When it comes to enjoying a delicious gin and tonic, the tonic water is (almost) as important as the gin. While the gin is undoubtedly the star of the show, the tonic has the important job of complementing your gin, regardless of whether you like the bold flavor of Bombay Sapphire or the classic dry flavor of Beefeater. That means that your tonic has to add its own distinct flavor, without having an overpowering effect on the delicate flavor of gin.
There are a lot of bubbly waters, but the detail that sets tonic water apart is the presence of quinine. Quinine is derived from the bark of a cinchona tree, and it has historically been used as an antimalarial drug. Tonic water was issued to the British army to stave of malaria, but the soldiers found the flavor so unpalatable that they mixed it with gin. The chemicals in the botanicals that make up gin so happen to complement those in quinine, making this one of the happiest accidental discoveries in history.
These days, the amount of quinine in tonic water is much, much smaller, so loading up on gin and tonics won’t do you any favors in preventing malaria. But this drink has weathered the years for the simple reason that it’s delicious. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the best tonic waters that you can buy.
1. Fever-Tree Tonic Water
Fever-Tree’s Indian Tonic Water is made by blending naturally occurring fruit sugars and subtle citrus and fruit notes with spring water to give this tonic its distinctively clean taste. All ingredients in this tonic water are naturally sourced and contain no artificial sweeteners, flavorings or preservatives.
Pros: This premium mixer works perfectly in a gin and tonic or as a sophisticated soft drink on its own.
Cons: The smaller bottle requires a bottle opener.
Fever-Tree Tonic Water
2. Schweppes Tonic Water
Serving a lot of G+Ts? This tonic water from Schweppes is a great and economical way to get the party started right. There are six bottles included, and each bottle is 33 ounces. Schweppes doesn’t have the most distinct flavor, but that’s not necessarily a mark against it — it’s a great way to let the flavors of a good gin shine through. After all, the tonic should always play second fiddle to the gin.
Pros: Economical option. Made with real quinine. Versatile flavor that works with a variety of gins.
Cons: Bottles are on the large end, so it may not be ideal for solo drinkers, because the bottle might go flat before it can be finished.
Schweppes Tonic Water
3. Q Mixers Q Tonic Spectacular Tonic Water
Q Mixers Tonic Water uses extra carbonation to create a drink that stays fizzier longer. This tonic water also has a sharp flavor and it is much less sweet allowing the premium alcohol taste to shine through. Made with real quinine from Peru, Q Mixers also uses organic agave to create its unique taste and is also available at some of the most discerning bars and restaurants around the country.
Pros: This tonic water contains no GMO’s, artificial flavors or preservatives.
Cons: Flavor is distinct, and some may feel that it overpowers the gin.