The Gin and Tonic, or the G&T, is one of the oldest and most popular cocktails the world over. Currently, in Britain alone, gin sales comprise over 40 million bottles per year. In Spain, the Gin and Tonic is the national drink, and a modern health craze has lifted the Skinny Gin to new levels of national attention here in the US. From the traditional Gin and Tonic to the Skinny Gin or the Gin and Bitters, the G&T has been a cocktail staple. Interestingly, its resounding popularity is nothing new; since its life-saving origins over 150 years ago, the G&T has been a smash hit.
The Gin and Tonic shares its history and roots with the creation of tonic water itself, dating back to the 1700s. During the British Empire's occupation of India, one of the greatest threats to British forces and Indian Natives was Malaria. This disease caused catastrophic damage for years until Spanish colonists discovered that the natives of what is now Peru used the bark of the Cinchona Tree to treat fevers and illnesses. This bark, once stripped, acted as an effective cure for Malaria. Later on, in the early 1800s, the French extracted the active ingredient from this bark, quinine powder, and quickly distributed it as a Malaria cure. It was potent enough to not only effectively treat Malaria but also prevent it. Because of this, quinine powder was then farmed en masse and distributed to soldiers, hospitals, and colonies worldwide.
Quinine then became a necessary part of daily life for countless people, namely British, French, Spanish, and Dutch soldiers; however, it was extremely bitter and unpleasant when consumed. Because of this, many British soldiers combined their quinine powder with soda water, lime, and sugar, creating the first precursor to what we know today as tonic water. At the same time, British soldiers were also given gin rations, so it only seems natural that the next step would be to spike their daily medicine with said gin rations; like this, the Gin and Tonic was born. Finally, these soldiers took their recipe home, spreading it like wildfire across Britain, France, Spain, and the US. Since then, the Gin and Tonic has seen endless experimentation; the Gin Sling, Gin and Bitters, the Pink Gin, and even an early form of the Gimlet were all formed in the mid to late 1800s thanks to the invention of the Gin and Tonic. Interestingly enough, while the quality of ingredients has undoubtedly improved over the years, the components of the Gin and Tonic have not changed all that much since its inception.
While the modern Gin and Tonic won't protect you from Malaria, it has been an important figure in the growing modern health movement. Many weight loss routines and diets advocate limiting calories and excess sugars; this push towards healthier living has resulted in cocktails, and alcoholic beverages as a whole, getting axed from many people's diets. Sadly, as it turns out, most cocktails are full of calories; cocktails average around the high 100's, like the Rum and Cola (Avg. 185 calories) or the Margarita (Avg. 170 calories), however, some can hit up to over 500 calories like the White Russian (Avg. 568 calories) or a Pina Colada (Avg. 526 calories). Because of this, those looking to try and slim down have either cut cocktails out of their lives entirely or turned to the classics like the Gin and Tonic.
A Gin and Tonic, like all cocktails, can vary calorically depending on your choice of Gin and Tonic Water. On average, the G&T ranges from 148-190 calories, the deciding factor being your choice of tonic water and other additives (like simple syrup or sweetened lime juice). So even as cocktails go, the G&T is one of the slimmest cocktails you can drink, right alongside the classic Highball (Avg. 146 calories) and the Mojito (Avg. 143 calories). In Japan they have even a specific Gin and Tonic called a Gin Sonic that is half the calories of a standard G&T. We have written previously on tha topic here.
For a great skinny Gin and Tonic, consider the following recipe:
Skinny Gin and Tonic
About half a cup of ice
1.5 oz. of Gin (we recommend Tanqueray Gin or Sipsmith Gin)
1.5 oz. of Top Note Indian Tonic Water
1 oz. of Club Soda
A healthy Squirt of Lime Juice
Several Thinly Cut Cucumber Slices
(optional) I have seen many recipes floating around that add rose water or other flavored aromatics; these bring no additional calories and add a great depth of flavor!
First, add the ice to your glass, then measure your Gin, Tonic Water, and Club Soda with a jigger (or small glass pitcher with oz. measurements); we also recommend chilling the gin, soda, and tonic water beforehand. Next, cut the lime in half, using one half to make a lime slice which will go over the side of the glass, and use the other half to give it a dash of juice. Then add your cucumber slices, gently stir, and enjoy!
From its start as a life saving medicinal mixture to a modern healthy favorite, the Gin and Tonic is one of the best cocktails out there. If you want to read more on the history of the G&T, check out this book, or if you want to try out some of our other favorite cocktails, check out our recipe catalog here.