[:it]by ELISABETTA LUGLI
High quality mixing is not just about spirits: the merit of a successful cocktail is also due to the non-alcoholic drinks that compose it, be they tonic waters, ginger beer or anything else.
As bartenders know well, for example, to obtain a good gin and tonic the tonic water must be of high quality and harmonize perfectly with the gin used.
And just as gin has a fascinating history behind it, tonic water also has its own to tell: going back to its origins, tonic would not exist if at the end of the 18th century Johan Jacob Schweppes had not had the intuition to add water of carbon dioxide. But to talk about real tonic water we need to go back to the moment in which the water was added - as well as CO2 – also of quinine.
To find out more about the world of tonic and other soda drinks we spoke with Elena Ceschelli, one of the creators of Bevande Futuriste, a brand of high quality non-alcoholic drinks born in 2014 and aimed at Horeca.
Elena, let's talk about tonic water and the ingredient that distinguishes it: quinine.
You said it right, quinine is the main ingredient of the tonic.
It is an alkaloid that is extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree and was isolated and extracted for the first time thanks to light solvents by two French scientists, Pierre-Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Bienaimé Caventau in 1820. In addition to quinine, these two scientists made other discoveries such as caffeine, chlorophyll and strychnine. They did not want to patent or register any of these discoveries in their name, believing that they were important for humanity and that it was therefore right to donate them.
When was the official birth of tonic water?
We can say that tonic water was born in the 18th century in the colonies of India and Africa, when water was sanitized with large doses of quinine to fight malaria. To counteract the excessive bitterness, various flavorings were added. The British soldiers also began to add gin, thus giving life to the famous Gin Tonic. But the first "official" note of a tonic water dates back to 1858: it was a product called "improved aerated liquid", patented by Erasmus Bond.
Is natural quinine still used in tonic water today?
It depends, there are industrial tonic waters that use synthetic quinine. In our tonic waters (Bevande Futuriste produces 5 types, ed.) the natural cinchona bark extract is well present together with a little white cane sugar, citric acid and a very balanced and elegant CO2.
There are many types of tonic water, which differ based on the aromas included in the recipe. Where does this need for diversification come from?
The varieties of tonics are very important in mixing, because their taste must blend harmoniously with the various spirits. I like to bring this concept closer to that of alchemy; I'll tell you a story about our tonics to make you understand better. We wanted to take inspiration from women, their femininity and temperament, and we found the perfect muse in Isabella Cortese, a noble Venetian alchemist from the late 15th century.
At that time the alchemists were the Mixologists of today.
As in a large laboratory we thought of creating different tonic waters by listening to the needs of these "alchemists" for their combinations.
We have the neutral, the botanical, the spicy, the organic and the light sugar-free, with fructose.
All only with natural products, without dyes and preservatives, in the name of Made in Italy.
The packaging also recalls women in various shades of pink, from bright pink to pale Dior pink, not to forget the purple of Strong Tonic for the most daring palates.
Elena, how did you get into the world of sodas?
I come from the world of communication and large events. With two partners I founded Bevande Futuriste in 2014, with the ambition of adding something that was missing in the non-alcoholic drinks market. The name, Bevande Futuriste, recalls precisely this: a disruptive action, an innovative audacity in the way it is approached. In all our products there is the search for the concept of goodness associated with organic. An organic where even the eye has its part, because our products have an elegant appearance, in many cases colourful: an aesthetic pleasure too.
Earlier you defined mixologists as “alchemists”. How do you relate to them?
We have an ongoing dialogue, precisely because our drinks were created in collaboration with them. In this way we managed to obtain perfect drinks to create high quality cocktails. Our reference is a high level mixology, so to speak we say "of a large hotel", aimed at an attentive and receptive clientele. A concept of quality drinking, an idea of a cocktail that is served with a glass and bottle so that the customer can see and know what he is drinking. We at Bevande Futuriste carry out training courses, create drink lists for clubs, collaborate with barmen who are then the customer's "advisers". When they order a drink, most people let the person behind the counter guide them, and that's the right thing to do, because the products need to be described and explained. Drinking well is this: knowing the product, the quality. Then there are the right doses, balance and moderation. Experienced in this way, for example, a gin and tonic becomes another drink, and can be a transversal drink, to be consumed at any time.
What can you tell us about this very difficult moment of lockdown, as it is experienced by Bevande Futuriste?
This must be a period of constant dialogue, we must support each other, do training courses. Our world must create a system. This is our philosophy. For example, we created the "Barman in slippers" column: we provide barmen with a kit, they make a video at their home and everyone can see it on social media. Furthermore, as long as the premises are closed, our E-shop operates without a minimum order and without shipping costs.
Can you give us the recipe for a cocktail you love?
Sure, I'll give you one of a great soft drink. Is called Italy, an evocative name at a time when more than ever we must love our country.
It is prepared in a tall tumbler, with lime juice, ginger beer, raspberry juice or puree and a mint leaf as decoration. A delicious drink, excellent for sweetening this period of captivity![:]