Rebel with a cause: Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic and the fight to beat malaria

It's hard to miss Fever-Tree Aromatic tonic, as it glistens gently rose on the shelf. So what makes Fever-Tree’s Aromatic Tonic special – and, perhaps more pressingly, pink?

The answer is the addition of angostura bark, a botanical that shares a name with a popular brand of bitters. While those particular bitters don’t actually include angostura bark – they’re named, instead, after the town in Venezuela where they’re made – the primary flavour profile of this aromatic botanical is nevertheless very bitter indeed. It’s also, as you’ll discover, deeply pleasant when combined with the rich selection of flavours that round out the flavour of this unique tonic.

As Saskia Meyer, marketing director of Fever-Tree says: “We are the very first tonic to use this rare and special ingredient and have matched it with other unique aromatics such as cardamom from Guatemala, pimento berry from Jamaica and ginger from Cochin, all rounded off with Fever-Tree’s signature quinine from the Congo and Tanzanian bitter orange.”

A History of Healing

Like quinine, angostura has a rich history of preventing and treating illnesses. While quinine was used by the Spanish in the late 1630s to treat fevers, the bitter bark of the angostura tree (which is rarely cultivated, growing wild along the banks of the Orinoco river and reaching up to 60 metres tall) has been used by the people of South America for centuries to ease a variety of bodily ailments.

A cornerstone of traditional medicine, angostura bark is stripped from the tree by hand and dried for later use. Like cinnamon, angostura can be ground into a powder for easier consumption; unlike its fragrant cousin, it stays flat when dried.

Typically, angostura bark used in traditional medicine is consumed in the form of a decoction, which may or may not include other herbs to ease the bitter taste that this bark has become known for.

Angostura bark has traditionally been used to alleviate stomach cramps, aid digestion and improve the appetite; it’s also been used to fight coughs and lung complaints, including whooping cough and tuberculosis. But angostura’s primary use as an herbal remedy brings it close to another bark well known and loved by fans of the gin and tonic: quinine.

Like quinine, angostura bark’s anti-fever properties are remarkable, making it a once-valuable tool in the fight against malaria.  

Saskia explains: “We looked deep into early references of tonics and discovered medical records of British Navy surgeons prescribing angostura bark as a fever remedy, or ‘tonic’, in the early 19th Century.

“In 1814 a British naval commander, Captain Matthew Flinders published ‘A Voyage to Terra Australis’, an account of his expeditions to Australia from 1801-1803.  In the work he cited an extract of angostura bark being used in fever remedies prescribed by the naval surgeons as an alternative or supplement to the long known anti-fever prescription of cinchona bark, or quinine.”

With the advent of modern medicine, the use of angostura has been severely limited. Not suitable for much use in the culinary realm, these days you’re most likely to find it sold as an herbal supplement. But angostura bark and quinine are still beating back the scourge of malaria – though the ‘how’ has changed considerably.

A Fight for the Future

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Fever-Tree is deeply committed to eradicating malaria in the world. To this day malaria – which can be spread by even a single mosquito bite – ends the life of a child every two minutes, according to charity Malaria No More UK. But this brutal disease is both preventable and treatable, and these deaths are needless tragedies.

That’s why Fever-Tree – named after the folk name for the cinchona tree – has been working with Malaria No More UK in close partnership since 2013. For Fever-Tree’s founders, the fight against malaria is personal.

More than 90% of malaria deaths are in Africa, with many taking place right where Fever-Tree sources its tonic ingredients. The Democratic of Congo and Nigeria, where Fever-Tree sources all of its quinine and more than a third of its ginger respectively, together account for 35% of malaria deaths.

But there is hope. The world has more than halved global deaths from malaria since the year 2000, saving 6.2m lives.

“The finish line is within reach,” Malaria No More UK states. “We can beat this.”

Fever-Tree contributes to the cause by working closely with Malaria No More UK to raise awareness of the issue and money to fight the disease. Just £1 can buy the treatment a child needs to survive, while £5 can buy a mosquito net to protect a parent and child.

From pop-up bars on London’s Southbank to countrywide fundraising initiatives for Malaria No More UK, Fever-Tree has made a big contribution to the global fight against this disease.

The Bright Side

The aromatic tonic in your Gin of the Month box plays an important role in the fight against malaria, but it’s also a great mixer for top-quality gins. Fabulously aromatic with an almost unidentifiable twist it will pair beautifully with Gin of the Month Hernöadding an extra dimension.

“Our Aromatic Tonic pairs perfectly with bold, juniper-rich gins,” Saskia says, “and adds to our portfolio of pioneering tonic waters which now cover the four main flavour profiles of citrus, floral, herbal and finally, aromatic.”

She concludes: “For the perfect serve and a modern twist on the classic ‘Pink Gin’, we recommend mixing Aromatic Tonic with gin over ice in a highball glass, and garnishing with lemon zest – the perfect serve!”

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