When did people start drinking gin and tonic?

The colonial origins of the highball cocktail.

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This staple of a girls’ night out actually began life as a malaria cure during the days of the British Raj. The medicinal use of quinine powder and soda tonic against fevers was embraced by the military in the early 1800s, but in the latter half of the century some enterprising folk, hoping to make the bitter infusion more palatable, began to add sugar, lime and their gin ration.

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In this way, the humble G&T truly sustained the troops of the British Empire, and once companies like Schweppes introduced their Indian Quinine Tonics the combination gained popularity in Britain too.