In the 1700s, when malaria was a problem in India and other tropical regions, doctors discovered that quinine — a medicinal alkaloid used as an ingredient in tonic water — could help prevent the disease.
The bitter taste of the cinchona tree bark proved unpleasant until the early 19th century when officers of the British East India Co. began to add water, sugar, lime and gin to the quinine. Today, tonic water, which contains little quinine, is the basis of the popular gin and tonic cocktail.
Typically, bartenders pour 2 ounces of gin and 5 ounces of tonic water over ice in a highball glass. Sometimes they add a garnish of lime. After that, it becomes a game of favorites for which gin to incorporate.
Most people are either Team Gin & Tonic, or not. To remedy the drink’s sometimes stiff and stereotyped allure, we asked local bartender Tee Grant to mix it up.
Grant, who tends bar at Houlihan’s, whipped up three delightful remixes of the classic highball cocktail. Enjoy these refreshing, earthy and sweet recipes.
Elderflower liqueur comes from the small, white star-shaped flower that blooms through the spring and summer. The floral notes of elderflower liqueur pair well with mint and cucumber for a surprisingly refreshing combination. The essence of the cucumber really pops against the gin and other ingredients, balancing the overall mix. This combination would be great for a hot summer day — or even when you’re just wishing for one.
1¼ ounces gin
1 ounce Thatcher’s Elderflower liqueur
6 mint sprigs
3 slices of cucumber
Mix together in a glass and top with tonic water.
This is a sweeter version of the gin and tonic with a pleasing cilantro flavoring.
2 ounces gin
3 tablespoons brown sugar (or agave nectar)
2 lime wedges
4 tablespoons cilantro leaves
Muddle the brown sugar and lime; add gin and cilantro leaves and shake. Double-strain the mixture into a Collins glass and top with tonic and ginger ale. You can substitute the brown sugar with agave nectar if you prefer a different sort of sweetness.
Grant says she is not a big fan of sweet drinks, but “I feel like most of the clientele that I work with love the sweet and fruity drinks. With that in mind I thought a twist of a strawberry or cherry limeade would be a nice addition to this classic cocktail.”
¾ ounce cherry or strawberry syrup
1¼ ounces gin
Muddle the limes and syrup. Add gin and top with tonic water.