Types of Tonic water explained

The Different types of Tonic Water

By Timo Torner / Last updated on October 27, 2022 

First published on October 24, 2022 

Tonic water is a popular mixer for spirits like Gin or Vodka. But choosing the right type of tonic is a challenge, but it can make your cocktail even better.

Tonic water and soda water are often confused. However, they are far from the same as tonic water is flavored and sweetened with special syrup.

One of the main components of this tonic syrup is quinine, which gets extracted from the cinchona bark. This powdery substance provides a distinct bitter taste.

Depending on the other ingredients in the syrup, taste, sweetness, and bitter notes will change.

Nowadays, there are many different types of tonic water, which can be divided into various categories. Common varieties are Indian tonic, Dry or light tonic, Herbal tonic, and Mediterranean tonic water.

But it doesn't stop with that. There are many other, more exotic types worth trying. So, here's our guide to the different options of tonic water.

The main types of Tonic

Indian tonic water is still the bestselling type of tonic. It has the typical flavor profile you'd expect. At least if you opt for a premium craft tonic.

Cheaper bottles are often too sweet as they don't contain enough quinine and lack the necessary bitterness.

Therefore, I will focus exclusively on premium tonics in this article. After all, we want a worthy mixer for our Gin.

Classic or Indian Tonic Water

Classic and Indian tonic water are the exact same thing. Depending on the brand, it's either sold as one or the other.

These tonic waters tend to contain more quinine and sugar and are the standard choice for drinks like a G&T. -I'm also an advocate of the opinion that you can pair any Gin perfectly with either Indian tonic or Mediterranean tonic water.

Due to their pronounced and dominant bitter taste, classic or Indian tonics are a great fit for traditional Dry Gins or London Dry Gins. The high level of bitterness pairs exceptionally well with strong juniper flavors.

Dry or Light Tonic Water

Dry or light tonics are also more or less two names for the same thing and are just a matter of branding. Both typically contain less to no sugar, making them a slim alternative to classic tonic water.

Dry tonic has a similar flavor profile to Indian tonic but is significantly less sweet. That ultimately still leads to a slightly different taste - and to fewer calories, as well.

Most Dry or light tonic waters contain only about half the calories of regular options.

Mediterranean Tonic Water

Mediterranean tonic water was first introduced to the mass market by Fever-Tree. What started as a niche product is now one of the most popular types of tonic.

Other brands began replicating the flavors once they realized what a massive success it was. This mild-flavored tonic is infused with Mediterranean herbs, which pair well with a whole variety of Gins.

The best fits are, the clue is in the title, maritime and Meditteranean Gins like Gin Mare, Edinburgh Seaside, or Gin Sul.

Herbal Tonic Water

Herbal tonic waters offer a wide range of herbal flavors, and you could also treat the Mediterranean version as a subtype of herbal tonics.

Besides Fever-Tree, other important producers of tonic water, like Schweppes or Fentimans, also offer their own take on herbal tonic water.

For those who like to try a herbal Gin & Tonic, I recommend combining Fentimans Herbal tonic water with Canadian Ungava Gin and comparing it to Ungava with a classic tonic.

That combination creates an exceptionally herbaceous highball that showcases how the choice of tonic water can affect the taste of your drink.

Aromatic tonic water selection

Aromatic Tonic Water

The ongoing Gin boom also led to an increased variety of tonic waters. Even Herbal and Mediterranean tonic water were considered exotic just a few years ago. 

But today, these two are established, and new, more special options are available. These are also often categorized as aromatic tonic waters. 

Aromatic tonic waters usually contain one or two key flavorings mentioned on the bottle. Other ingredients are included but only to compliment those key flavors.

The variety is huge and ranges from subtle flavors like cucumber to sweet and floral-tasting elderflower.

Here's a little glimpse into the selection of aromatic tonic water options.

  • Cucumber tonic water (great for pairing with Hendrick's Gin)
  • Yuzu tonic water
  • Pink Grapefruit tonic water
  • Elderflower tonic water
  • Lemon tonic
  • Elderflower & Rose tonic water
  • Lime tonic water
  • Lime & Yuzu tonic

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