The drink gained its name from the medicinal effects of its bitter flavoring. The quinine was added to the drink as a prophylactic against malaria, since it was originally intended for consumption in tropical areas of South Asia and Africa, where the disease is endemic. The first commercial tonic water was produced in 1858. The mixed drink gin and tonic originated in British colonial India, when the British population would mix their medicinal quinine tonic with gin to improve its bitter flavour.
Tonic water is often used as a drink mixer for cocktails, especially those made with gin or vodka (for example, a gin and tonic). Tonic water with lemon or lime flavour added is known as bitter lemon or bitter lime, respectively. Such soft drinks are more popular in Europe than in the United States.