From cocktails to mocktails to cold brew coffee, tonic water perfectly adds the sensation of bittersweet to anything. The blacklight-friendly quinine inside was originally used to cure malaria but its bitterness was unpalatable. British soldiers in colonial India mended their taste buds by adding carbonated water and sugar.
And thus tonic water was born! Sometimes referred to as Indian tonic water thanks to its origins, there’s no difference between the two names across brands; individual companies draw those distinctions within their own product lines.
Tonic water lays its claim to fame with its gin pairings but it can brighten up spirits and non-alcoholic drinks as well. Brands typically use artificial sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, or sugar to tame the quinine, but they’re starting to have a little fun with earthy and citrusy additions.
Whatever tasting notes float your boat (or atop your gin or other spirit of choice, like tequila and tonic), explore the realm of tonic waters to shake up your next drink.
Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Tonic Water
Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. made a name for itself with its syrups, most notably its tonic syrups. Now, the brand has a straightforward tonic water made with cane sugar and citrus to get you one step closer to a refreshing drink with fewer ingredients.
Schweppes Tonic Water
Even with craft tonic waters flooding the scene, Schweppes is routinely listed as a favorite by cocktail experts and novices alike. The affordability mixed with its bitter yet balanced flavor profile makes it a hit in any gin and tonic.
Canada Dry Tonic Water
The sweetest of the supermarket brands, Canada Dry’s Tonic Water can subdue cheaper spirits without overwhelming top shelf liquors. Its sweetness definitely takes the front seat, so it’s a solid pick if you don’t like dry tonic water.
Q Spectacular Tonic Water
Q Tonic Water sets itself apart by using agave nectar to sweeten the pot, resulting in the least amount of sugar per serving. Even though they also add lemon to the mix, their tonic water doesn’t draw too much attention to itself.
Fentimans Tonic Water
A gift from the U.K., Fentimans Tonic Water has practically no carbonation and walks the tightrope of what a tonic water should be. The added lemongrass brings a citrusy element to the table without drowning the palate in bitterness.
Fever Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water
If you love tonic water but worry about the sugar content, Fever Tree is a great option that doesn’t sacrifice flavor. Though this is their standout tonic water, Fever Tree’s tonic options tend to hover marginally above Q’s 7 grams per serving.
Boylan Heritage Tonic Water
This collaboration between craft soda maker Boylan Bottling and W&P Designs is your new luxury tonic water. Unsurprisingly, this Boylan Heritage Tonic Water has a soda-like vibe but the quinine and bitter orange notes sneak up on you. Don’t worry, it’s definitely a welcome surprise.
Note: Whole Foods 365 Tonic Water, a previously wonderful choice for robust carbonation, recently changed its recipe and is now overpoweringly sweet.