In each monthly installment of Bender, Caroline Ferguson will explore the social, cultural, and historical context of a single cocktail or boozy beverage. From settling which country lays claim to Pisco to exploring the Carthusian Monks’ chartreuse caves, Caroline will try to track down all the places your drink has been before it gets in your glass—always ending with a recipe of her own creation. Pull up a chair and a glass.
It turns out that, like many things that white people like, gin and tonics are a byproduct of European colonialism. Starting in South America, the Quechua people of Peru and Bolivia have long valued quinine, a naturally-occurring alkaloid derived from cinchona bark, for its fever-reducing properties. But, it wasn’t until the Jesuits arrived in the mid-1600s that a second crucial property of the compound was discovered: quinine was surprisingly effective at treating malaria, which had made its way to the Americas a century before thanks to European settlers and slaves from Africa.