International Gin and Tonic Day
annually on October 19th (since 2010)
Jayne Withers on October 19th, 2010
Nicola Billington on October 19th, 2010
International Gin and Tonic Day celebrates gin and tonics and honors Mary Edith Keyburn, a gin and tonic lover who passed away in a hospital at the age of 95, on October 19, 2010, with her favorite drink by her side. The gin and tonic had been smuggled in in a water bottle and was being served in a teacup. Two of Mary Edith's grandchildren, Jayne and Nicola, came up with the idea for International Gin and Tonic Day, on which gin and tonics are toasted and drunk in Mary Edith's memory. The International Gin and Tonic Day Facebook page hosts a virtual party each year. Participants post photos of themselves with a gin and tonic in the year's Facebook event and share what country they are celebrating in. Photos of celebrants from around the world illustrate the "international" nature of the day. After ten years of observances, the day was being celebrated in 25 countries.
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. 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 International Gin and Tonic Day, and honor one of its great proponents, Mary Edith Keyburn!
How to Observe International Gin and Tonic Day
Make yourself a classic gin and tonic or try a variation of the drink. You could also have a gin and tonic at one of the world's best gin bars or another bar. Make sure to check for gin and tonic specials being offered for the day at any bar you stop at. You should also go to the International Gin and Tonic Day Facebook page and RSVP to this year's virtual event. Post a photo of yourself with your gin and tonic during the event, and mention what country you are celebrating in. Then, make a toast to Mary Edith Keyburn before you take your first sip!