Zimbabwe: Gin & Tonic Sundowner Tradition

Every day of safari in Africa traditionally ends up with a sundowner with gin & tonic. But the history of this tradition is less known and is quite interesting. It was malaria that made gin and tonic combination the drink of choice. The British colonialists in India avoided the mosquitoes with quinine powder, a bitter, disgusting substance that they extracted from the wood of the quinine tree. To make the soldier ingest this powder, it was mixed with soda water, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and gin to make it more palatable – and gin and tonic drink was born. The drink was quickly brought over to Africa where explorer used it to prevent malaria and mosquito bites. Years passed, the anti-malarial recipe changed a bit, but the tradition of drinking gin and tonic at at sunset (when malarial mosquitoes are the most active) remained intact. A study in 2004 concluded that a liter of gin and tonic per day actually does elevate quinine in blood plasma to a level that may inhibit the malarial propagation. Back to the story – we had gin and tonic every single day in Mana Pools, Lake Karibe and Victoria Falls (the famous hotel at the later had an absolutely fantastic collection of small batch local and South African gins to die for).