Chartreuse and Tonic


Tonic water is a soft drink flavored with quinine, which has become a popular mixer for many things, including gin and vodka.  Combined with Chartreuse, the mixture creates a stunning pale green drink, which has flavors that pair really nice with the bitter components of the tonic.

“There’s an old man sitting next to me
Making love to his tonic and gin.”

Billy Joel’s Piano Man

“People may say what they like about the decay of Christianity; the religious system that produced green Chartreuse can never really die.”
From “Reginald on Christmas Presents”
Found in Saki’s collection Reginald (1904)
Gin and Tonic is probably the most famous and the classic way of mixing tonic water.  However, that doesn’t mean that the quinine filled liquid cannot be mixed with anything else…  Quite often, people will mix it with vodka, albeit I fail to see the point, since the bright side of Gin and Tonic is the mixture of juniper and botanicals with the bitter flavor of the cinchona bark, which comes from the quinine. Mixing tonic water with vodka only gives you the flavor of tonic water, which is not something many people find appealing in and of itself.  However, beyond the bitter flavor, tonic water is truly a tonic of sorts, a sort of panacea, and can be considered medicinal thanks to the usage of quinine.

An alkaloid which occurs naturally in only the bark of the cinchona tree, Quinine can be produced via artificial methods (Wikipedia).  Possessing many “healing” properties, quinine demonstrates antimalarial, analgesic, anti-inflammatory effects.  Originally, the bark of the cinchona tree was used by Quechua Indians for medicinal purposes; thanks to imperialism and ideological dissemination as well as cultural syncretism, the Jesuits, who have a long stake in the South America’s brought cinchona back to Europe specifically for medicinal purposes (Ibid).  The use of tonic water was made famous by the British officers in the Indian Army, who used it to combat malaria, and in order to make it quaffable, they would combine it with sugar, soda water, and gin.  Tied intrinsically with colonialism, cinchona bark became a prized possession and commodity which was intrinsic and necessary towards surviving the harsh horrors of malaria.  For the longest time, the only producer in the world was that of Peru, but Charles Ledger smuggled seedlings out, which he sold to the Dutch; these seedlings would be used to create a major plantation in Indonesia, which would supply most colonial endeavors until World War II, when the Japanese would take control of Indonesia for purposes of oil (Q Tonic).  While the Japanese controlled Indonesia, there was a project that happened under Ally command, from which the synthetic form of quinine would be discovered (Ibid).

Since I have already discussed green Chartreuse, I will merely remind that it is effectively a liqueur composed of over a hundred and thirty various herbs, many of which have medicinal properties, and as such, it can not only be considered a liqueur, but also a medicine.  The vegetable flavors of the Chartreuse contrast nicely against the tonic water, much like gin would, and as such, produces a wonderful rich, yet fulfilling flavor throughout the drink, while imbuing it with a slight sweetness, and meaningful depth.  For this drink, while you could use yellow Chartreuse, green is the classic staple.  The preference for green is most likely on account of the rich depth of flavor which green possesses, and that the the yellow is more simple and much more sweet.

To be consumed during the summer months, this drink is excellent and picking up not only your spirits, but your body’s health as well.  Since both ingredients function as medicine, at least on some level, there are more reasons to drink this beverage besides for pleasure.  Though, I gotta say, its pretty hard to beat the taste of Chartreuse.

 Chartreuse and Tonic:

2 ounces green Chartreuse
4 to 5 ounces tonic water

Combine the two ingredients in a highball glass over ice; give it a quick stir, and garnish (optionally) with a lime wedge.


“History.”  Q Tonic. (accessed May 14, 2010).

Wikipedia contributors. “Quinine.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. (accessed May 14, 2010).