Quinine was first recorded by the Jesuits in 1633 but it was hard to come by in significant quantities so the British had tried to established plantations to manufacture it on a large scale but the yields had been disappointing. Then in 1840, a British trader named Charles Ledger got some seeds of a subspecies of the plant while on an expedition in Bolivia and recognizing their potential economic value, tried to sell to the British. They declined so Ledger sold his seeds instead to the Dutch who planted them on Java. The yields were spectacular and its proven efficacy, as an antidote for malaria, was firmly established by 1850 and its wide scale availability would make travel in the interior of Africa survivable for the first time in history.
As the Empire spread into all corners of the globe quinine became an essential medication and it was usually taken in the evening with a dash of soda water and to mask it’s bitter taste, a teaspoon of sugar- along the way someone added and a slice of lemon and a slug of gin and the Gin and Tonic was born! Charles Ledger died in obscurity and was never acknowledged for the critical part he played in making possible the greatest empire that the world has ever seen and the origin of the world’s most popular sundowner- the G&T!