What Is Tonic Water?

In recent years, the tonic water scene has changed massively. The market has gone from offering a couple of iconic tonic water brands to a vast range of unique and curious tonic water blends that take things to a new level.

What Is Tonic Water

As a result, pouring a simple gin and tonic has become somewhat of an adventure. However, before we can even think about pouring a refreshing G&T, it is important that we first know what tonic water is.

Whilst most people probably know quite a lot about this bittersweet and bubbly beverage, not everyone knows what it is and how it’s made. Today, we plan to change that, so if you need to know what tonic water is, you’re in the right place.

In this tonic water guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know including what it is, how it’s made, and how to drink it.

Let’s get started!

What Is Tonic Water?

Tonic water actually has a very interesting history. A type of soda water, tonic water is a carbonated drink that can be drunk on its own or mixed with other drinks. More often than not, tonic water is mixed into a gin and tonic.

Tonic water is packed with several different flavoring botanicals, one being quinine. The quinine in tonic water is responsible for the carbonated beverages’ interesting history. Quinine is a type of medication that was once used to fight malaria. 

As crazy as it sounds, this quinine was once dissolved in tonic water to make the carbonate drink a prophylactic against malaria. Therefore, tonic water was actually created as a form of medication.

Today, it usually contains significantly less quinine and is consumed mainly for its unique flavor and versatility to mix well with other drinks. You could say it’s a different type of medication now.

What Is Tonic Water Made From?

What Is Tonic Water Made From?

Tonic is a general term used to describe concoctions that offer some sort of health benefit. These types of beverages are known for their invigorating properties. When it comes to tonic water, things are no different.

This carbonated drink is made from water, quinine, and carbon dioxide. Some tonic waters will also include ingredients like sugar and agave to balance out the bitterness of the quinine.

Depending on the type of tonic water you buy, the brand might also include tonic syrups and botanical flavorings to give the tonic water more flavor.

Some popular flavorings include elderflower, ginger, juniper, lavender, and lemongrass.

How Is Tonic Water Made?

Tonic water isn’t actually that hard to make. In fact, we can make it from the comfort of our own homes with ease. To make tonic water, a tonic syrup is mixed with carbonated water. Store-bought tonic water is usually made with quinine too.

The quinine is dissolved into the water before the other ingredients are added.

What Does Tonic Water Taste Like?

How tonic water tastes also depends on the brand you choose. The overall flavor of tonic water is impacted by any flavorings added to the mixture.

For example, ginger flavored tonic water will have a ginger flavor, whilst an elderflower tonic water will taste like elderflower.

Having said that, there are some tonic water flavors that still shine through no matter what brand you buy. Thanks to the quinine, tonic water has a bittersweet flavor. This flavor is sometimes described as a citrus flavor.

Despite its popularity, this flavor isn’t for everyone. Some people simply can’t stand the bitterness of tonic water. Tonic water can be made more sweet by adding sugar or agave,

What’s The Difference Between Tonic Water, Club Soda, And Seltzer?

What’s The Difference Between Tonic Water, Club Soda, And Seltzer?

Tonic water is often compared to club soda and seltzer. Whilst all three are types of carbonated beverages that can be mixed into a cocktail, they are all different. Below, we’ve outlined the main differences between the three drinks.


The main difference between tonic water, club soda, and seltzer is how they taste. Tonic has a powerful bittersweet flavor whilst club soda has a more mild flavor. Club soda has an almost salty flavor too. 

On the other hand, seltzer tastes more like plain water than the other two carbonated beverages.


The additives added to each beverage are also different. Tonic water manufacturers add quinine to tonic water and often add sugar to the mixture to counteract the bitterness. Meanwhile, club soda manufacturers usually put minerals that mimic natural minerals. 

Finally, seltzer is only made using two ingredients. Those ingredients are carbon dioxide and water. Apart from that, no other ingredients are added to seltzer. 


All three types of carbonated soda can be mixed into cocktails, however, not all of them are. Generally speaking, club soda and tonic water are only used by mixologists to make cocktails.

Seltzer is different in the way that it is very rarely used in cocktails, typically being served on its own. 

Nutritional Content

Another big difference between tonic water, club soda, and seltzer is that tonic water can be referred to as a soft drink. Tonic water often contains sugar. This is something seltzer and club soda don’t contain. 

Club soda and seltzer have the same nutrient profile as water. They very rarely contain any calories.

How To Drink Tonic Water

Tonic water can be drunk on its own or mixed with various alcoholic drinks. If you want to enjoy tonic water on its own, you should pour it over a glass of ice. This creates a refreshing bittersweet beverage.

However, the most common way to drink tonic water is with alcohol. More often than not, people will mix a small bottle of tonic water with gin.

You can also use a small bottle of tonic water to make a vodka tonic, whiskey tonic, white port and tonic, and an autumn spiced tonic.

Those of you that prefer to drink nonalcoholic beverages could enjoy your tonic water with a splash of lime juice instead.

Final Thoughts

Now you’ve made your way through this post, you should know everything you need to know about tonic water. In this guide, we’ve told you what tonic water is, what it’s made from, how it’s made, and how it differs from other carbonated drinks.

We also told you what to do with it, so you should now be able to make yourself a refreshing alcoholic or nonalcoholic drink using tonic water. Bearing that in mind, why don’t you find out which tonic water beverage you like most.

We can highly recommend a fruity and sweet tonic water mixed with your favorite gin.

Kaitlyn James
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