We all put so much focus on the spirit: which one are you using? Where’s it from? What’s it taste like, how’s it made, which botanicals went in? And, yes, obviously, all that matters.
But here’s the thing – you can have the best gin or vodka in the world in your glass, and it can fall flat if you’re mixing it with a subpar tonic.
Long gone are the days when tonic was synonymous with a single brand. Now, once you choose your poison – be it vermouth, non-alcoholic Seedlip, tequila or classic gin – you also must consider which mixer you’re going to pair it with.
Tonic has been boutique-ified, with start-up brands appearing across the UK. And, to paraphrase the marketing campaign from leading premium mixer brand Fever-Tree, if most of your G&T is tonic, it’s about time that you paid it some attention.
When pulling together our list of the best tonics, we considered texture; there should be a persistent, but not aggressive, bubble. Flat tonic can taste sickly, but equally anything too frizzante takes away from a spirit’s profile.
Secondly, we thought the tonic should taste like what it says on the tin (or rather, bottle). For Indian tonic waters that means there should be a noticeable bite of quinine – the magic ingredient that elevates gins to the masterpiece that is the G&T. For other flavoured tonics, it should taste like its headline ingredients, without being artificial or overbearing – remember, the best tonics are supporting acts, making whatever spirit you pair with it shine.
Finally, we opted to evaluate brands as a whole because, as our tastings showed, if one bottling was good from a range, others tended to be, too.
To keep things consistent, we tested each tonic chilled and neat, then again with a classic London Dry gin to see how it mingled with alcohol. Where relevant – say, for a particularly fruity or herbal style of tonic – we also gave these a follow up taste with other spirits we thought would pair well.
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The best tonic waters for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Double Dutch Indian tonic water, 200ml: £1.19, Boroughbox.com
- Best citurssy tonic – Luscombe elderflower tonic water, 200ml: 95p, Quickes.co.uk
- Best full flavoured tonic – Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic, 500ml: £1.95, Tesco.com
- Best zero-calorie tonic – Gallybird premium tonic water – botanical blend, 200ml x 12: £8.16, Diversefinefood.co.uk
- Best feel good tonic – Belu garden tonic water, 200ml x 24: £23, Belu.org
- Best tonic for straight sipping – The London Essence pomelo & pink pepper tonic, 500ml: £1.85, Sainsburys.co.uk
- Best tonic water – Marlish dandelion and burdock, 200ml: £1.99, Thetonical.com
- Best range of tonic flavours – Franklin & Sons rosemary & black olive tonic water, 200ml x 24: £16.99, Drinksupermarket.com
- Best quirky tonic – Intune tonic+ CBD mixer, 200ml x 12: £23.60, Intune-drinks.com
- Best “light” version – Navas light tonic, 200ml x 12: £14.40, Navasdrinks.com