If you hate G&Ts it might be tonic water that's the problem, not the gin

This World Gin Day, it’s time for an important PSA.

You might think you hate gin, when in fact it’s tonic water that’s the problem.

If you’re a hater of G&Ts, have a ponder about why they’re so revolting. If it’s that they taste so bitter you can barely sip them down, it’s likely you’re finding the tonic impossible to enjoy rather than the gin.

Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you have a terribly uncultured palette.

Lots of people can’t stand the taste of tonic, and it’s all down to genetics.

The reason for tonic’s bitter taste is the presence of quinine, which comes from the bark of the cinchona tree.

Quinine was used as an anti-malarial treatment in the 19th century, so personally I have no idea why people are so obsessed with drinking it.

Research has found that the presence of quinine makes a drink taste horribly bitter to some people and not to others based on variations in their genes; specifically the receptors that respond to bitterness.

Basically, your genes determine whether you can guzzle down tonic water or you can’t manage a single gulp.

Researchers from the Monell Center studied 1,457 twins and their siblings, asking them to drink some quinine and rate how bitter it tasted.

They found that those who shared a similar perception of quinine shared the same pattern of DNA, specifically in a region of chromosome 12.

People with a certain type of gene makeup will find tonic water tastes far more bitter.

Interestingly, there’s been research to suggest that those who enjoy drinking bitter tastes are more likely to have psychopathic tendencies, so being unable to drink G&Ts might not be such a bad thing.

Testing whether you dislike gin or tonic is simple. Just try some plain old tonic water and see if it makes you gag.

If it does, choosing a different mixer might mean you can enjoy gin with wild abandon. Hooray.

The taste of gin itself varies between concoctions. Gin itself is basically a vodka that’s been infused with botanicals, with the predominant flavour being juniper.

Gin can be spicy, floral, more citrus, more earthy. Whatever your preferences, there’s likely a gin that will fit your tastebuds – enjoying the tipple is just down to finding the right gin for you and mixing it with stuff you actually like (so, no tonic).

Aldi even sells glittery Parma Violet gin, while Lidl has a fancy pomegranate and rose take, so you can trust us when we say there’s a niche gin option out there for you somewhere.

Once you’ve picked out your booze, you can go ahead and find your signature tonic-free drink. We’ve listed three recipes below to get you started, but you can also go simple by experimenting with a mixer of your choice.

We find that gin with sparkling water and an elderflower cordial is pretty lovely.

Gin with ginger ale, also great. The same goes for gin, sparkling water, and some lemon juice. Easy but delightful.

The Gimlet


  • 60ml gin
  • 60ml lime juice cordial
  • Lime wedge

Pour the gin and the lime into a glass filled with ice, add the lime wedge as a garnish.

The Rose Sour

  • 35ml Plymouth Sloe Gin
  • 35ml Honey Rose Syrup
  • 25ml lemon juice
  • 12.5 Noily Prat
  • Egg white

Dry shake with all ingredients (no ice) then add ice and shake again. Strain into coupe glass and garnish with dried rose petals.

Classic Bramble


  • 60ml gin
  • 25ml lemon juice
  • Tablespoon of sugar syrup (make your own by simply heating equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan over low heat)
  • Crushed ice
  • Your choice of fruit liqueur (we like blackberry)
  • Lemon slice
  • Your choice of fruit to top (again, blackberries are great)

Shake the gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and a handful of crushed ice in a cocktail shaker, then pour over ice in a glass.

Drizzle the fruit liqueur on top so it bleeds its way down through the gin mix. Top with your lemon slice and fruit.

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