Which tonic would you like? A question that is asked again and again in a good bar around the globe today. Of course, the good bartender recommends the right tonic from his point of view. Guests want the perfect mix of GIN and tonic. The GIN market has grown steadily and continuously over the last 20 years and it still continues to grow…. There are many GINlovers who have several different bottles and brands at home.
Monkey 47 Dry GIN – Distillers Cut (Special Editionen)
The right filler
Like ginger beer, ginger ale, bitter lemon and sometimes cola, tonic is part of the filler market. This market is seemingly infinitely large, if you only think of all the GIN tonics that cross the counters every day. What at first glance seems to be a large volume market, becomes on closer inspection a competitive market for perhaps 20-25% market share for the premium fillers mostly in small glass bottles from 125ml to 230ml. If we take the tonic market of a country as 100, about 75-80% is accounted for by fillers in PET bottles. It doesn’t matter which brand they come from, because after the second opening, the tonic in PET unfortunately loses too much carbonic acid to be considered premium for the second sip. If the guest wants a perfect tonic to go with his GIN, then the bartender serves him a premium tonic.
A tonic lane in the conventional sense
The history of tonic water starts shortly after the beginning of the 19th century. At that time, the European powers were opening up their colonies and British soldiers in particular were struggling with malaria in India. To alleviate the symptoms, doctors gave them quinine to take with them on their journey. Quinine is extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree and it was processed so that the soldiers could take a water-soluble powder with them. Finally, quinine was only useful after being taken several times a day. Since quinine is extremely bitter in taste, the soldiers mixed a little sugar with soda water. This was the birth of today’s tonic water. Today’s tonic waters differ in the amount of sugar, the type of carbonic acid and the type of quinine. Also from this time originates the GIN and tonic, because the soldiers did not like to drink only the bitter quinine daily so they gave GIN to it, this they had for a long time on their travels and conquests with them.
The medical approach
The healing effect of quinine was discovered earlier – for the first time in 1638. “Condesa de Chinchón”, the wife of the Spanish Viceroy in Peru, was ill with malaria. The Incas brought her the healing medicine, which, unfortunately, still did not save her from the destruction of her own people. In honor of the Condesa de Chincón, the saving tree was eventually renamed Chinchona tree or, in German, Chinin or cinchona tree.
Cinchona trees are in high demand
As a result, the bark of the tree was a sought-after commodity in Europe, but it could only be obtained from Peru, as the export of the seeds from the country was not permitted. Due to the high demand in the colonies, the price increased so much that it was weighed out with gold in the meantime – and the quinine tree was on the verge of extinction.
The dealer and smuggler
The smuggler Charles Ledger succeeded in 1862 to bring seeds of the quinine tree from Peru. He sold them to the highest bidder, which in this case was the Dutch government. The Dutch government planted the quinine tree on a large scale in Indonesia.
Since there were practically no quinine trees left in Peru, over 90% of the quinine production came from Indonesia until 1940. These were attacked and partially destroyed by the Japanese during the 2nd World War. Since the Americans were in hotbeds of malaria, the government had research done to develop synthetic quinine. This succeeded and had a great influence on the quinine products, not only that they became cheaper, no the recipes had to be completely rewritten.
During the GIN boom, consumers developed an awareness of quality. Today, there are again some tonic water producers who obtain their quinine in a natural way. One of these producers is Aqua Monacao, which only launched a complete organic filler series at the end of 2018.