It’s the iconic drinks pairing, with fans including Philip Larkin and JK Rowling, and thanks to nearly half the population lately drinking more of the juniper spirit than they did in 2018, it seems there’s been something of a renaissance for the humble gin and tonic.
Catering for those consumers seeking the finest drinks experience possible, Scottish producers have been quick to capitalise on the rise of premium gin to create some exciting and innovative mixers.
One such entrepreneur is Andrew Ligertwood, whose tonic water is made using indigenous Scottish botanicals and, perhaps most surprisingly, no quinine, the medication used to treat malaria.
He said: “I think quinine spoils the taste, and to be honest it was more important for me to use ingredients that could be sourced as locally as possible. This made quinine far from ideal, even though it’s used in most other tonic waters, as I didn’t want to go to another continent to source it, especially when we have such excellent, natural and healthy ingredients on our doorstep.”
Asked how people react to this fact, he replies, semi-jokingly, “you can’t get malaria from a midge”.
A former marketing manager for drinks giants Scottish & Newcastle and Highland Spring, Andrew said the idea for his fledgling product arose from the fact that while Scotland is on the world stage when it comes to so much of its national produce, there was a glaring absence of any premium tonic made with Scottish ingredients.
He said: “Scotland has a reputation for excellence when it comes to our amazing natural larder. Provenance, sustainable sourcing and supporting local are very high up the value index when it comes to marketing and promotion and buyer motivation.
“It struck me, as I was enjoying a gin and tonic – the gin was made in Scotland but the tonic wasn’t – that there was a gap for a premium tonic water made using Scottish ingredients and the research then showed me that there was a demand for it.”
His decision to do something about it led to the formation in 2016 of Drink Better Ltd – as much a mission statement for the company as a title, said Andrew.
Inspired by the gentle melodic call of the Scottish wood pigeon, the drinks maker took the decision to name his new creation Cushiedoos (pronounced coo-she-doos), in honour of the woodland birds that mate for life when they find their perfect partner – much like gin and tonic.
Made with a blend of four botanicals – Heather, silver birch, yellow gentian and wormwood – Andrew also sources Scottish mountain water from ancient artesian springs, high in the Cairngorms National Park, to create the perfect balance for his product.
Currently the heather and silver birch are sourced locally while plans for Scottish grown yellow gentian and wormwood - as part of a special project with the Secret Herb Garden - could see them added to the Cushiedoos recipe making it 100% Scottish.
Andrew stated that although Cushiedoos has been hugely successful since its launch in April 2018 – with listings with Drinkmonger, Turnberry, Balgove Larder, The Sheraton One Square and 56 North – the recipe took a little time to perfect.
He said: “It took some time to get the balance right and initial trials were poor, but with a taste panel to review and provide feedback I eventually landed on a fantastic blend that does not overpower, and better complements spirit drinks such as gin, letting the distillers’ good work shine through the drink. The lack of quinine and lower levels of citric acid mean it has an extraordinary smoothness and clean aftertaste.”
The Drink Better founder stated that the recipe also has some added benefits.
“Because Cushiedoos is made using less citric acid than other tonics, it needs less sugar – British beet sugar – meaning it has 24 per cent less sugar than the top-selling premium tonic water.”