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Oct 7, 2009 03:24 PM

Homemade Tonic Water

I've noticed several good bars in my area are starting to make their own tonic waters, understandable since most of what's commercially available is oversweetened crap. I would like to try this at home--suggestions? Recipes? Where to find ingredients? Thanks.

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  1. Okay, I'm replying here in hopes that Alan Barnes is watching me:) I KNOW he makes his own tonic. Haven't tasted it yet but if he does it like everything else, it's a winner. Yoohoo, alan.

    1. It's really pretty straightforward. The only hard part is finding the ingredients. You'll probably have to mail-order cinchona bark; I got mine (chopped, not ground - makes filtering easier) from Citric acid can also be a bit tricky to find; after a few false starts I found it at the local homebrew store. Since then I noticed it at Whole Foods (for more money, of course).

      Kevin Ludwig is kind of the godfather of the whole homemade tonic thing. Here's his recipe:

      Last year Jeffrey Morgenthaler tweaked the recipe and posted this on his blog:

      And there was some discussion here:

      I tried the Morgenthaler recipe and like it pretty well. In subsequent batches I've upped the lemongrass a little, experimented with different spices (I like it with a hint of cinnamon and coriander), and used a couple of crushed limes instead of the zest and juice of a lemon, a lime, and an orange.

      Hmmm, 5 minutes 'til 5 - I see a G&T in my immediate future...

      3 Replies
      1. re: alanbarnes

        A friend and I each (separately) made the Morganthaller recipe and thought there was too much citric acid in the mix! If I make this again I'm going to dial that way back.

        1. re: alanbarnes

          Hate to resurrect an ancient thread - but we've been making tonic for a couple of years now and when we first started we were buying citric acid at the home-brew store as well.

          But - you should be able to find it in almost any supermarket - check on the aisle with the canning supplies since it is used in home canning. It's way cheaper!

          1. re: craigburdett

            Our local brew supply house has pretty low prices. You can get a lb of citric acid for $4.50 and if you only need a small amount, a 2oz jar is $1.50.

        2. Thanks so much for the information, Alan--exactly what I was looking for. My next question would be--what does everyone think about the possibility of combining the Morgenthaler tonic syrup recipe with the sort of home fermentation technique discussed in the Chow articles about making your own root beer and ginger beer? Would it be possible to home ferment your own brewed-style tonic water, similar to something like Fentimans?

          4 Replies
          1. re: mdzehnder

            Fermenting your own might work. But my guess from the bitterness level is that the stuff is pretty alkaline. That might keep the yeast from doing its thing. It may be worth a try, anyway, if you're patient. I'm not. Even when I brewed my own beer I force-carbonated it. Immediate gratification and all...

            1. re: alanbarnes

              Actually most of the tonic syrup recipes are acidic. Jeffrey Morgenthaler's and my recipes both use citric acid. (Mine are loosely based on Jeff's recipes originally.)

              Here's links to some of my recipes.






              1. re: JMF

                Good point. I just assumed that a bitter flavor equals an alkaline beverage. But the citric acid does give it some sourness, too, which indicates acidity. Have you by any chance checked pH?

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  Commercial tonic waters are generally around 3, if that helps at all. Of course, I'm sure they crank up the acidity to balance all of the extra sugar, but it's a start.

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