Tonic water’s star is in the ascendant as demand for quality continues to grow
IT was prime minister Winston Churchill who once quipped that gin and tonic had saved more lives in the empire than all of its doctors combined.
While these days the remark is seen as a bit of fun, the drink does have its roots in 19th century preventative medicine, when quinine was used to combat malaria.
The gin category has, of course, seen incredible innovation in the last decade with seemingly innumerable distilleries popping up across Scotland helping the spirit to prosper.
But tonic has enjoyed its own renaissance, with soft drinks firms matching the innovation of distillers with new craft tonics designed to complement the growing range of flavour profiles on offer in the gin market.
With so many flavours now available bar and pub operators have been advised to match any gin range with an equally broad range of tonics and mixers.
Tonics are now seen as the impartial voice of what pairs well with spirits.
“With the growth in the gin industry the premium tonic mixer category has also increased,” said Andrew Jackson, marketing director at Fentimans.
“Consumers are becoming more educated and interested in not only the gin on offer but also the tonic water used and with an ever-increasing range of gins using diverse botanicals it is important for operators to list a breadth of variety in tonic water so they have options available to them.”
Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners, agreed.
Burgess said that offering customers a choice is an obligation rather than an indulgence in today’s licensed trade.
“As with most soft drinks categories, consumers are always looking for choice and (CGA) research shows that 63% of people drink more than one mixer brand,” she said.
“Good quality standard mixers remain the biggest sellers as consumers choose classic brands they know and trust as their go-to option.”
In fact, some premium tonic water brands are said to be acquiring a strong customer loyalty of their own.
Franklin & Sons’ head of marketing, Jen Draper, said tonic water has been a “key driver” for growth in spirits as a whole.
She said: “We forecast that ‘and tonic’ is a growing category that pushes spirits’ popularity in a role reversal to the usual scenario.
“Tonics are now seen as the impartial voice of what pairs well with spirits and at the spirit festivals we attend; we are asked by a huge number of consumers what spirit they pair with their favourite tonic, while not long ago it would have been the other way around.”
Trade and consumers are using their knowledge of tonic to move into other categories.
It’s fair to say while gin and tonic may always be a staple in bars, it would be wrong to assume the relationship is exclusive, as Draper pointed out that tonic water is suitable for mixing with various spirits.
“Both trade and consumers are using their knowledge of tonic to experiment and move into other categories,” said Draper.
“This has led to a new focus on ‘and tonic’ serves, broadening into other spirit categories.”
Pointing to a resurgence in sales of the classic vodka tonic in the on-trade as well as serves such as port and tonic and tequila and tonic, Draper said there are clear financial opportunities to be seized by operators if they introduce a selection of quality tonic waters in their outlets.
“All of these [drinks] are great ways to increase consumer spend in venues as well as provide cross category activity that may not have previously been thought possible,” she said.
“As a result, we think mixing with tonic provides venues with more consumption occasions and therefore increases rate of sale.”
50ml Blackwoods Gin
25ml tonic water
3 cucumber slices
15ml rosemary syrup
10ml lime juice
Splash of soda
Method: muddle the cucumber, rosemary syrup and lime juice in a cocktail shaker with cubed ice. Add Blackwoods Gin and shake. Strain into a highball glass, add tonic and top with soda. Garnish with rosemary sprig and lime wedge.
Pink Gin & Tonic
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
Schweppes Slimline Tonic Water
Maldon sea salt
Method: pour gin in a highball glass. Add cubed ice and top with tonic water. Garnish with a slice of pink grapefruit and Maldon sea salt on the rim of the glass.
White Port and Tonic
50ml Martins de Sa’ White Port
Franklin & Sons Natural Indian Tonic water
Method: fill up a tall glass with ice. Add white port before the tonic and stir. Add lemon slice before garnishing with a sprig of mint.