Rollin’ down the street

A faux remnant of the British Raj…

Bombay Sapphire is a brand of gin distributed by Bacardi. The name hints at the origins of gin’s popularity in the British Raj. During their administration, the British took quinine in order to protect against malaria in the form of tonic water. This was mixed with gin in order to make a more pleasing and sociable drink of this medical necessity. [Link]

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p>… put out a moody, animated, Simba-esque ad some time ago. It updates the look of old Chinese scrolls (cherry blossoms, carp) with dandelions, butterflies and… a bug zapper? It starts off in silhouette like a film studio intro, but gets more innovative from there. Watch the clip.

Turns out that not only tonic water, but also vermouth, contain the antimalarial drug quinine. Keep that druggy mixture in mind the next time you watch 007 toss off a martini:

Tonic water was never intended as a cure or preventive for malaria, but malaria is the reason the quinine is in there. Quinine has a bitter taste. To make the stuff palatable when used as an antidote for fevers, legend has it, British colonials in India mixed quinine with gin and lemon or lime. Over time they learned to love the godawful stuff. (You can see this principle at work in a lot of British cuisine…) Quinine is also used, along with other herbs, to flavor vermouth…[Link]

Quinine comes from the bark of the cinchona tree, which grows in the rain forest on the eastern slopes of the Andes. (One begins to comprehend the importance of preserving rain forests.) The Spanish first heard about the medicinal properties of the bark of the “fever tree” from the natives in the early 17th century. According to tradition, the stuff was used in 1638 to cure Countess Anna del Chinchon, wife of the viceroy of Peru, an event commemorated a century later when botanists named the plant. The viceroy shipped a boatload of it to Europe in 1640, and the Jesuits began using it in their missionary work, whence it acquired the nickname “Jesuit’s powder.” For a time religious and national rivalries kept quinine from being universally adopted, but eventually everybody began using it, and many historians today say it permitted the European conquest of the tropics.

Quinine was the only effective treatment for malaria for 300 years. After World War II, however, it was largely supplanted by synthetic drugs such as chloroquine that were safer, more effective, and easier to make. (Though quinine kills malarial parasites in red blood cells and alleviates fever, it doesn’t completely destroy malaria in the body, allowing relapses to occur if quinine therapy is halted.) But some strains of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum became resistant to the synthetic drugs–one reason the global malaria eradication program launched by the World Health Organization in 1955 was declared a failure in 1976–and in some parts of the world quinine has again become the antimalarial drug of choice. [Link]

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9 thoughts on “Rollin’ down the street

  1. But some strains of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum became resistant to the synthetic drugs

    My Dad had this strain, which was immediately recognized by my neighbor doctor. Pops was strung up on IV lines and some heavy duty anti-malarial medication.

    Unfortunately, that very same doctor, my good neighbor, died of this strain a year later. He knew he had malaria, but blew it off as a lesser strain(Doctors should not self diagnose) and only took a regular chloroquine treatment. When things got bad, he finally jumped in a rickshaw but it was too late. The fever was too high and he died on his way.

    When I had malaria, I also had a broken foot the same time. So everytime a cycle of chills repeated itself, my foot despite the cast shivered along with rest of my body. It hurt. Bombay Sapphire hurts, too; don’t drink a whole bottle of it, or anything really.

  2. but will tonic & vermouth give you the same fun side effects as Mefloquine? Last time I went to India, the doctor prescribed it instead of the particular script I wanted, and I couldn’t sleep for 3 days and started hallucinating. Might have rather had a gin & tonic, innit?

  3. British colonials in India mixed quinine with gin and lemon or lime. Over time they learned to love the godawful stuff. (You can see this principle at work in a lot of British cuisineÂ…)

    ha! too true…see also: marmite, breadpudding (useful dumping ground for week old bread), cucumber and sardine sandwiches…

    I love it ;)

  4. mefloquine (“lariam”) is horrible. way over-strong medicine with nasty side-effects.

    dd, i don’t know if this is the one you were referring to, but there’s a relatively new anti-malarial on the market, brand name “malarone.” i took it last time i was in a high malaria zone and everything was cool. no side effects. only minor inconvenience is you have to take it once a day, instead of once a week as with lariam.

    highly recommended!

    peace

  5. Lately I’ve developed a taste for Marmite — a little dab of the sticky salty goo does wonders on a bagel.

    I spent a month in India drinking water with dissolved anti-malaria pills (think they were quinine) — this was before bottled water was widely available — it was the most unbelievably bitter and nasty stuff I’d ever tasted.

  6. Bombay Sapphire hurts, too; don’t drink a whole bottle of it, or anything really.

    i’m sure it does if you drink a whole bottle of it. everything in moderation…

  7. I accidentally forgot to refill my mefloquine prescription, only to realize this in the customs line in Bombay. On my uncle’s recommendation, I chanced it and proceeded with my six week daily g&t therapy. Some might say that extending this therapy two years after my trip is overkill, but for once my inner hypochondriac and inner lush are singing in unison, so who am I to argue.

  8. Has anyone heard of using quinine for restless leg syndrome? A doctor suggested it to me and it seems to help some. I am an alcoholic, so I make a “ginless tonic” every night. It helps that I used to love G&T’s before I stopped drinking. When I go out to a bar with friends, I now order the ginless version with a lime. It calms my legs and is more enjoyable than a diet coke. Its hard to find a cold, non-alcoholic beverage, that isn’t sweet. I do love the taste. British foods are an aquired taste. I guess thats why you don’t hear people saying “lets go out for British food”, or “let’s try that new British restaurant in town”. There aren’t many cook books featuring British quisine. Still, they did give us G&T’s and a very good muffin to toast for breakfast! AJ