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”

  • Nuriah says:

    Oh and I couldn’t get a screw-top CO2 charger for the soda siphon I got at a local antique shop, so I just used the Pellegrino knock-off from Whole Foods (their Italian soda water). Great!

  • Matt says:

    FYI: the link above to Tenzing Momo is to c/s not the powder. I just got my 1lb of Cinchona C/S whatever that is. It looks like it’s chopped into larger pieces. Is it useable? Or should I try to return it?


  • Matt says:

    I’ll follow up my own post for anyone who cares. I called Tenzing Momo, and they said it was the same stuff if I ground it up. I put it in my spice grinder (old coffee grinder) and gave it a whirl.

    Currently waiting for it to cool down and trying to strain. I think that’s going to be the hard part.

  • Kevin says:

    I made my batch using tensing momo’s powdered cinchona. I’ve strained and strained and no change to the clarity of the liquid. At this point, I’m just going to give it a try and hope that I don’t have to much quinine in it. Next time I try this, I’m going to use whole bark, slightly ground, rather than the powder (which was way too finely ground).

  • Eric says:

    Made a batch last night and it’s fantastic! It’s excellent the way it is, but I think I’d like to play with some of the flavors because, well, I’m a tinkerer. Just like to play with the possibilioties.

    The agave syrup is critical here. Great call on that. It lends a softer sweetness than simple syrup would.

    Nuriah– If you’re leaving out the fruit juice for calorie concerns, your giving up a lot of flavor for almost no caloric advantage. One each of a lemon, lime, and orange adds a total of about 100 calories to a mix that makes a minimum of 40 drinks. That’s 2.5 calories/drink. There’s no way the flavor trade-off is worth 2.5 calories.

    By the way, in Seattle, cinchona can be purchased really cheaply at Dandelion in Ballard. The guy who sold it to me knew exactly what I wanted it for and had made tonic water himself, so we had a nice chat about it. Really good guy. Also picked up the citric acid and allspice there. Got enough of everything for four batches for about $12.

  • When googling myself (who doesn’t do that from time to time?) I have -not surprisingly- stumbled over you, good sir, a few times. That tonic sounds incredible. I’m not really a drinks expert, but I’ll be checking some of these recipes out for sure. Keep up the good work!

    All the best,

    Jeppe Morgenthaler
    Copenhagen, Denmark

  • Barry says:

    Found this site this weekend and ordered supplies. Really getting excited about this project!! Thanks everyone.

  • Kevin from Comment #124 says:

    Mine turned out really good (despite the straining issues). Makes me want to experiment with some new flavors. Alas, I am out of gin.

  • Matt says:

    I was able to put my cinchona into a spice grinder (old coffee grinder). The end result was delicious. I’m also excited to try another batch, so I’m giving away small bottles to people who like it.

    I’m thinking grapefruit for sure, replace the allspice with something else…suggestions?

    Thanks for the recipe.

    oh, and I wouldn’t attempt this without a french press strainer.


  • Barry says:

    Where are you getting the cinchona? I ordered from Rain Tree and they cancelled the order the following day since they were out.

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