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Apr 16, 2011 12:16 PM

Tonic recommendations?

I love a good G&T in the summer, but the store-bought tonics, even Schweppes, seem to be getting sweeter every year. I've read about small label tonic waters without a lot of added sugar, but don't know any brands or where to find them. I'm in Southern California, so I'm sure there's somewhere where such a thing is available.

Any recommenations would be welcome.

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  1. Here in the Boston area I can find Q-Tonic and Fever Tree. Honestly I haven't compared them to each other, but both were less sweet that the mainstream brands. I completely agree with you about the sweetness. You might try a good liquor store for these. Here in the Boston area, The Boston Shaker sells them (and mailorders, too -- Dave's Pasta next door has some too. Several good liquor stores sell one or the other.

    Another alternative is to make your own tonic syrup and mix with seltzer. I haven't done this yet, but it seems like the ideal way to control the sugar, plus have a ready supply of fizzy tonic water. (I have a SodaStream seltzer maker (which I also got at The Boston Shaker), so I always have fresh seltzer handy). I absolutely love the thing. No more lugging setlzer home and returning the empty bottles. Plus if a bottle of setlzer goes flat, I just fill it up and recarbonate it.

    I may be able to lay my hands on the tonic water syrup recipe. I think it may have been printed in Imbibe.

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    9 Replies
    1. re: EvergreenDan

      I like both the Q and Fever Tree, but man they're expensive. The Whole Foods 365 brand tonic is a more-reasonably-priced alternative.

      1. re: ted

        +1 on the Whole Foods 365 Brand. Q and Fever Ttree are both great, but expensive for everday ....

      2. re: EvergreenDan

        Hi Dan,
        I have been wondering about the SodaStream, my bf and I love fizzy water, but I have read reviews saying you can't get as much fizz w/the sodaStream as commercially produced b/c not as much pressure. Do you find the difference negligible? We hate buying all the plastic bottles even though we recycle. I didn't want to invest in the Soda Stream though, only to be disappointed in the fizz, but now you have me reconsidering :)

        Also, have you found any tonic syrup recipes you are going to try? That sounds intriguing. I've been wanting to try gin&tonics but the supermarket tonics are just horrible (and so many add corn syrup :( ), and as other people mentioned, the Q, Fever Tree and Fentiman's are so pricey. (but ted, thanks for the heads up on 365 brand, I will have to try that one)

        thanks! (i'm new here btw, been lurking a month or so, since researching Real gin martinis ;) and found this wonderful forum of like-minded explorers and palates :) ) -Vicki

        1. re: EvergreenDan

          Vicki -

          You can google for tonic water syrup or tonic water concentrate. I found :

          which referred back to:

          I have yet to make it, but would like to.

          You can somewhat control how fizzy you make the water with the SodaStream. Use ice-cold water, carbonate slowly, and release the pressure gently. We used to buy seltzer in 2L bottles, and the SodaStream is definitely more fizzy than the 2L bottles were at the end. If you buy seltzer in 12 oz cans, then they might be fizzier. We don't mind. The convenience is huge.

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          1. re: EvergreenDan

            Hi Dan, thanks! funny, after I posted I went and googled for recipes and found that same fabulous post on jeffreym's site! definitely inspiring :)

            did you look at siphons at all? I suppose the soda stream is more convenient since the bottles are portable. Thanks for your input, I think I might give it a try! Have a great day :) -v

            1. re: EvergreenDan

              I did not consider siphons. The ones that I recall from my childhood used small CO2 cartridges. I thought the expense would be too high for the rate with which our family consumes seltzer. We use 1-2 liters per day. The Soda stream is very convenient. I bought the one recommended by The Boston Shaker because it uses both the small and large canisters. We keep a spare canister so we can exchange the empties at our leisure. This usually involves coming home with some new bitters or somethings. ;-)

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              1. re: EvergreenDan

                Yea I had seen them available in bulk (the small cartridges) on amazon, I'm a sucker for the retro siphons ;) (hopeless purist ;) )

                good to know about the different sizes for the soda stream, thanks!

                that store you mentioned looks great!! oooh, have you tried this one?

                hee, every new twist on bitters that I see, I want to try!! I'm rather fascinated with them, particularly since they are essentially herbal tinctures... (and the history of how/why they arose, like the cinchona bark for malaria....) I need an apothecary setup for homemade tonics and bitters ;) in my spare time, ha ;)

                1. re: vpixie

                  No, I haven't tried the new bitters he got from Adam Elmegirab. I'm interested in all of them. I also want Bittermen's Burlesque. Maybe I need a trip to The Boston Shaker soon. I also ran out of Scrappy's Lemon and it seems to be gone for good. Time to try Lime, perhaps.

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                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                    The Burlesque caught my eye too!!! hee, you'll have to update me on your Boston Shaker trip so I can live vicariously through you. ;) No cool cocktail shops like that near me ;) mm, Lime would be great for summer...

                    ooh I haven't heard of Scrappy's, omg they have grenandine!! My grandfather once owned a soda fountain, and he used to make me Lime Rickey's as a kid, yum! *happy nostalgia* those are worth resurrecting for sure :)

                    and I've decided to try out the Soda Stream (especially with Bed Bath & Beyond eternal 20% coupons!!), I'll post if I get to experiment with tonic syrups :)

                    thank you for the lovely chat and inspiration! I love this board :)

          2. My first foray into fine tonic waters had me taste off Q, Fentiman's, and Fever tree. l preferred the Fentiman as the others did not have enough quinine taste. And as Ted said they are expensive.

            1. I don't have a lot to add here as per usual, EGD is doing all the heavy lifting and doing it well. However, since I drink an inordinate amount of bubble water as does my girlfriend, this is something I think about, a lot.

              I don't try to save money on tonic but I do try to save money on fizzy water. Now I don't drink gin and tonic's exclusively, or even very regularly, but I like them enough to invest in one of the three aforementioned specialty brands. BevMo, Walley's, Winehouse, Beverage Warehouse, Mel and Rose's, K&L, Hi-Times etc. all have at least one of these depending on what is closest to you.

              I know a few guys who are making their own tonic but it takes a significant comittment. It's not "hard," per se, it just is something that will take up time as you fiddle with getting the recipe to your liking...which from a time value of money perspective could end up being just as expensive if you aren't bonkers for making your own stuff.

              I don't have a SodaStream as I have an unfortunately limited amount of counter space and already too many appliances but a friend does and it seems to work just fine. Maybe I need to reprioritize. That deep fryer takes up a lot of space....;)

              I drink generic seltzer/club soda depending on my mood and how much sodium I feel I can handle, that is $1.50 per six pack from the local megamart. I buy a shload of it but the cans are easy to recycle and it isn't bank breaking.

              1. Q Tonic is my favorite so far. It's certainly far less sweet than the usual big name brands and uses agave syrup instead of corn syrup, if that's important to you. They also boast that it has 60% fewer calories than other brands (I'm assuming the big national brands), which may give you a rough idea of how it compares in sweetness. The balance is perfect for me, unlike the big brands, which seemed increasingly one-note or completely out of balance.