August 26, 2010

What's in your Gin & Tonic? - high fructose corn syrup in tonic water

I'm not much of a drinker. I may have a small glass of wine or beer on rare occasions, or a mixed drink on even more rare occasions. Drinking can make me feel a little sick so the pleasure I receive from it is essentially in the taste of the drink, not in my body's reaction to it. Because I seldom drink, I know very little about ingredients for drinks, and was extremely surprised recently to discover that tonic (as in gin and tonic) is made with high fructose corn syrup. Usually when I'm drinking plain (without alcohol) tonic at an event such as a wedding (in a tall glass with lime as a g&t might be served), it comes from the bar, and I haven't scrutinized the ingredient list on the bottle. Then I forget about it until the next event, and so on.

Recently, I made my first gin & tonic, and here's why. When I was about to leave Madison for Seattle last year, a friend who very much enjoys drinking, invited me over for a farewell drink. She asked me what I liked, and I told her I didn't drink much, but if I did, I'd want a caipirinha. (I also suggested a particular kind of beer called Spotted Cow.) At the time, I didn't realize she'd actually go out and buy the ingredients, watch u-tube videos and mix up delicious cocktails! So, at the end of our visit to Madison this summer, I invited her over for her current drink of choice — gin and tonic. I watched a few bar-tending videos, and decided I was up to the task of pouring things over ice.

My friend has given up her beloved beer, and many other beverages because of a high blood sugar scare, and although she drinks G&Ts, she told me she could only drink them made with diet tonic. Diet tonic? I hadn't realized tonic had calories (though I had noticed it tasted good :D), and I finally got around to reading the labels of the diet and regular Schweppes tonic. It came down to high fructose corn syrup versus saccharine. I was bummed. I'd really had no idea. We drank our G&Ts (I managed about half of mine), which were perfect and delicious on a sweltering late afternoon, she with her saccharine and me with my HFCS — ugh. So I did a little Internet sleuthing and discovered a new tonic water called Q, made with Peruvian quinine and organic agave. Does it matter? I don't know. But there it is. And it isn't cheap! (FYI Whole Foods sells cans of 365 brand tonic water that is made with sugar, not HFCS.)

note: In case you're wondering, my friend did reduce her blood sugar to normal by cutting out sugar and eating lower on the glycemic scale. I don't know the details of her diet but she lost more than 20 pounds, and continues to drink G&Ts while maintaining good blood sugar readings.


  1. "A friend who very much enjoys drinking..." It wasn't me, though I--ahem--do enjoy drinking, but I never, ever drink gin and tonic, after a very bad experience in my first year of university that put me forever off (1) hard liquor, and *specifically* gin and tonics; and (2) boys in bars. Now I just drink by myself or with people closely biologically related to me. Sometimes you have to suffer to learn virtue.

  2. What a bummer to hear about one more thing that has high fructose corn syrup. It's everywhere! Fortunately, I no longer like the taste of alcohol, so I can avoid it in mixers, I guess. We've completely cut it out of our diet.

  3. A Glass of wine or capirinha are the best. I most often go for white wine or a fantastic dry red.

  4. I wonder in German Schweppes has HFCS, too.(It's not called HFCS here and not many people know about that evilish sugar.) Must check! I drink don't drink much, too. But when I do, it's either wine or beer, where I'm on the safe side when it comes to sugar.

  5. Zoa,
    I have very fond memories of drinking vodka and orange juice with close family members ... much better companion choice than boys in bars, agreed.

    I was drinking the tonic to avoid the alcohol. Now I guess it's back to water to avoid the HFCS. Not a bad choice, but not as festive.

    The Kitchen Buzz,
    Caipirinhas are delicious, but filled with sugar so I don't make a habit of them. Mostly I drink water or sparkling water. I'm boring, I guess.

    Wine and beer were two of the drinks my friend had to abandon when her blood sugar soared. I'll have to do more research on the topic.

