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Good Reads  Botany  Economic Botany & Ethnobotany

Just the Tonic A History of Tonic Water

By: Kim Walker(Author), Mark Nesbitt(Author)
145 pages, 150 colour & b/w illustrations
Just the Tonic
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  • Just the Tonic ISBN: 9781842466896 Hardback Oct 2019 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
Price: £17.99
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About this book

Just the Tonic is an accessible yet informative history of tonic water: its connections to the major disease malaria, the cure discovered in the bitter bark of the cinchona tree and its constituent alkaloid quinine. It is a history deeply intertwined with botanical exploration and empire in the Victorian era, and the role of botanical gardens such as Kew. The reader will discover the colourful history of the discovery and uses of the Andean tree Cinchona, as well as the role of bitters for medicines and cocktails, the history of hydrotherapy and the invention of sparkling water. The authors reveal the changing role of the G&T: the rise and fall, and rise again, of cocktails during the 19th century, the art deco cocktail bars of the 1920s, through to the Mad Men era and the recent resurgence of the gin and tonic as a drink of choice. Written by leading experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, home to one of the largest collections in the world of historic cinchona. This is the first authoritative book on the history and role of tonic water and will make a unique addition to the popular drinks book market and an ideal gift.

Customer Reviews


Kim Walker trained as a medical herbalist and now specialises in the history of plant medicines. She is currently working on a PhD on cinchona at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She is on the committee of the Herbal History Research Network, the British Society for the History of Pharmacy and is a member of the Association of Foragers. She is the co-author of The Handmade Apothecary (Kyle Books, 2017) and The Herbal Remedy Handbook (Kyle Books, 2019).

Mark Nesbitt is the curator of the Economic Botany Collection at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and his research centres on botany and empire in the nineteenth century, and on the history and current-day management of botanical collections. He is the co-author of Curating Biocultural Collections (Kew Publishing, 2014) and The Botanical Treasury (Andre Deutsch, 2016). Mark is a Visiting Professor in the Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London.

By: Kim Walker(Author), Mark Nesbitt(Author)
145 pages, 150 colour & b/w illustrations
Media reviews

– Winner Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards 2020 - Debut drink book

"A complete history of tonic water, including a chapter on both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktail recipes."

"Discoveries from this latest fact-finding expedition launched from London's Kew Gardens reveal nearly everything I learned about tonic water is a myth. The true story told here traverses the globe; from the age of exploration through the Industrial Revolution and beyond, before dropping readers off in the midst of a mixed drink renaissance. From fever trees to pharmacies and mixology; few tipples team with a tale as beguiling and quixotic as quinine."
– Jim Meehan, author of The PDT Cocktail Book and Meehan's Bartender Manual

"A delightfully accessible – and richly-illustrated – tome."
Country Life

"Well-researched and lavishly produced, it looks at how a malaria cure from South America ended up becoming an ingredient in Britain's favourite mixed drink, the gin and tonic."

"The authors successfully bring together the history of quinine, fizzy water and gin in this entertaining, highly illustrated account."
Daily Mail

"Well-presented and laid out, the writing is engaging. Photographs, posters, prints, and botanical artwork grace almost every page and make this the first authoritative history of tonic water an ideal gift."
The Field

"[...] a fully fledged, jaw-droppingly beautiful book that separates fact from fiction and medicinal from recreational, weaving the botanical, historical, cultural and, naturally, Gin-related nature of this magical drink into some brilliantly linear words."
Gin Foundry

"It is a tale of discovery, adventure, imperial ambition and biopiracy, with a generous garnish of myth."
– Stephanie Pain, New Scientist

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