History’s cure-all cocktail, the gin and tonic, has its immediate origin in 19th century British India where, to stop the spread of mosquito-borne malaria, quinine was rationed to British colonists as a powdered drink called “Indian tonic water.” While saving countless lives, the tonic was too bitter for most drinkers, who searched for ways to mask the harsh taste. Gin quickly became the mixer of choice, thus creating the original gin and tonic.
Centuries before in early modern Holland, gin was believed to have medicinal properties of its own. Jenever, as the drink was called by the Dutch, was used to treat everything from gout to kidney stones, but eventually the the juniper-flavored spirit became more popular for recreational uses. During the Eighty Years War, when England joined Holland’s war for independence from Spain, gin’s popularity spread to the British infantry, who referred to the drink’s morale-boosting effects before combat as “Dutch Courage.”