By Martha Lucius
Ah, the renaissance of this marvelously simple cocktail. It’s really no surprise: gin & tonic is the definition of a hot summer day. It’s stalwart, like a friend who is always there for you. Conceived by the Brits in India, the drink is beloved worldwide. Ready for the backstory? There are two opportunities to taste G&T’s and explore its roots in Baltimore on August 2, and in India in October.
The story of gin starts with the British Empire. Yes, it’s a nod to the largest empire the world has ever known. While “empire” is now a dirty word, this imperial cocktail was a health and safety tactic for the Brits, the maharajahs, small kingdoms and to every citizen of what we now call India. The Brits needed to ward off malaria, which was a diminishing threat in Europe. But in India, malaria was a concern. Malaria afflicts not just once, but returns on a whim, annually and/or regularly for years to come. Quinine arrived on the world stage — a powder called “Jesuit Bark” from Peru, stripped from the cinchona tree. Initially, it was merely a medicine, but in time quinine was discovered to have preventative qualities. The most noticeable quality was its bitterness. The challenge was to take the bitterness and make it tolerable. Turns out, Erasmus Bond found a way to commercially mix and bottle soda, quinine, and sugar together and created tonic. Naturally, this led to commercializing the production of tonic.
“Drink a glass of tonic in the morning” was the medical advice of the day. Tonic’s bitterness was unappealing to the British Raj and its army. Naturally, some colonel added a respectable gin to the tonic, plus a beautiful sunset, and gin & tonic was born! What better response to the fear of malaria’s fever than to concoct a cocktail? Gin started as a poor man’s drink. Slowly, and with the help of the infusion of herbs and florals, it became a respectable beverage. Today there are many varieties of gin. Tonic has also expanded its flavors.
You are invited to attend Spice Circuit’s G&T tasting on August 2, for sips of many Indian gins and a variety of tonics. Dear Globe Coffee’s owner, LieAnne Navarro, is collaborating with Martha Lucius of Spice Circuit, South India’s food tours. The event will be held at Dear Globe Coffee, the new coffee bar in Mt. Vernon. Pantry Catering is providing Indian snacks, called “chaat” which are included in the price of the ticket. Pass the word and buy your ticket. Martha lives and works in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and India. If the G&T tasting isn’t enough for you, then take your G&T journey to Kerala, in South India. Travel with Spice Circuit to the source of spices and gin-making on its October 21 to 30, 2018 and Feb 2019 trips.