It was the time between 16th to an early 18th century when the British Empire was on its full swing. The Queen was ruling an empire so vast and spread around the globe, that historians started using a phrase to refer it- The Empire on which the Sun never sets. Originated with overseas possessions and trading posts established between the time
period of 16th to 18th century was now comprising dominions, colonies, protectorates, and mandates in every continent apart from Antarctica. Britain was not only dominating in the lands they acquired but also in world trade. Thanks to India, one of the British state in Asia helped it to dominate in world trade by providing cotton, silk, lumber and spices at a cheap cost. Offcourse people from Indian subcontinent were revolting against British, a continuous troublesome, but overall ruling such a vast state was a rewarding deal with large economic benefits.
Someone was better troublemaker than revolting Indians:
Britishers were lavishly living in Indian tropical colonies, having mercantile success trading silk, cotton and spices around the world with a little bit revolt from natives of India. These revolting Indians were not a big issue for such a vast empire but there was one of the most formidable foes the Empire had yet to face. These foes are nothing but small flying humble but irritating mosquitos who nearly brought British Empire to its knees.
It looks a little bit strange but buzzing mosquitos were a great threat to British Empire than the revolts going on in tropical colonies like India where Malaria was rampant. The initial onset of malaria was marked by high fever, body rashes, chills and vomiting which in extreme cases lead to seizures, coma, and even death. It was not something that people were not aware of malaria. The link between malaria and insects had been known from old days as far back as the Roman occupation of Northern Africa. However, what is the actual cause of a disease which mosquito carries (the parasitic protozoan) were not known until the 20th century, leave the treatment. So people were bitten by mosquitos in these hot zones of malaria they left untreated if fortunate they survived and again bearing the extreme resurgence.
Bitter Bark of Cinchona: A cure for Malaria
Malaria was a bitter issue for Britishers in tropical colonies and caused thousands of deaths year by year until quinine is discovered. Quinine is a chemical compound derived from Chincona tree native to South Africa, and found as an effective treatment for high fever and chills dated back the late 16th century. But it was the Scottish Doctor George Cleghorn who found quinine could be used to prevent and treat the malaria disease. British Empire got the panacea for its ultimate foe and they started shipping dried and powdered bark around the Empire to battle with the disease and maintain British presence in the colonies. But there was an issue Chincona powdered barks /quinine were bitter as hell, however, taking them is a much better option for them than dying in unimaginable pain, chills and high fever.
Being creative and making a new cocktail:
When drinking it as treatment, the bitter unpalatable taste of alkaloid-containing bark powder was a common complaint among people. The life was good and luxurious for Britishers and they thought of being creative with bitter unpalatable Chincona powder.
The experiment started with mixing the substance with water and sugar are known as ‘tonic water’. This tonic water took the colonies on a storm. The creativity went on and some people started adding lime with it.
The ultimate creativity of consuming a medication came into existence when soldiers started adding supplied Gin in their ration supplies with tonic water containing sugar, water, and the bitter Chincona bark powder. There came the origin of a new cocktail among British Elites and the gin and tonic were born. In short order the officers in the British military began adding this new, more pleasant dose of malaria prevention to their afternoon tipple, now no more the medication but a cocktail of joy.
Bye, Bye Quinine welcome to Gin and Tonic:
Now there are a lot of drugs to treat deadly malaria, more than quinine and Chincona, no one needs to consume the bitter bark powders. It may never be known who was the first to mix the anti-malarial business with pleasure, but the gin and tonic’s historical relevance should not be overlooked. And it is going on until the present time, where you may get a sip of premixed single serving canes or Gin and Tonic of your favorite brand with a garnish of lime and cucumber, containing traces of quinine. Who knew a popular summertime favorite cocktail have such an interesting story?
How do like this historical tale of a medication turning into a cultural trend? You can read such interesting historical events using our Time machine at WiseVerse.