How to Make Your Own Tonic Water

See more Recipes

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”

  • Roslyn says:

    Try eBay lots of vintage bottles & even some soda syphons.

  • Ian says:

    Ryan – If you’re in Eugene, I recommend checking out the Down to Earth at 5th and Olive—they’ve got a great selection of fun bottles in all shapes and sizes. For something a bit more vintage, you might check out Oak Street Vintage (14th and Oak); I seem to remember them having a nice variety of funky bottles and decanters.

  • Ian says:

    Ok, so I just realized that it’s silly to assume that anybody reading this should be in Eugene—I’m sure Jeffrey’s following is pretty widespread at this point (as it should be!). But I hope those tips prove useful for somebody; I like those stores 🙂

  • Michele says:

    We bottled some infused Vodka once and got some really cool glass bottles that had ceramic & rubber stoppers at Storeables. I’m sure you could order them on line if you don’t have a store in your area.

  • Suzy says:

    I have the ingredients and I’m rarin’ to go. I have the actual bark (aka Quina — Quina Peel) made by GroMex that I got at a Mexican grocery store. I figured it would save the filtering steps.

    My question — what is the equivalent amount to use of the bark form versus the powdered form?


  • ginny says:

    thanks Jeff! recipe worked like a charm!

  • Spencer says:

    Hey Jeff, got any tips for us [underage] weirdos that like drinking tonic water without any gin in it? I don’t want to impose my sacrilege on your holy drink combo, but the tips on what to beef up to match with what gin, those are a bit useless to me… Anyways, I love the site, and I’m going to have to try half this stuff… 😀

  • Will says:

    Thanks Jeff! Awesome Recipe. I’m trying to train my taste buds to like tonic water..(Store Bought)

    The recipe tastes a lot better than what you get at a bar or store.


  • noskos says:

    Enjoying a gin and tonic now, the gin is No.3 and the tonic water is this recipe. Love it, so much better than the commercial stuff!
    Thanks a lot for sharing!

  • Roslyn says:

    I zested & juiced 2 lemons, 2 oranges & 2 limes then tossed them all in with everything else & the 4 cups/water in my most recent batch. It makes a very citrusy tonic which my family loves, though probably not to everyone’s taste. I put my recipe on my quilting blog & got some interested responders & sent them to this website. I just ordered the cinchona bark un- powdered so I am keen to make another batch & see if there will be enough bitterness and less particulate in the final product.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *