Tonic water is also known as Indian tonic water.

It’s a carbonated soft drink that quinine is dissolved in. Its original use was as a prophylactic to combat malaria. Nowadays, the quinine content is far lower than it once was. Modern consumption is often just for the unique bitter taste, where it sees the application in mixed drinks, such as the gin and tonic.

Quinine got added to this drink as a prophylactic so it could be useful against malaria. It was intended originally to be consumed in the tropics of Africa and South Asia where the particular disease is endemic.

British Officials stationed in early 19th-century India, among other tropical spots around the globe, found the quinine powder so bitter that they started mixing with sugar and soda to create a basic tonic water. Tonic water was commercialized in 1858 production, and the gin and tonic mixed drink started in British colonial India where British individuals mixed gin with their medicinal quinine tonic.

More than three tonic syrups have seen United States release since 2010, allowing consumers the chance to mix the syrup with carbonated water to make tonic water. It gives consumers the power to vary the intensity of their flavour.

Tonic Water | Strange Love

Medicinal tonic water in its original form only had carbonated water with copious amounts of quinine.

Modern tonic water has a lot less quinine though, as it sees use more for flavour than medicine. As a result, it’s far less bitter. It’s also typically sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.

Many manufacturers additionally produce slimline or diet tonic water using artificial sweeteners like aspartame. The traditional tonic water style of just quinine with carbonated water is far less common, but anyone craving the bitter flavour can still find it.

The quinine content of tonic water is restricted to 83 parts per million in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration.

This equates to 83 mg per later when the calculation is done by mass. However, therapeutic doses of quinine are often in the 500 to 1000 mg range. Malaria prevention often requires 10mg/kg each eight-hour period to effectively prevent malaria, which equates to 2100 mg per day for a 70 kg adult.

Tonic water is sometimes a recommendation for relieving leg cramps, although medical studies do indicate that care is needed in monitoring the actual doses. The FDA warns consumers not to use quinine drugs for ‘off-label’ uses such as treating leg cramps, largely due to the risks of quinine.


Modern uses of tonic water often include being a drink mixer in cocktails.

More recently, particularly anything with vodka or gin, such as a vodka tonic or a gin and tonic. Tonic water with lemon flavour added to it is often known as bitter lemon, whereas added lime flavour is known as bitter lime.

The presence of quinine means that tonic water will actually fluoresce when underneath the ultraviolet light. In fact, quinine is so sensitive to ultraviolet light, that it can appear fluorescent to the naked human eye even in direct sunlight.

Tonic water, syrups, and related supplies are for sale in many brick and mortar retailers and grocery stores, with further options available online.