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Best tonic water 2023: Make a cracking cocktail with these excellent tonic waters

Perfect mixers that will suit your G&T to a T

When you picture the best tonic water, what do you see? Sweet, fruity, extra dry or perhaps herby? Whatever you like, we have our colonial ancestors to thanks for the delicious mixer that is tonic water. Nineteenth-century Brits stationed in India were prescribed medicinal quinine to ward off malaria – and found that the bitter stuff was a lot more palatable when mixed with sweetened fizzy water and a dose of gin. Thus was born a sundowner classic, and the drink has become a pre-dinner staple at home as well as overseas.

There’s never been a single definitive recipe for tonic water, however, which means that you can find all kinds of amazing variations on the drink. In fact, today it can be found in an increasing variety of styles and flavours from fruity and sweet to spicy and peppery. We’ve sipped our way through the mixer aisle to find out which tonics are best for drinking on their own and with your favourite tipple.

If you’re a first-time tonic drinker and want some more information on the different types you can buy, our buying guide below can help. Veteran tonic-sippers can scroll on to find our line-up of the best tonic water you can buy.

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Best tonic water: At a glance

How to choose the best tonic water for you

The classic tonic water recipe combines sugar, quinine and carbonated water for a distinctive bitter-sweet taste. The quinine is still crucial, but is no longer added in medicinal doses and today simply adds flavour.

Flavoured tonic water: For almost as long as tonic water has been around, it’s been offered in citrus-flavoured variants (the first bitter lemon mixer was produced in 1834). Lime, grapefruit and orange are all popular, adding a refreshing sweet-sour tang that complements the bitter quinine notes and offsets the dryness of gin.

Tonic water with botanicals: Herbs and edible flowers – such as thyme, rosemary, lime flower and myrtle – add subtle hints of flavour to the standard tonic taste. These tonics mix well with neutral flavours such as vodka or a simple dry gin.

Low-calorie tonic water: Plenty of tonics are offered in a slimline variant – but bartenders recommend avoiding artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, as these have an aftertaste of their own that conflicts with the flavour of the quinine. If you’re watching your figure, try a light tonic water with natural fructose instead.

How we test tonic water

Our tonic water testing process is pretty straightforward: we assess the taste of all the tonic water on our list by drinking it on its own and by using it as a mixer for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. For ordinary tonic water, we look for a classic, pleasantly bitter, quinine taste. For flavoured tonic water, we seek out interesting options that pair well with other drinks and that have a well-balanced, natural-tasting flavour. Outside of excellent flavour, good value for money and a handsome container also help a tonic water stand out from the crowd and win a place on our list.

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The best tonic water you can buy in 2023

1.Fever-Tree Naturally Light tonic water: Best low-calorie classic tonic

Price: £24 (24x150ml) | Buy now from Amazon

Keen to cut out the sugar? Fever-Tree’s Naturally Light tonic uses fruit sugar instead of aspartame to produce a clean, crisp flavour that lets the pleasant bitterness of quinine shine through, without the unpleasant bitter aftertaste of sweetener. With its gentle citrus flavour this light spin on the classic tonic goes well with almost any kind of gin – and will keep your dentist happy.

Key details – Bottle size: 150ml

2. Skinny Tonic: Best low-calorie flavoured tonic

Price: From £12 (24x150ml) | Buy now from Amazon

If you happen to be watching the calories but still want your drinks to pack a punch, these fabulously flavourful and extremely fizzy mixers from Skinny Tonic are ideal. There are several flavours to choose from, including – but not limited to: citrus, raspberry, Indian, coffee, cucumber and our personal favourite, Mediterranean tonic.

We really rate the classic flavours and while the less traditional ones might not be to everyone’s taste, they’re worth a go if you want to try something new. Each can has a perfect 150ml serving, ideal for a classic G&T with ice, and you can pick them up on Amazon in packs of eight or 24 for a pretty reasonable price.

Key detailsBottle size: 150ml

3. Fentimans Valencian orange tonic water: Best orange flavoured tonic water

Price: £21 (8x 500ml) | Buy now from Amazon

In its pretty Victorian-style bottle, this citrus tonic made with Valencian oranges adds a refreshing zing to your long drinks. A powerful zesty aroma on opening the bottle gives way to a surprisingly subtle orange flavour in the glass, which balances perfectly with a London dry gin. Refreshing and not over-sweet, it’s deliciously perfect for sipping over lots of ice on a sunny patio.

Key details – Bottle size: 500ml

4. Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic water: Best botanical tonic

Price: £4 (4x200ml) | Buy now from Ocado

Named after the “fever trees” from which quinine is extracted, this fashionable modern brand is found in upscale bars all over the country. The botanical formula, including rosemary and lemon thyme, gives this tonic a lovely floral aroma in the glass; on the palate, the flavour is clean and very refreshing. It pairs best with a simple dry gin or smooth vodka which won’t mask or muddle its gently herbal flavour.

Key details – Bottle size: 200ml

Buy it now from Ocado

5. Schweppes Indian tonic water: Best all-rounder

Price: £18 (6x1L) | Buy now from Amazon

There are plenty of fancy newcomers in the world of tonic water, but the Schweppes company has been making the stuff since 1871 and it knows what it’s doing. With a perfect balance of bitter to sweet and reliably perky bubbles, this simple stalwart is the bartender’s mixer of choice. If it’s a classic G&T you crave, you really can’t go wrong with a chilled bottle of Schweppes.

Key details – Bottle size: 1L

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