Tonic talk: The premiumisation of mixers

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For years, tonics and mixers have been dominated by the soft drink giant Schweppes, however like so many areas of the industry, the Ginveloution has not only changed the way we perceive the spirit, but also heightened the focus on the lowly tonic mixer. More options on the market can only be seen as a good thing, but where did it begin, what do alternative tonics offer and how is the industry innovating?

Where did it begin?

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Named after the colloquial title of the Cinchona tree that produces the main ingredient in tonic, quinine, Fever Tree has been changing attitudes since 2005 when it first launched. Initially looking to start a gin distillery, Charles Rolls brought his background running Plymouth Gin and with the aid of Tim Warrillow and his knowledge of luxury food marketing, came to the conclusion that the poor choice of mixers that was holding back the mighty G&T. Then came an epic journey to source the highest quality ingredients. This involved venturing to the unstable Democratic Republic of Congo for quinine or scouring the slopes of Mount Etna for the best lemons Sicily has to offer.

Taking a craft approach to the humble tonic was a game changer and the industry has not been the same since. Now Fever Tree is served in 9 out of 10 of the top restaurants in the world and in just over a decade it has become synonymous with quality. Paving the way for other premiumised mixers, it is a success story that many aspire to.

Alternative tonics and what they offer

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Fever Tree has led the charge towards high quality and craft mixers though it is not alone and since the initial success, many other companies have joined the premiumisation bandwagon. The different flavour profiles with each tonic are perfectly matched to the distinct gin categories and can subtly enhance the flavour of the spirit.

Poacher’s premium Irish tonic water

Poacher’s is a pure taste of Ireland and the team are keen to not only source as many ingredients as locally as possible, but to also maintain the quality and attention they have become known for. The Poacher’s range includes a classic and citrus tonic water along with a ginger ale, but with pairing and garnish suggestions readily available, they are championing their Irish heritage.

BTW Drinks LTD

For a taste of tradition, opt for a tonic by BTW Drinks LTD. Standing for Bermondsey Tonic Water, and in London, the undisputed home of gin, a restauranteur and bar opener decided to create a tonic that didn’t quash all personality from a gin using traditional Victorian recipe. The BTW tonic is simple, stripped back and the perfect enhancement to many gins.

Merchant’s Heart

It is often touted that there is a gin to suit every palate, and now the same can be said of tonics. As the popularity has grown, so has the range of flavours available. For people seeking alternative flavours to enhance their favourite gin, Merchant’s Heart has a range of both classic and contempory choices. The Hibiscus Tonic is floral and refreshing and is best suited to a citrus gin while the Pink Peppercorn Tonic should be paired with an aromatic, spicy gin.

How is the industry innovating?

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Tonics that have been stagnant for decades are no longer sitting on their laurels and are looking at interesting pairings beyond the G&T. for those less enamoured with mother’s ruin, there have been many experiments with alternative spirits giving us some inspiration for our favourite summer cocktails.

T&T (tequila and tonic) proves there is more to tequila than a cheap shot. Tequila is best paired with a lemon tonic to mimic the infamous tequila slammer but in a mature and refined manner of a long drink. This is perfect for those looking for an alternative to the sweet drinks available.

Lanique is a rose liqueur made from an age old recipe and can be overly sweet, however when paired with a quinine tonic it becomes a perfect tipple for those who love all the beautiful trimmings of a G&T, but don’t like gin. Pale pink in colour, it is instantly Instagrammable but at 39% ABV it still packs a punch.

In line with the recent sugar tax, many tonics have around 9g of sugar per 100ml which puts them up for a 24p price increase per litre. Long before this came into effect, many companies were already looking at offering lower sugar or slim line tonics and these have continued to be popular in our health-conscious society.