A carbonated beverage with a slightly bitter taste, tonic water gets its distinctive flavor from quinine. It is usually flavored with sugar, lemon and lime, and can contain caffeine. Tonic water is often used for mixing in cocktails and perhaps the most common and universally popular alcoholic drink that includes tonic water is Gin and Tonic. Besides gin, vodka is also frequently added to tonic water. It also balances the taste of sweet alcohols like Vermouth.
Tonic water was first introduced in England sometime in the mid 19th century. In the middle of the 20th century, the company Schweppes introduced tonic water to the United States. Initially considered as a “tonic” that is essentially healthful, tonic water was first touted as a substance that can help prevent malaria, due to its quinine content. Tonic water does not have enough quinine, however, to reduce symptoms of malaria and was taken only as a preventive measure. Today, there is no definitive proof or evidence of the health benefits of tonic water, and consuming it regularly may not be advisable. Most tonic waters available in the market contain the same amount of sugar as most sodas. Nevertheless, the name stuck and remains popular.
When selecting good quality tonic water, choose one with minimal amount of flavor compounds, congeners, or agents. The best kinds of tonic water are clean, light-bodied and refreshing. Some manufacturers produce diet tonic water, which usually contains artificial sweeteners. Tonic water produced today also contains less quinine than classic varieties and thus tastes less bitter. They are also usually sweetened with sugar or corn syrup to make them taste more palatable and pleasurable.
Some like to add a squeeze of lemon or lime to tonic water to give it a tangy flavor, a drink that is known as bitter lemon or bitter lime. Popular cocktails that include tonic water include Margarita, Cosmopolitan, and Sidecar.