It would be very easy to be dismissive of Schweppes.
They’ve been around for a long time – producing fizzy mineral water initally, followed by ginger ale in 1870, tonic water in 1871 and bitter lemon in around 1957. They have dominated the tonic and mixer market for many years (in particular in the 1960s breweries would not only tell you what beers you could serve, but also held sway over what mixers the landlord could use). And between them and Gordon’s Gin, have been synonymous with the phrase ‘Gin & Tonic’.
And herein lies a bit of a problem. The the market has changed. We don’t like flavours quite so sweet and bitter, plus the advent of newer gins, means that when I mention Schweppes, particularly to anyone under 40, faces are pulled.
Personally, I have a bit of a soft spot for Schweppes. Not aided at all by it’s current advertising which is infuriatingly patronising. Even more so when it was subsequently dubbed with an English accent – loves, it wasn’t the accent we had an issue with, but the whole tone.
But still, Schweppes tonic and Gordon’s gin was how I cut my gin drinking teeth. There’s always a little nostalgia to it. There are also some gins better suited to it than others – even aside from Gordon’s, it works well with more modern spirits, like Hoxton’s Gin (no really, it’s a rather good pairing).
So the announcement of new flavours, and new branding had me raising an eyebrow. Perhaps it’s because the market is becoming far more saturated, because their share has fallen a bit, or perhaps because the expansion in gins, means that they’ve recognised that not every gin works with standard Schweppes Indian Tonic Water. Whatever the reason, I’m glad to see there’s more on offer in terms of mixers, and in terms of matches.
The 1873 range includes a slew of new tastes for you to try: Cucumber Tonic Water, Salty Lemon Tonic Water, Crisp Tonic Water (the original style) and Light Tonic Water (there’s also a Floral Tonic Water and a Ginger Ale, that weren’t included in my pack). Each was paired with a particular spirit, so that I could try a little of everything.
I’m going to start with the negative.
Chivas Regal and Light Tonic Water. Nope, not for me. Tonic, yes. Chivas Regal, oh yes. Together, nuhuh. However, on it’s own, the light tonic is a distinct improvement on the artificial sweetener laden original. This tonic water uses fructose and agave syrup to give a softer sweetness. The citrus and quinnine is still present, but it lacks the original harsh sweetness and heavy bitterness. Good work Schweppes.
After this, everything gets more positive. Oh yes, that’s as negative as it gets. I’m actually bloody impressed.
The Salty Lemon tonic was probably my favourite – but as someone who will go for cheese as a dessert option, this probably isn’t a surprise. Created to work with tonics (I am a big fan of a Tequila & Tonic) this has a soft salinity, a good light citrus note to it, and a nice dry finish.
The Cucumber Tonic was a surprise too. I’ve tried a few versions of a cucumber tonic, and the majority are overly sweet or intensely cucumber as to overwhelm whatever you actual mix with it. This is neither, the cucumber is definitely there, but it adds more of a freshness to the tonic than overwhelming it so much as for you to question if it’s still actually tonic water.
And finally, the Crisp Tonic Water. I think even the most hardened Schweppes hater might want to try this one. It’s still distinctively Schweppes, but everything has been toned waaaay down. It’s a fantastic match to the bigger, heavier hitting gins. Still enough power to stand up to a good solid London Dry Gin, without being overwhelming to some of the lighter gins on the market.
So Schweppes, you’ve left me suitably impressed, and next time I spot you on the mixer shelf, I might do more than let my hand hover over the bottle.
But still… Can we talk about that advert?
This sampler kit was provided free of charge. I’m actually genuinely impressed with the effort that has been made to move Schweppes into the modern gin age. Cheers.