If you love cocktails, you’ll be delighted to hear that your favorite alcoholic beverage has a cool science story behind it. This week’s newsletter focuses on gin and tonics or gin tonics. This highball cocktail just happens to include two pieces from our collection: quinine and the juniper camphor molecule. So, let’s delve into the history and science behind this refreshing drink.
The British and Malaria
When the British arrived in India, it wasn’t long before they realized that malaria was a big problem. It wasn’t just India either, pretty much any tropical place they colonized had issues with this mosquito-borne parasite. Quinine comes from the cinchona tree and has been used for centuries as a way to treat malaria. The British figured out a way to put quinine in water, creating what we know today as tonic water. To make this bitter liquid palatable, the soldiers would mix in a bit of gin, sugar, and lime. And from there, the gin and tonic was born.
Bar Water Today
Of course, today’s “tonic water” is nowhere as bitter as actual tonic water, which contains higher concentrations of quinine. In fact, most bartenders don’t even think of today’s “tonics” and the tonics of the past as the same things. To get real tonic water, you’d have to buy cans of the stuff and even then, there isn’t much quinine in them. Luckily, even if you live in a place where malaria is rampant, medicine has advanced to the point where we can treat malaria with other drugs.
The Dutch and Gin
The origins of gin were similar to that of tonic water, it was a medicinal liquor. The distilled alcohol part came from fermenting grapes and grains. The key to making gin isn’t the tasteless alcoholic liquid, but what you flavor it with - a molecule from the juniper tree. The word “gin” comes from the Dutch word “jenever”, which comes from the Latin word “juniperus” or juniper.
More Than Just Booze
Aside from flavoring gin, the juniper tree has a multitude of uses. Some species are referred to as cedar. Furniture and other items made from this wood has a particularly pleasant smell. Certain traditional tribes used the wood and leaves to treat conditions such as asthma, epilepsy, and pain. The physical properties of juniper wood make for great hunting bows; it’s flexible but strong. And finally, the trees themselves are used as decoration in parks and gardens in certain parts of the world.
We’ll Drink to That
Love the story behind gin and tonics? How would you like to own a piece of this story? Our juniper camphor molecule necklace represents the unique flavor of gin. And of course, we had to have a quinine molecule to represent the tonic water. Jazz up your collection by purchasing the water molecule necklace and the ethanol earrings. Add the four together and what do you have? The perfect cocktail. Any combination of these pieces would make a great gift for bartenders, gin and tonic drinkers, botanists, and malaria researchers.
written by Science with Evie