Freddie Mercury's Favorite Cocktail Was A Stiff Drink

The frontman of legendary band Queen was known for operatic vocals, over-the-top performances, and fanciful costumes, but Freddie Mercury's cocktail of choice was quite a bit more simple. The vibe is less red velvet, feathers, and plastic eyes like his get-up in the "It's a Hard Life" music video, and more tight jeans and simple white tank top, like the iconic Live Aid concert. Mercury loved a classic vodka tonic, according to Peter "Phoebe" Freestone, who runs the "Ask Pheobe" page on the official Freddie Mercury website. Freestone was his assistant and close friend from 1979 until Mercury's death in 1991.

The drink is citrusy, pleasantly bitter, just sweet enough, and refreshingly straightforward. A vodka tonic is simply vodka stirred with tonic water, sometimes with a touch of sugar, and it is definitely a stout beverage. Ratios can certainly vary based on who is mixing it up, but some can be as stiff as one-part vodka to two-part tonic. It can be garnished with a slice of lime, lemon, or both, and is always served over lots of ice. If you decide to order one for yourself, talk to your bartender because they may have a new take on the vodka tonic.

Freddie Mercury's love of the vodka tonic speaks to his roots

Quinine — which comes from Andean fever trees — has long been used by indigenous people in South America to treat and prevent malaria. By 1858, an Englishman named Erasmus Bond patented the first tonic water and sold it as a medicinal beverage. Quinine was often administered in alcohol, and tonic water paired with various spirits quickly spread in popularity across various British colonies in Africa and Asia. The supremely hot weather and heavy mosquito presence made the beverage both refreshing and potentially life-saving. Of course, it was the quinine that had antimalarial properties — the booze and bubbly were just for fun. An important note: Modern tonic water does not contain enough quinine to prevent malaria.

Though the exact origins of the gin and tonic are nebulous, the first official mention of the drink is attributed to Lucknow, India. Similarly, it is unknown when tonic water first became a mixer for vodka, but it was definitely popular by the mid-1900s.

Undoubtedly, the vodka tonic's roots can be traced back to colonized India — where Freddie Mercury's family was from. His parents immigrated from India to Zanzibar — which later became part of Tanzania, Africa. Mercury and his family moved to England when he was 18 years old. With influence from both the large Indian community in Zanzibar and British culture in England and India, Mercury was bound to fall in love with a tonic-based libation.

How did Freddie Mercury take his vodka tonic?

According to Phoebe Freestone, Freddie Mercury definitely had his preferences (per Stolichnaya, a Russian vodka, was his favorite. Stolichnaya still exists, but it is only produced in Russia. When the Soviet Union fell, an exiled billionaire continued making a private label version out of Latvia while separately, state-owned production continued in Russia. Now, the Latvian version is known just as Stoli. This vodka is made from wheat and rye, making it different from potato vodka. It has notes of black pepper, licorice, and citrus.

If Stolichnaya was not available, Mercury would opt for Moscovskaya instead. Moscovskaya vodka was also originally created in Russia but has been produced in Latvia since 1938. It also uses wheat and rye, and the taste leans in an anise and mint direction.

Of course, you can't have a vodka tonic without the fizz. When it came to Mercury's preferred tonic water, he chose Schweppes — which has been around since the 1870s. It is sweet, slightly bitter, and quite citrusy.

This particular vodka tonic combination was his evening drink of choice. So mix one up for yourself as the sun goes down, put on a Queen record, and pour one out for the late, great Freddie Mercury.