Gin & Tonic

I should be writing about this when I get to India. The story goes “the bitter taste of anti-malarial quinine tonic led British colonials in India to mix it with gin, thus creating the gin and tonic cocktail”.

But we’re not in India, We’re in Malawi and as we head further south the G&T becomes more and more popular. You can get a Malawian Gin here. I like it because as it doesn’t have that strong gin taste. This probably means it’s rubbish. I have friends back in Melbourne who care for gin. They have opinions on gin.

The Gin & Tonic only exists because of Malaria. Quinine, which is in the tonic, is rather effective against Malaria. Just read this wikipedia quote.

Quinine also played a significant role in the colonization of Africa by Europeans. It has been said that quinine was the prime reason that Africa ceased to be known as the "white man's grave". A historian has stated that "it was quinine's efficacy that gave colonists fresh opportunities to swarm into the Gold Coast, Nigeria and other parts of west Africa".

Now it’s just a black man’s grave.

Back to the quote. Let’s ignore the poorly cited weasel words like “it has been said” and “A historian”. Which historian?


Some readers might be twitching at “A historian” rather than my preferred “an historian”. It all depends on whether you pronounce the ‘h’.


The important thing is that many people seem to think that drinking Gin & Tonic will provide you with some resistance to malaria. Before we had good antimalarials we had quinine. You had to take about 670mg of quinine everyday for 7 days. It’s pretty bitter stuff. So you add gin and you sit in the shade and wax lyrical about the natives and be Very British.

And you don’t die of Malaria.

Progress is measured in lives not lost.

Now, in thousands of bars across Africa you can get a bartender to mix your local Malawian Gin with a can of chilled tonic water. You can sit out under the eaves of your lodge or permanent tent and watch the sun descend over the lake or savanna and continue to not die of Malaria.

The G&T isn’t doing anything. Don’t be silly. It’s the antimalarials that you’ve been taking each day.

The can of tonic I can find around here only contain 67mg of quinine. This means you need to drink 10 G&Ts every day to receive the required dosage. Drinking half a bottle of gin everyday may compromise you’re immune system such that you’ll die of something else. Like alcoholism.

But don’t take my word for it.

As of 2006, quinine is no longer recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization), as first-line treatment for malaria

Take Wikipedia’s.

Now we can all stop drinking G&T's because they're not that great.

when: Wednesday, November 26, 2014