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Tonic water is today a very popular soft drink enjoyed by many people worldwide. It was first introduced to the United States in the 1950s, but it was originally patented in England in the 19th century. Since the word “tonic” sounds like something beneficial for the health, many people wonder what are the ingredients of this refreshing beverage.

What is tonic water?

Tonic water is a soft carbonated drink with quinine, which gives it its recognizable bitter aroma. It originated from colonial India, where the British troupes had many troubles with malaria. It was found in the 17th century that this dangerous disease can be prevented and cured with quinine, a substance obtained from the bark of a tree called Cinchona. Since quinine has a very intensive and extremely unpleasant taste, soldiers were reluctant to take it regularly, even though it could save their lives. Finally they found a way to consume it, after they mixed it with some gin, lemon and sugar.

After it was brought back in England, the main ingredients of tonic water were quinine, soda, water and gin.

Tonic water ingredients

Today it is a known fact that quinine can only help with the symptoms of malaria, like high fever, and that a successful treatment of this disease requires antibiotics. In fact, in order for tonic water to be a cure for malaria, one would need to drink 60 oz of it, which is a lot. Today the pharmaceutical companies produce quinine in stronger concentrations that those present in tonic water.

Today, tonic water does not contain enough quinine to prevent or cure malaria. Because it still contains some quinine, this beverage is called “tonic”, but it also has newer ingredients, recently added to it, like fruit aromas.

The ingredients of tonic water include spring water, natural quinine, sugar, citric acid, bitter herbs extracts, carbonated water, sodium citrate, fruit flavors, preservatives and saccharin.

Tonic water recipes

Gin tonic is not the only way to drink tonic water. It can be combined with other ingredients to slightly modify the taste and it can be made less bitter, since bitterness is the thing that keeps most of the people away from this beverage.

One great recipe requires one third of a glass of Indian tonic water, one third of lemon barley squash and one third of mango squash with ice cubes and a slice of lemon.

Another way to make it is to simply add sliced lime, orange and a few chunks of fresh pineapple to a glass of Indian tonic water.

Equal parts of Indian tonic water and fresh pineapple juice, with some halved maraschino cherries and a few slices of orange make a great combination too.

Another great beverage can be made by sprinkling some sugar over a cup of fresh strawberries, leaving them in the fridge overnight, and then putting them in a tall glass, topped with tonic water and ice cubes.

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