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”

  • Kevin from comment #124 says:

    The lack of clarity in my experience is due to the chinchona, which is really hard to filter, and greatly affects the flavor (too bitter). Also is rough on the throat. I’m going to try a 3 or 5 micron ceramic or paper (not charcoal) camping filter to see if I can clarify mine.

  • Kevin says:

    Is it possible to get lemongrass now in the winter? I’m in the D.C. area – does anyone know where I can find it. Local grocery doesn’t carry it now. Thanks!!

  • Randy says:

    Kevin, I picked up fresh lemongrass at an asian market two days ago in Minnesota. I expect you may have to try somewhere other than your regular grocer.

  • Randy says:

    MBQ, you asked about using a siphon versus soda water. You probably don’t want to put this into a siphon by itself, since it’s a syrup/concentrate. It needs to be diluted with sparkling water, and that can come from a siphon or a bottle. I’ve see some folks add water first, and then carbonate the whole works in their siphon, but this is far less useful than simply using the siphon with water only. The beauty of concentrated syrups like this tonic is versatility. I use a siphon, but only for water, so I can serve up ginger beer (using ginger syrup), tonic (using this recipe) and of course, top up drinks (like a Collins) all from the same siphon. No sense dedicating it to tonic when I can make everything as needed with just water in the siphon.

  • leebudz says:

    to obtain a super clear tonic try using a agaragar filter. make ur infusion, i actually 1st make a large Cinchona mix then a few base mixes, mix 1-1.5 grams of agaragar to 500ml liquid. freeze when dropped to room temp. next day take out of freezer and defrost in double cheese cloth. all particals cling to agar and wont pass but flavor particals and water shall. u will hav a very transparent mix sometimes with a slight colour. i then sugar but u will have to use a clear sugar. i am playing round with different form so will update.
    if u can get Cinchona bark u wil be able to find agaragar very easily or at worst use gelatine but not sure of proportions plus agaragar is made from seaweed
    gnt in denmark

  • Kel says:

    Awesome, awesome post. I am a huge Hendricks fan, and have found that adding the zest and juice from half a white grapefruit as well as six juniper berries crushed really sets of the tonic.
    For HangerOne (in love with this distillery; st. George – if you like absinthe, St. George is the best out there) it goes best with the zest of Buddhas hand and a small amount of star anise and lemon balm.
    Either way, keep up the great posts.

  • Roslyn says:

    FInally found the ingredients, made some tonic water this evening. I do prefer it to the sickly sweet store bought tonics but my major reason was health conscious-seems you have a choice between corn syrup & aspartame otherwise, I do not want either in my diet!
    Where do I find some of these other brands of gin such as 209?
    I am anxious to try your ginger beer recipe-as a kid in Outback Aus. my Mum kept a “ginger beer plant” on the kitchen window sill to make home made ginger beer & it was the best tasting thing in the world to a kid on a hot Aussie summer day!
    I will post back when I try your recipe!

  • grispommeled says:

    Great recipe. How much syrup does this recipe make?

  • grispommeled – This recipe should make just over a quart and a half of syrup.

  • Greg says:

    I made this and it is great. I used 1/3 more raw sugar instead of agave, and it came out well.

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