Does tonic water contain sugar?
We get asked this question a lot. Generally most tonic waters contain sugar or some variation of sugar (unless they are diet tonic waters that contain artificial sweeteners). Sugar helps carry the flavour in a tonic and also balances the bitterness of the quinine.
That said, most modern, premium tonic waters - StrangeLove included - will be far more dry (i.e.contain less sugar) than mainstream, commercial tonic waters.
To give a very crude overview, usually mass-produced commercial tonic waters contain upwards of 10g of sugar/100ml. For a 250ml drink, this would equate to around 120 calories.
To put that in context StrangeLove Tonic No. 8 contains 7.0g of sugar/100ml (27 calories), StrangeLove Dirty Tonic contains 4.0g of sugar/100ml (17 calories) and StrangeLove Light Tonic Water contains 2.9g of sugar/100ml (13 calories).
Our approach to sugar has always been to create a well-balanced drink that ultimately works well once mixed with alcohol. We never use it as a cheap and easy way to add flavour to a drink.
Diet Tonic vs Light Tonic
Generally diet tonic water refers to tonic water that is zero calorie and contains artificial sweeteners. Light tonic water - or slimline tonic water - usually refers to a tonic that simply has less-sugar, but does not substitute it for artificial sweetener.
The problem with artificial sweeteners is they usually are not as efficient at carrying flavour, often resulting in cloying effects and unusual taste artefacts that can carry into the final drink.
Most Light tonics will still be great tonics, but just may not carry the flavour as much or give the same mouth-feel.
Definitely, with the prevalence of new-age gins containing complex and eclectic botanicals, Light Tonic water is becoming increasingly popular as it provides more room for the gin to be gin.