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 jeffreymorgenthaler.com

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

  • Beau says:

    Didn’t have time to read all the entries, but it seems folks are worried about getting a clear, or non opaque, extraction. Anyone try boiling some irish moss in the batch like one would to avoid a murky beer? The moss helps the solution coagulate, making the settling process much more effective. I’m going to try a batch, I’ll post if it improves the clarity. Wine finings might work as well…

  • Kendyl says:

    I used this lovely recipe as a launching point, but then made the following additions on my next batch:

    -made a lemongrass tincture first, then added it to the mix for a more concentrated (but subtle) flavor
    -doubled the lime zest
    -added microplaned apple peel and clove for a more autumn-y feel for my bar’s fall cocktails.

    The additions made it less suited for a traditional gin and tonic, but has had numerous other applications!

    Thanks for all the inspiration, Jeff!

  • Tyler says:

    I just did this recipe. But when I added the Agave syrup, the tonic is more liquidy than I imagined. In the recipe it says: “You now have a syrup that you can carbonate with seltzer water.” Mines not syrupy. Am I not letting it reduce enough? or not letting it simmer long enough on the stove?

    Thanks!

    Tyler

  • andrew says:

    Jeff,

    I tried combining the sweetened syrup and water in my iSi Siphon and I get nothing but pure foam from it. Have you had this problem?

  • Andrew:

    Don’t put the syrup in the siphon. Put the syrup in a glass, and just spritz the seltzer into it.

  • Phil says:

    Jeff,

    I have to say I love your site and all your posts I’ve used so many, including your ginger beer, and tonic water. My question is if there is a way to get your homemade tonic water any more clear? I love the way it tastes and with some Breuckelen gin makes the best G&T I’ve ever had. I’ve been to few places who have claimed to have homemade tonic water and it’s clear as any store bought tonic I’ve seen. So is there a way to get it to that clarity using the same great ingredients?

  • Deborah says:

    Having a bear of a time coming up with the chichona bark. Most retailers are out of stock. Tensing Momo Pike Place is the only source that I could find.

    Noted a Rueters article dated 12/13/11 that indicates the FDA has given retailers 60 days to stop selling it?

    Has anyone else heard this?

    Just ordered a pound. Should last a while!

  • Robbie says:

    Anybody try using a Moka pot to steep and filter the bark powder simultaneously? I think I’ll try this with my first batch. Steep and filter the bark alone as a first step and then boil/reduce with the other ingredients after.

  • SR. TOCINO says:

    I went to a great cooks store and purchased a jelly bag. This bag is used in clarify jellies. Using the jelly bags I get 3 cups of filtrate from the 4 cups of liquid used. Simply rinse the bag when used.

  • Deborah says:

    Thanks for the jelly bag suggestion!

    I found them at the local Hardware store in the canning section. Would have used them anyway.

    1st batch is cooling and can’t wait for handsome boyfriend and wak-a-doodle dawg to get home and give this a shot.

    Dark in color, but intriguing!

    ps…no, Mr. Porter, the dog, does NOT get a G & T!

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