mason Spirit of George

Artinstalls
Artinstalls

Artingstall’s Brilliant London Gin

Tarquin’s Dry Pink Gin, Cornwall

Whitley Neil’s Peach Gin, London

Henley Distillery Rhubarb and Orange, Berkshire

Cambridge Distillery’s 10TH anniversary Spring/Summer

No3-Gin
No3-Gin

No 3 London Gin

One Gin Crisp Apple which supports The One Foundation, a charity with a mission to provide sustainable water to the world’s poorest communities. It has raised £25 million and changed the lives of 4 million people. It is working to address the needs of the 785 million people around the world who are still without access to safe water.  

One-Gin
One-Gin