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While juices, cola and other fizzy beverages might get all the attention when it comes to drink mixers, don't underestimate the versatility of tonic water. This classic mixer is an unusual blend of carbonated water, quinine and sometimes corn syrup.
Unless you've had to battle malaria, you may not know what quinine is. Derived from the bark of the cinchona tree, quinine was originally used as a prophylactic against malaria and dissolved in water in areas susceptible to the disease. The bitter taste of quinine led drinkers in Southeast Asia and colonial Africa to mix it with a variety of beverages, eventually settling on gin, which is the staple mixer of tonic water.
Today, tonic water contains far less quinine than a century ago, but it's still part of the bitter taste that's perfect for cutting the flavors of hard liquor. Another fun fact is that quinine is fluorescent, allowing it to glow under ultraviolet light. Knowing this factoid makes tonic water ideal for winning bets or accenting your next party with a radiant, bluish glow.
To avoid a funky tasting cocktail, remember that tonic water is far different from seltzer water or club soda. Seltzer is artificially carbonated water with no additives, while club soda is carbonated water with minerals added. Don't swap tonic for these or vice-versa to avoid a potential faux-pas.
Tonic water is the peanut butter to the jam of a gin and tonic, which is one of the world's most popular cocktails. However, it's also good for a vodka tonic or a cucumber cooler, which features a refreshing mix of aloe, cucumber juice, lime juice, gin and tonic water.