In some— no many— sense Schweppes rightfully deserves the title of “the original tonic water.” Specifically in the sense that we know today. In 1871 when Schweppes launched Schweppes Tonic Water, it was the first of its kind. The first carbonated tonic water with quinine in it.
Schweppes had been bottling mineral waters since the late 18th century. Though the company was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, Johann Schweppes made his name in London where he moved in the 1790s. It was the product line expansions in the 19th century that made Schweppes the name it is today. It is now sold around the world, though the Schweppes Tonic Water is customized on a market-by-market basis. European versions are more likely to use less sugar or more quinine— Schweppes Tonic Water in the United States uses the ubiquitous soda sweetener High Fructose Corn Syrup and comes in at a rather steep 130 kcal per 12 oz. serving.
Schweppes Tonic Water has a very quiet nose. Faint hint of citrus and/or cucumber. It’s nearly neutral.
On the palate, there’s a pleasant robust effervescence. Rather large bubbles tickle the palate, and have a rather long lasting power. The quinine bitterness is moderately strong. Schweppes Tonic Water has a slight woody lemon note. The quinine has a flash of metallic edge, but that quickly leaves. The bitterness is clean and quite long lasting. Overall, on its own Schweppes Tonic Water is quite pleasant. And even moreso when you consider some of its plastic bottle brethren.
Paired with Cotswolds Distillery’s Cotswolds Dry Gin, Schweppes gracefully steps out of the way. The bitterness and quinine notes are lovely and nicely balanced, leaving the gin the star. It’s a really delicious gin and tonic.
And that’s what I like about Schweppes Tonic Water. It is almost the default. It works well with nearly anything in the gin (and yes, for you vodka and tonic drinkers— even you) world.
Critics might deride it as too sweet. And it’s a bit too sweet to be my all-the-time pour. But Schweppes Tonic Water has one of the best widely available tonics you can find on the shelf of nearly any supermarket in this country— from sea to shining sea. Worst case scenario, there’s always Schweppes Tonic Water. But I think it’s even better than that.
Highly recommended at its price point.