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”

  • mary says:

    i am looking for some suggestions…i like sweet drinks but im tired of the same old stuff…i drink white Russians…could you rec amend some other sweet drinks? thanks

  • Jefffrane says:

    This all looks wonderful, Jeffrey, but it would be much more simple if you just made the syrups and gave them to me. I’m sure I could never create it as perfectly as you do.

  • Jeff, you’d be surprised at just how well you can make this on your own. It’s honestly that simple.

  • Mark Chu-Carroll says:

    In the recipe, you specify 1/4 cup of the powdered cinchona bark, but all of the vendors that I can find sell it by the ounce. About how much do I need for a batch of syrup?

  • Rob Combs says:

    Howdy-Ho, Jeffanator

    I appreciate you tuning me on to making my own tonic. Fun stuff. I’m on my seventh batch of tonic water & I think I’m getting closer. Some interesting spices that I think work well are:
    – Grains of Paradice,
    – Green Cardamon,
    – Corriander
    I pulsed the spices in a spice grinder a few times to extract more flavor out of the seeds.

    You da man, Jeff.

  • Mark

    Sorry about that. According to my digital scale, ¼ cup of cinchona bark is coming in right at one ounce.

    Hope this helps!

  • Bastian says:


    if you bring some to New Orleans you might as well carry some to the Berlin Bar Convent…I’d love to sample the stuff;-)

  • Bastian

    I’ll definitely do that!

  • Chris says:

    So you should add ‘mind reader’ to your list of qualifications. For the No. 209 pairing, those tweaks were almost exactly what I was thinking (though I’ll admit star anise didn’t spring to mind).

    I’ll give it a shot & post back with results…

    Cheers & Thanks again!

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