More than a tonic: the intertwined history of the gin and tonic
Kew botanists and authors of Just the tonic: A natural history of tonic water (Kew Publishing, 2019) explore the history of the popular effervescent mixer. They believe that tonic water has been the unjustly overshadowed partner in the famous gin and tonic. The cocktail is thought of as a quintessentially English drink, yet its origins lie in the cinchona trees of eastern slopes of the Andes and the malarial landscapes of Asia. In this richly illustrated talk, Kim and Mark cut through centuries of legends to reveal a history of botany, medicine, empire and drinking to discover how the tree came together with alcohol and soda to create the perfect gin and tonic. Just the tonic was awarded the Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Award for debut drink book in 2020.
Kim Walker is a joint PhD student at the Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London and the Economic Botany Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Her research is on the cinchona tree and its constituent quinine alkaloids, which for over 300 years were the only effective treatment for malaria in the west. Kew holds one of the world’s largest collections of historic cinchona bark samples. Kim is also a gin lover and a fellow Highgate resident. Kim is a registered herbalist and author of The Handmade Apothecary (2017) and The Herbal Remedy Handbook (2019).
Mark Nesbitt is the Curator of the Economic Botany Collection at Kew Gardens and Visiting professor at the Department of Geography, Royal Holloway. He has wide interests in the history of useful plants and the care and purpose of botanical collections. His current research projects include work with indigenous Indians in the Brazilian on Kew’s 19th century Amazon collections, documenting Kew’s global networks of specimen exchange with other museums, and looking at material uses of plants such as paper, barkcloth and basketry. Together with colleagues he is developing a wider programme of arts and humanities research at Kew.
By Zoom at 8pm
£5 members / £7 non-members
Booking closes at 1pm on the day of the event