Mary Poppins said a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but the Brits thought a splash of gin would do just as well. It was English officers stationed in early nineteenth-century India who had the brilliant idea to add their gin ration to their daily dose of malaria-preventing quinine tonic—and a star was born. You can see for yourself just how easily a gin and tonic goes down at Stella’s Southern Brasserie’s gin bar. The tightly curated program is a celebration and exploration of the spirit: all that it has been and what it is becoming.

“Gin is coming into its own, expanding the definition of what we think of as gin,” explains Julia Scholz, co-owner of Stella’s. Their gin bar menu—divided into traditional London Dry styles and newer “unique and unusual” types—charts this expansion with a changing roster of producers and flavor profiles. Their list includes gin sourced everywhere from Scotland to Japan to the banks of our own Lake Jocassee, with flavor notes as exotic as cardamom and yuzu or as traditional as juniper and lime.

Photography by Jivan Davé

Despite the thrill of gin’s renaissance, it was tonic that first sparked Scholz’s interest in bringing a gin-and-tonic program to the restaurant. “Once I tasted house-made tonic, I was in love,” Scholz says. A far cry from the stuff jetted out of a standard bar soda gun, the house-made tonic at Stella’s is the work of many rounds of tinkering before they settled on the perfect recipe. The resulting tonic makes a balanced base for the classic cocktail, allowing the unique flavor profiles of each gin to shine.

Wade-in-slowly types might start with a G&T crafted with the very approachable Jocassee Gin, a locally crafted spirit with soft notes of magnolia, honeysuckle, and citrus, while the bold might ask for Opihr, a gin with spicy hints of cumin and black pepper. Or, order a range with a group of friends, swapping and tasting along the way. It’s hard to go wrong on this choose-your-own adventure because you’re bound to finish the drinks feeling good. The Brits had the right idea.

Stella’s Southern Brasserie, 340 Rocky Slope Rd, Greenville. stellasbrasserie.com