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Feb 14, 2013 01:14 PM

Speaking of Tonic

I've had homemade tonic concentrate on my to-do list for ages. We have the good fortune of having two different friends who make and have gifted us their homemade, and between this plenty and the hassle of needing to round up and order ingredients from multiple sources, my own experiments haven't happened yet. I intend to change that shortly, as our stash is dwindling.

What do you know, what have you learned, and what do you like as far as homemade tonic recipes?

FWIW, I did try John's Premium Tonic Syrup, and while it's good, I didn't find it as good as what we've gotten from friends. Generally speaking though, I like the syurps/concentrates because they have little to no sugar vs. bottled tonics--even the fancy ones--that I find much too sugary.
If anyone can compare and contrast John's to any of the other small batch concentrate brands out there, I'd love to hear that as well.

sip on, friends!

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  1. I've tried only Tomr's, which I thought was decent after I squeezed in a lot of lime juice; it has a somewhat muddy flavor profile.

    For bottled tonic waters, have you tried either Q or Fever Tree Light? Both of them are very lightly sweetened, and very bitter. I think they're excellent products, if a bit on the pricey side.

    7 Replies
    1. re: davis_sq_pro

      Muddy is a good description of what I thought about the John's, too.
      The homemade one's we've been gifted have an element of freshness that I really notice and enjoy.

      I've tried Q. Just eh. I recall it being still too sweet/sugary for my palate and the price makes me feel like a douchebag for buying it. I have not seen Fever Tree around here but I've also not been paying attention. I'll look for that to at least try.

      1. re: splatgirl

        Will any of the friends who make their own share their recipes with you (and me!)? I'd like to give it a shot one of these days too.

        1. re: rcb4d

          There are many recipes online if you poke around. My real problem has been not being able to choose one and start.

          1. re: splatgirl

            I implicitly trust anything from Morgenthaler. So I'd start here:


            1. re: davis_sq_pro

              Every tonic syrup I have made is a riff off of this basic recipe. They've all been good, and it's such a simple recipe that it's easy to modify for your tastes.

        2. re: splatgirl

          Q is still too sweet for you? Wow! In that case I might suggest buying seltzer water (or getting a charger) and a bottle of cinchona tincture. A few drops of tincture in the water, a squeeze of lime, a dash of bitters for a bit more flavor, and you'll be all set.

          1. re: davis_sq_pro

            I like just a tiny bit of sweet. I do have a Soda Stream which is why I really like the concentrates. Never any wasted leftovers and almost never any fear of running out of fizzy anything. Plus some of the Monin syrups I keep on hand for when kids come over and our occasional soda are fun to play with in cocktails.

            Interesting that you mention quinine extract. One of the perennially out of stock or harder to source ingredients in the homemade recipes is the cinchona bark. Just using the extract never occurred to me.

      2. I have some Jack Rudy's en route to me now. I had some in a cocktail last weekend and I enjoyed it more than the Tomr's. I'm generally a big fan of Fever Tree, although I can't comment on the light version.

        1 Reply
        1. I was in the same boat until I saw this: http://www.alcademics.com/2008/09/hom...

          Basically add 1/8 tsp of cinchona powder to a glass (I like more), add gin and stir; then squeeze in lemon and lime, add simple syrup (or liquid sweetener of choice), soda water and ice and stir again. It's easy to adjust to taste and very little work.

          And if you don't like it, you still have most of your cinchona and can try something else.

          7 Replies
          1. re: guilty

            I worked on a project in the Mid East for a British Engineering firm years ago, and learned the arts and sciences regarding Tonic and Gin Tonic making.

            The recipe was 1 part Ingredients, and two parts British Army tradition:

            1. 1/4 cup Cinchona bark pieces, African source.
            2. 1 Lime, zested and juiced.
            3. 1/2 Orange, zested and juiced.
            4. Cane sugar, to taste.
            5. 1 teaspoon Cardamon seeds.
            6. Variances on Allspice, Star anise, or other options. You can easily see what was picked up along the way from service experience in India.

            Boil and then steep for 40 minutes.
            Filter, let set and cool, and filter again. Chill overnight.

            Quite bitter, this was then added to more sugar or cane syrup to achieve the final product.

            Usually consumed with a Lemon or Lime wheel in the glass. I only observed one using slices of Cucumber, also in the glass.

            The end product of this recipe does contain natural quinine, and in moderation, is medicinal. As this is primarily a cooking-related resource, I can attest to the merits of doing the above recipe in a stainless steel pan or pot. Anything else will become well and permanently stained.

            And yes, I still make a small amount, primarily in the Summer.

              1. re: SWISSAIRE

                How long does it keep? I think I would miss the fizzy component in my G&T

                1. re: BiscuitBoy

                  Most tonic "recipes" are intended to be added as a concentrate to soda water...

                  1. re: BiscuitBoy

                    The tonic syrup lasts two weeks in the refrigerator, in a pre-sterilized bottle, or well-lidded preserve jar.

                    You would be aware that given the colouring residual in cooking, there is slight colour to the syrup when mixed with soda water. It is not clear, but either an attractive sepia-toned yellow, or amber.

                    I have frozen it into small cubes, but the taste is slightly different when it thaws.

                    It is nice to come home at the end of the day, take the jacket off and put a sweater on, sit down relax, chat and perhaps read the paper, over a home-prepared G&T.

                    " You made this ? " is a comment that repeatedly comes up by guests and neighbours, and my reply is " Yes: Everything but the Gin. "

                      1. re: SWISSAIRE

                        I'm traveling on business at the moment. This is not my home, nor my bar area, but this is what a custom Tonic syrup will look like in a Gin Tonic.

                        Not clear, but very good.

                2. I just found a recipe I thought I lost. here is recipe "#3" for tonic syrup.

                  32 oz H2O
                  8 whole, crushed, Key Limes weighing 145 grams, 5 oz (You can use the juice and zest of of two regular limes, but don't include the whole lime like you would with the Key Limes.)
                  1/4 cup / 50 grams Citric Acid (sometimes called Sour salt)
                  1/2 tsp / 4 grams kosher Salt
                  1/4 cup / 22 grams chopped Cinchona Bark (Quinine bark)
                  2 cups cane sugar

                  I put all the ingredients except the sugar in a sauce pan and brought it to boil, then simmered 40 minutes. I filtered the liquid hot through double coffee filters. This made apx 16 oz liquid. I then added cane sugar to the hot liquid in jar, which topped off to just under 32 oz. I shook it to melt the sugar.