  6. Thanks for the info about tonic water...I rarely drink spirits (more of a beer and wine girl), but I love Caipirinhas! I was thinking of making some this summer, but I didn't know where I could find cachaça; I doubt they have it at the liquor store around here.

  7. I've never had tonic water, and looks like I never will now. :o) Thanks for sharing the info. I would have to say that I would be more of a wine and beer gal, even though I very rarely drink.

  8. Rose,
    If my friend found cachaça in Madison, it seems you could find it in Seattle. Or maybe you could make mojitos, which are also delicious, and slightly less exotic. But it could be that summer has ended in Seattle, and hot chocolate on a cool evening would be your best bet! :D

    Drinking tonic water was fun while it lasted, but I guess I'll go back to requesting sparkling water at events where people drink. At home I'm much more likely to have wine or beer, if I drink anything alcoholic at all. Usually I just have plain water.

  9. I had no idea tonic water was toxic water... but thanks for the info. The most I ever drink is a little wine or beer, none of the hard stuff. But I'll keep it in mind for when I am trying to find something non-alcoholic at a bar. That was a good point!

  10. I'm not a drinker at all but I had no idea about tonic water. What a bummer. Thanks for the research. :-)

  11. Claire,
    I drank at least a gallon of the stuff at Lucas' wedding. I had no idea it was filled with HFCS, and has about 100 calories a glass. I think you had some, too, on my recommendation. Sorry...

    Chow Vegan,
    I thought I was the only one who didn't know what was in tonic water, but I guess not. I thought it was just basically carbonated water with quinine and citrus. You learn something new everyday, as the saying goes.

  12. Blech! That stuff should be banned! I think there's a campain or group or something on facebook trying to get HFCS banned. I don't know if facebook campagins have any effect on anything though.

    Those bottles are so pretty by the way! :)

  13. River,
    Yes, should be banned, along with a bunch of other things. But I can't believe it was in a product I consumed without even knowing it was there.

  14. Saccharine is such horrible stuff, but so, of course, is HFCS... I don't drink (don't like the taste) so don't use mixers, but it's getting to the stage that we're often 'between the devil and the deep blue sea' with all these horrible things they add to food and drink...

  15. In my pre-ACD days, when I was still drinking alcohol on occasion, my favorite drink was a G&T. I had no idea about the HFCS! But I think I'd have to suss out that agave-sweetened brand, now, regardless of cost. Ah, to have a G&T! ;)

  16. Penny,
    I was using the mixers as a substitute for drinking at events like weddings and such. But I guess that's not going to happen anymore. "Tonic" has such a healthy tone to it, who would suspect it was full of HFCO and fattening, too?

    I've had an exhausting past few days, and although I'm not one to drink "just because," I'm inclined to get myself a G&T, settle into the couch, and catch up on Mad Men. :D

  17. Thanks for this info. I have a friend who is trying to cut down on sugar and loves her g&t, too. I'll look for this at Whole Foods, which is where I do most of my shopping anyway.

  18. Nancy,
    You're welcome. I should mention that while I find Q delicious, it doesn't taste as sweet as regular tonic water. It's cleaner tasting, and more refreshing. The first time my husband tried it he didn't like it, but the second time he thought it tasted really good.

  19. I've never had a gin and tonic, even though my husband keeps promising to make one for me. I've only ever had vodka tonic. I like the sourness of tonic, but usually just go for soda because tonic gets too sweet after awhile. Thanks for the heads up!

  20. I really like the taste of the Q tonic. It's not nearly as sweet as Schweppes.


Thanks for visiting Andrea's easy vegan cooking. I love, and read, all of your comments! Please share your thoughts.

There are a few Amazon links in the posts. Thanks in advance if you click on one.

Note: ALL THE IMAGES FROM THIS BLOG WERE ACCIDENTALLY DELETED ON 1-21-12. I'M RESTORING THEM, POST BY POST, BUT IT WILL TAKE A LONG TIME. Recipe pages you visit may be missing photos, but all the text in intact. If you find a post without images, let me know so I can fix it. Thanks!