Explaining Expensive Tonic Water

The prices of some tonic water brands can be shockingly high. Isn't all tonic water the same?

Tonic water began as an antimalarial treatment made from bitter quinine extracted from the bark of the cinchona, or “fever,” tree. The addition of sugar (and gin) made it more palatable. Today most commercial brands are made with synthetic quinine and high-fructose corn syrup.

Fever-Tree, a British company, has gone back to the drink’s roots, using cinchona-derived qui nine and cane sugar in its Premium Indian Tonic Water, which makes for an expensive mixer—$6.99 for a four-pack of 7-ounce bottles, or about 25 cents an ounce. When we compared Fever-Tree with Schweppes tonic water (about 6 cents per ounce) in gin and tonics, some tasters really enjoyed its more restrained bitterness. But most of us preferred the familiar bracing (albeit synthetic) kick of Schweppes. Bottom line? Purists may prefer Fever-Tree, but we’re sticking with the supermarket stuff.



Fever-Tree Tonic Water offers mellower flavor at a steep price.

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