But What’s In Your Tonic?

Have you ever ordered a Gin and Tonic and the bartender asks you for your preference in Gin? But what about the tonic? It consumes at least ¾ of the cocktail. Why is it not as important? Well today, Liquid Culture investigates this for you!

I’ll admit, this investigation had an ulterior motive, because I love G+T’s and the nerd that I am, wanted to know how I can perfect this simple but refreshing libation. Plus when do you ever get the opportunity to taste the difference side by side? So now we will go through all the elements of the investigation.

Products Tested

We tested out 7 different tonics that were available to the market. I wanted to choose items that would be accessible to the general public, so I gathered brands available at the supermarkets and I stopped over to St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. They range from general tonics to premium brands, so that consumers can compare the products and whether the price tag justifies the item. The products were as followed:

  1. Canada Dry Tonic Water
  2. President’s Choice Tonic Water
  3. Schweppes Tonic Water
  4. Fever Tree Indian Tonic Water
  5. Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water
  6. Fever Tree Lemon Tonic Water
  7. Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic Water

I understand that there are more tonics out there, but for the purpose of this study, anything that wasn’t available or found at the market, was not included in this report. Again, accessibility was important to me, and what the general public has access to. So finding a one off product can be great, but if most people don’t have access to it, then what is the point?

The Investigators

I brought together a bunch of my lady friends with the motive that they had to drink to help me. As you can imagine, it didn’t take much convincing, especially since they knew they were drinking for a good cause. So shout out to the team that made this all possible and for a fun night! Now before you start saying it was totally biased, and that I am only friends with bartenders, well you’re wrong. The gang ranged from industry professionals, people who hate G+T’s, ladies that love them, and ladies that rarely drink. This created a perfect scenario for an unbiased review of the tonics being questioned.

The Investigation Process

Now before you start thinking that everyone was drunk by the time we reached the last tonic, that was certainly not the case. The procedure went as followed:

  1. All tonics were tested on its own WITHOUT gin. Investigators were told to grade the level of intensity (from 1-5; 1 being the weakest) for each of the following properties:
    1. Herbaceous Notes
    2. Sweetness
    3. Citrus Levels
    4. Refreshing
  2. Once noted, Gin and Ice were added to the mix (1:4 ratio) and investigators were asked to make note of any changes to the tonic. For example, did the gin bring out more of the sweetness in the tonic? Did the herbs compliment better with the gin? Did the tonic fall flat once the gin was introduced?
  3. Lastly the tonics were graded for their overall satisfaction with Gin.


  • All Tonics were chilled for 8 hours in the fridge
  • No ice was added during the first stage of testing, so that dilution was not a factor in the flavour
  • Approximately ¼ oz was used of gin for each tasting, and not all had to be consumed (that’s right, alcohol was thrown out, don’t shoot us)
  • Only 1 Gin brand was used for this study and that was Beefeater gin. This was chosen because it’s a classic. It’s a London-style, dry gin, that hits all the right notes when it comes to your basic profile of gin. It’s also an item that is extremely accessible and available to the general public.

Now that you have an idea of how the night flowed, here are the results!


I’m not going to lie, making these charts and reports took me right back to my highschool days. Who would have thought I would still be using excel and having fun with it? Now let’s look into some of these figures:

Figure 1 – This chart showcases the overall grade (from 1 – 5; 1 being the least favourable) of the tonics with gin. Averages were calculated and these are the results.

Figure 1 shows the results of the overall satisfaction from the 7 different tonics with gin. As you can see, we ended up with a tie for first place. Both Fever Tree’s Indian and Elderflower tonic were the clear choice within the group. Now just because this brand reigned supreme, didn’t mean the other products were favored. Fever Tree’s Mediterranean flavor caused a bit of heat and discussion as some people absolutely loved it, while some thought it was the worst flavour in the entire study. Some loved it without gin and as soon as it was mixed with the spirit, it became unbearable. Whenever you get a chance, definitely give this a try and let me know what were your thoughts on the product.

In addition, Canada Dry’s Tonic Water was a close second when it came to the overall satisfaction with gin. It was not favoured as well on its own, but once paired with gin, the flavours seemed to marry and compliment each other perfectly. Why is this so important? Well for the longest time, I was stubborn to the fact that Schweppes was the only way to go when pairing a tonic. But I didn’t want to be biased in this study, and most importantly, if the tonic doesn’t pair well with the gin, then really what is the point of a tonic? I don’t know too many people who drink tonic on its own, but that just may be the bubble that I am in. I kept this revolutionary moment to myself, because I didn’t want my voice to influence the group, but my world had just flipped. What I thought I hated, turned out to be one of my favourite pairings with gin.

Figure 2 – First Phase Tonic Tasting Profile Notes – Each tonic was measured for each of the 4 properties listed before the gin was added. The tallies shown are averages of the 4 measures (refreshing, citrus, sweetness and herbaceous notes).

Looking at Figure 2, this chart shows how the specific characteristics were measured for each tonic, and their averaged total in terms of its intensity. Now each category was measured from 1-5, 1 being the weakest in intensity. So stating one of the properties as a level 5, doesn’t necessarily translate in a positive way. For example, when measuring citrus levels in the tonics, those closer to a 5 translated negatively in the overall taste of the tonics, due to its overwhelming acidity. Now mind you, I love my citrus, to the point that I’m pretty sure I’ll have an ulcer soon, but some of the tonics tested were unbearable and took away from producing a balanced cocktail. This is a great chart to look at if you are the type that loves that bitter and herbaceous-forward tonics. By reading this chart, you can pin point which tonics work best with your taste preferences! 

Lastly, the only thing that I feel necessary to add to the conclusion of the results is that President Choice’s Tonic was a huge disappointment. I pretty much love everything in their brand, so I was shocked to find that this tonic fell flat and lost all its carbonation once mixed with the gin. So if you’re trying to find a tonic with gin, I’d best stay away from this brand’s tonic…at all costs.


Overall, Fever Tree’s Indian and Elderflower Tonics were the crowds favourite. Its price tag justified the overall experience in creating a balanced and tasty gin and tonic (even those who hate G+T’s agreed!). If ever you are in the market and can’t seem to dig up a Fever Tree branded tonic, don’t hesitate to pick up Canada Dry’s Tonic Water, as it was a close second to the overall results. Canada Dry is also a great product for those looking to keep within a budget and a fairly accessible item.

All in all, it was a fun night with the girls that made education seem way more fun and very informative.

Have any suggestions for another taste battle such as this? Or would you like to participate? Make sure to drop me a line either by commenting below, sending me an email or contacting me through any of my social media forums.

Monica Carbonell

Hi, I’m Monica and I’m your Fairy Barmother. At Liquid Culture, creativity is encouraged and education is used to empower followers to be the best they can be. We want to provide you with the tools to confidently bartend within your own home and to have some fun while doing it too! Inside this website you will find recipes, videos, articles and more that will teach you everything you need to know about being your best Home Bartender!


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