National Gin and Tonic Day
annually on April 9th
The gin and tonic is a simple cocktail that consists of gin, tonic water, and more often than not a lime wedge garnish. Although, there are more adventurous takes on the drink where various other herbs and fruit are used as ingredients as well. On National Gin and Tonic Day we raise our glasses and celebrate this refreshing libation.
During the seventeenth century, Spanish explorers found the inhabitants of present-day Peru treating fevers with cinchona bark, which has quinine as its active ingredient. They brought the bark to Europe to treat malaria and found it prevented the disease as well. India became a British colony in 1857, and colonists, soldiers, and passers-through often had to deal with malaria there, so they took quinine to help them survive.
The quinine was bitter so it was diluted in sugar water and soda water. The first commercial tonic water, which was infused with quinine, debuted in 1858. In 1870, Schweppes began selling "Indian Quinine Tonic" and marketed it to British who were overseas who were being encouraged to take quinine daily. This tonic water had more quinine in it than the tonic waters of today. It was soon being imbibed in the homeland.
A precursor to gin is genever, which was created in seventeenth-century Holland and made with juniper, as well as with botanicals like coriander seed and star anise. The British became aware of it when fighting on Dutch land during the Thirty Years' War. They brought it home and the creation of gin followed. During the late nineteenth century, when gin was rising in popularity, British colonists and soldiers in India mixed it with Schweppes Indian Quinine Tonic and the gin and tonic was born.
By World War I, gin and tonics were staples in British clubs and bars. In Post World War II America, they became a favorite of the country club set. But they receded to the background when classic cocktails lessened in popularity in the 1970s and '80s, and when gin took a backseat to vodka as the clear spirit of choice. But the gin and tonic reemerged in the twenty-first century, and we celebrate it today on National Gin and Tonic Day.