Home Household & Pantry Which sugar-free tonic water tastes best?

Which sugar-free tonic water tastes best?

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Few things are as refreshing as an ice-cold gin and tonic. And there’s no need to compromise on taste when you’re keeping tabs on your sugar intake. Gin genie Martha van Zyl compared four of the leading sugar-free tonics and spills the tea to reveal her favourite.

Preparing for the sugar-free tonic water taste test

The tonics we tested are sold in 200 ml cans or one-litre bottles. I bought cans, because I don’t enjoy G&Ts too often during the week and wasn’t keen on keeping mixers gone flat in the fridge. I paired the different tonics with Tanqueray London Dry Gin – no botanicals or other frills to mask the tonic’s taste. So, let’s get down to it.

The taste of sugar-free tonic water

First off, none of the tonics tasted significantly different to standard tonics. You don’t have to worry about failing in your new-year’s resolution of going sugar free, or at least of reducing your sugar intake.

Of the Indian tonic waters, the Schweppes has a slight lemony flavour, while the Fitch & Leedes has a slightly sweeter lime taste. The Woolworths Food tonic is described on the can as a quinine and citrus-flavoured sparkling drink. There’s a definite bitter aftertaste of quinine, but it’s not unpleasant. I can compare it to biting into a lemon’s skin. The Fitch & Leedes pink tonic has a pronounced floral flavour, giving it a sweeter taste.

The best sugar-free tonic water

The Schweppes and Woolworths Indian tonics score 3.5/5 each, while the Fitch & Leedes Indian tonic scores 4/5. This means the latter is our top Indian tonic.

For me, the Fitch & Leedes pink tonic is the best of the four contenders, although one could easily make a case that it belongs to a different category. How much you enjoy it can depend on the kind of gin you’re pairing it with. My favourite gin is Hendrick’s, and since it is also rose-and-cucumber based, the pink tonic suits it perfectly. Fitch & Leedes pink will match wonderfully with any floral gin. I rate it 4.5/5.

For London Dry and citrus-forward gins, Indian tonics are best. However, these tonics are also excellent for bringing out the botanicals of a spice-infused gin. Have fun experimenting, but please drink responsibly.

Serving suggestion

New to gin? You can’t go wrong serving it this way:

  • Four ice cubes
  • 40 ml gin
  • 200 ml tonic
  • Serve in a highball or tonic glass. Garnish with lemon slices, cucumber ribbons, or whatever catches your fancy. (I like to keep things simple – life is complicated enough.)

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The ingredients of each tonic

Schweppes Indian tonic water – No Sugar
200 ml
Energy 18 kJ
Total sodium 82 mg
The rest of the nutritional values are all listed as 0. Ingredients: Carbonated water, citric acid, trisodium citrate, flavouring, non-nutritive sweeteners (aspartame*, acesulfame-K), quinine (67 mg/l). **Contains phenylalanine

Woolworths Food sparkling tonic water – Sugar Free (R58.99 for six)
200 ml
Energy <1 kJ
Protein <0.3 g
Carbohydrates <1 g
of which total sugar <0.5 g
Total sodium 10 mg
Ingredients: Carbonated spring water, citric acid, flavouring, preservative (sodium benzoate), acesulfame K, sucralose, quinine hydrochloride.

Fitch & Leedes Indian tonic – sugar free
200 ml
Energy 4 kJ
Protein 0.2 g
Carbohydrates 0 g
of which total sugar 0 g
Total sodium 5 mg
Ingredients: Sparkling water, citric acid (E330), flavouring (citrus), non-nutritive sweeteners (sucralose E955, acesulfame K E950), preservative (sodium benzoate E211), quinine.

Fitch & Leedes pink tonic – sugar free
200 ml
Energy 22 kJ
Protein <0.6 g
Carbohydrate <5 g
of which total sugar <1 g
Total sodium <10 mg
Ingredients: Sparkling water, citric acid (E330), flavouring (citrus, rose, cucumber), non-nutritive sweeteners (sucralose E955, acesulfame K E950), preservative (sodium benzoate E211), quinine, colourant (E122).

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