Why Not All Brands of Tonic Are Equal

Why Not All Brands of Tonic Are Equal

Megan Gordon
Jun 14, 2013

When we make a gin and tonic in our house, the question inevitably arises: do we use the good gin or the mixing gin? I usually land on the side of mixing gin because the tonic flavor often overpowers the nuance of our more expensive gin. The one thing we rarely consider? The brand or type of tonic we use. Tonic is just tonic, right? 

Nope, as Maureen also mentions today, tonic is all-important and can vary widely. As a recent article The New York Times says too, tonic is most certainly not just tonic. In fact, writer Eric Asimov states, "Tonic’s flavors are assertive, easily discernible and crucial to the composition. Without it, a gin and tonic is simply a bad martini." So what makes a good tonic? 

First, it's important to determine what exactly is tonic? While most recipes are proprietary, the one thing that most tonics share is the key ingredient, quinine, which was originally used for medicinal purposes. In a blind taste test, Asimov found that the easy-to-find Schwepps brand came in first with Fentimans and Q coming in at a close second. 

What differentiates each? The amount (and type) of sugar, the distinct botanicals used, and the amount of botanicals. In the same way that you may prefer an herbal or floral gin, it you choose a tonic that you love the taste of, you'll be a much happier gin and tonic drinker. Hands down.

Do you have a favorite store-bought tonic? I'd love to hear about it. 

Read More: Giving the Second Ingredient Its Due by Eric Asimov for The New York Times

(Images: Faith Durand)

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