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Tonic Syrup

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I've been playing around with making tonic water syrup this year. Working from a lot of recipes floating around, I've settled (for now, anyway) on one that I really like:

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GG's G&T Tonic Syrup

Mix together in a small bowl

2 1/4 tsp Chinchoa bark
1 1/2 tblsp Everclear 151

Combine, cover, leave overnight

The next day combine:

2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
20 Cardamon pods crushed
6 juniper berries
1/2 tsp corriander seed
4 lemon grass stalks chopped
1 tblsp citric acid (I've used up to 50% more and it definitely has a more acid zing, but I prefer the 1 tbs.)

zest and juice of one orange
zest and juice of 2 large Meyer lemons
zest and juice of 2 limes

Add the Chincoa-alcohol slurry.

Simmer covered for 45 min
Leave overnight
Strain through coarse sieve, fine sieve then through a coffee filter. There's a lot of crud in here, it's hard to strain.

Mix with seltzer 1:4 or, more to the point, with gin 1:1:4.

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  1. That looks like a very nice recipe, GG. I've played with all of those ingredients for a Tonic syrup at some point but I've never used this ratio nor have I tried the overnight alcohol extraction of the cinchona bark. Definitely excited to give it a go soon. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Isn't that a HUGE amount of cardamom?

      7 Replies
        1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

          it is if is overwhelming and all you taste is cardamom. It tends to take over in a heavy handed way in cocktails, drinks, food, etc. and you lose all balance. A good drink is all about balance.

          1. re: JMF

            I don't find it overwhelming at all. I certainly agree that it's about balance. No one who has tasted this, and that includes some fairly sophisticated paletes, has remarked in any way about cardamon flavor. Not "Ooo, cardamom." or, "lots of cardamom," or, "nice cardamom flavor." Mainly, I hear "excellent tonic, how did you do that?" Some of my earlier batches with more citric acid and a bit heavier on the lime juice was perceived as being too citrusy, not bad necessarily but not tonic either. But no one has said a thing about the cardamom.

        2. re: JMF

          Shouldn't that yield approximately 1 tsp of the seeds, which is where all the flavor is? I would probably up the coriander myself and perhaps the juniper, but I don't think that's out of balance. The cinchona will still be the dominant flavor, followed by the citrus/acid combination. The cardamom would not be a backnote, but I don't see it taking over the show.

          Or GG and I are both just cardamom freaks.

          1. re: cacio e pepe

            I think about upping the juniper and coriander (I do like juniper and coriander) but I think I prefer to let the gin provide those flavors.

            I agree that the seeds are the flavor, so I just crush the pods to open them up releasing the seeds. You could probably get rid of the pods, but that's one more tedious job.

            Clearly, the recipe is infinitely tweakable to individual tastes., I've never made it the same way twice, but this one is approximately what I've settled on. However I do it, it is always a huge improvement on the stuff you can buy which I find much too sweet. Even the high end stuff which in addition to being sweet is ungodly expensive.

            I'm lucky enough to have some excellent bulk spice shops. One, with a bit of an alternative medicine focus, sells chinchoa by the oz ($3), and a oz. goes a long way. Then there is a raft of South Asian spice shops that sell everything else you can want in bulk, generally quite cheap for spices. The cardamom is, by far, the most expensive component here after the chinchoa.

            The biggest hassle, and I welcome any advice, is filtering. It can take hours to get through a coffee filter. I will usually wait until the filter is plugged up and then decant into another coffee filter leaving as much crud as possible behind. Ugly, messy job best done when the love of my life is out of the kitchen.

            1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

              I see, you are using whole seeds, not crushing them any, which is why you are getting only a small amount of cardamom expression. You could use 1/10 the amount if you used ground cardamom.

              Several things on filtering. Make the "tea" first without adding the sugar, filter, then add sugar.

              Use cracked, not ground herbs and spices.

              Buy a hand pump vacuum Buchner filter set up from a science lab online. It's not too expensive, get the 500ml size. You will cut your filtering time down incredibly. The day I got one I jumped up and down with joy. (The link below are just one example, you can shop around, but this is a great price)
              http://www.thesciencefair.com/Merchan...
              Or the one liter size
              http://www.thesciencefair.com/Merchan...

              (Now I have a small electric vacuum pump setup at home and I think that is worth every penny. I am also getting a commercial system for the lab in my new distillery, but that's a different story.)

              1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                Good point about the gin providing those notes.

                I've actually got vacuum lines in the lab so I just attach a tube to a side arm flask and a buchner funnel and I'm good to go . . . sort of. Even then the fine particulates clog the filter paper pretty quickly and I need to rinse and re-line the funnel.

                However, some things that have helped without the benefit of a lab are: 1. You can get your hands on cinchona bark chunks rather than the finely ground stuff. *Easier* to filter, but still a chore. Also, make your syrup and give it a quick filter through a flour sack towel into a flask or something. Let it sit for a couple of days and very carefully decant the liquid off the top while disturbing the sediment as little as possible. Filtering that liquid will be much easier and quicker than the usual way of going about it.