How to Make Your Own Tonic Water

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Housemade Tonic Water

This subject has been covered before, but after numerous requests and some positive encouragement from a good friend this weekend I have decided to post my version of homemade tonic water.

The base for this recipe came from my friend Kevin Ludwig, who pioneered craft tonic water in Portland. His recipe can be found on page 76 of the March/April 2007 issue of Imbibe Magazine. This version is all mine.

My problem with homemade tonic water has always been a flavor profile that was too esoteric for the general audience. This recipe takes some of the positive qualities people have come to understand from commercial tonic water and updated them with fresh ingredients.

A note about cinchona bark


Try a few different suppliers for powdered cinchona bark to see which you like best. Tenzing Momo has great products as a rule, but their cinchona can often be floral, which may or may not work for you. You can also find cinchona from bulk herbal medicine retailers and other specialty herb shops. I find the yellow variety to be milder than the red, so adding too many other flavors to the mix can overpower the quinine. Adjust your recipes accordingly.

Once you’ve mastered your own tonic recipe, you can begin to experiment with different spices and fruit flavors to pair with specific gins. For instance, I’ve found that beefing up the orange peel results in a tonic that pairs nicely with Hendrick’s, but try playing off the coriander or cardamom in other gins and see what happens.

And now, the recipe…

Tonic Water Print Me

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup chopped lemongrass (roughly one large stalk)
  • ¼ cup powdered cinchona bark
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp whole allspice berries
  • ¼ cup citric acid
  • ¼ tsp Kosher salt
  1. Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Once mixture starts to boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and strain out solids using a strainer or chinois.
  4. You'll need to fine-strain the mixture, as it still contains quite a bit of the cinchona bark.
  5. You can use a coffee filter and wait for an hour or more, or do as I do and run the whole mixture through a French coffee press.
  6. Once you're satisfied with the clarity of your mix, heat it back up on the stovetop or microwave, and then add ¾ cup of agave syrup to each cup of your hot mix.
  7. Stir until combined, and store in the attractive bottle of your choice.
  8. You now have a syrup that you can carbonate with seltzer water; I use my iSi soda siphon for some nicely-textured bubbles.
  9. To assemble a gin and tonic, use ¾ ounce of syrup, 1½ ounces of gin and 2 ounces of soda water over ice.

Recipe printed courtesy of

264 Replies to “How to Make Your Own Tonic Water”

  • JD says:

    How long does the syrup stay fresh in the fridge?

    Looks delicious – I’ll have to try this soon.

  • I haven’t kept any around long enough to tell, but if you slipped a healthy splash of vodka into each bottle as a preservative, it should last a good long while.

    Note that this will preclude using your syrup as a non-alcoholic beverage, though.

  • Marleigh says:

    So you’re going to bring samples of all your homemade goodies to Tales, right?

  • For you, Marleigh, I will definitely bring a little suitcase of vials for you to try. Promise!

  • Rick says:

    You have convinced me to add a soda siphon to my Amazon wish list (which means I’ll buy it shortly).

    I’ll second Marleigh’s request for bring a treasure chest of fun to Tales.

  • Chris says:

    Bloody fine-looking Tonic indeed!

    By your recommendations, I think I might play with the quantities of sour citrus/lemongrass and pair with another citrus-forward Gin like 209 perhaps…any suggestions in this department?


  • Eugenia says:

    Oh dear, if anything can flush me out of my reclusive bunker, it will be this!

  • David Hirsch says:

    Hey Jeff,

    Fine looking G&T. Best looking one I’ve seen.

    You wouldn’t happen to have a lemoncello recipe would you?


  • Scott says:

    I just finished making an awesome mojito using your recipe. Now I have to go order some bark and try this one, since a G&T is my favourite drink.

  • Rick and Marleigh: It’s a done deal.

    Chris, I think with a big, muscle-y, citrusy gin like No. 209 you could cut down on the fruit in the tonic water and beef up a little spice. Try an additional half cup of lemongrass, drop the orange, swap the lemon out for a second lime, and throw a star anise in there. See what happens!

    Eugenia, hope to see you soon.

    David, thank you. Lemoncello is coming, I promise.

    Scott, drop a line here in the comments section and let us know how it turns out!


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