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”

  • Ciaran says:

    Just got around to trying this having bought a soda stream over xmas and discovered how bad soda stream’s syrups are.

    Drinking it with 209 right now, not bad but I think I over sweetened it with the agave – the measurements got a bit approximate after the simmering. I got about 3 cups of liquid and added just over 2 cups of agave.

    Found cinchona bark at Duc Loi (18th & Mission in SF) but it wasn’t powdered. Man that stuff is hard! I immediately gave up with the pestle, tried the coffee grinder but it jammed and ended up using the magimix. Even then I never got it all ground down and I think I have permanent gouges on the side of the bowl. (Anyone else shopping in the Mission you can get the citric acid at Rainbow, by the mason jars above the bulk peanut butter).

    As I was buying two bottles of gin at my neighbourhood liquor store to experiment with the owner said he was finally going to stock Fever Tree :-/

  • SR. TOCINO says:

    New find. Cost plus has Melitta tea bags. I have used 4 bags for the cinchona bark and then steeped the teabags with the rest of the goodies. I will still have to strain the potion but the majority of the bark is in the bags.

  • Suzy says:

    Deborah:I made this last summer and got the actual bark (aka Quina — Quina Peel) made by GroMex that I got at a Mexican grocery store. It was in a clear package and reminds me of cinnamon bark. I lucked into it in Morristown, NJ which has a Hispanic population. Maybe you can find it too.

    Ciaran: I didn’t bother to grind it at all. In fact, I think having the whole bark makes it infinitely easier to strain. I just used a ‘bag’ of the bark which I think was about an ounce. No need to powder anything so it saves time and makes for a clearer syrup without so many filtering steps.

    As far as clarity, it isn’t as cloudy but still an amber color, not the clear color of store-bought tonic.

  • Nakaala says:

    I live in Uganda where we’ve had a country wide tonic shortage for 4 months. Unfortunately I also have malaria. I can get quinine pills and IV solution, lemon grass grows around my hut- we have no powers, but we can buy soda water. Can you help put together a recipe for us?

  • Cool I am in, just need to find cinchona bark in Australia

  • Robert says:

    Cinchona bark for $18.80/lb at

  • Alex says:

    I made the recipe and it was great, but the cinchona powder was a pain to filter.

    Cheesecloth helped a lot, coffee filters were worthless.

    I finally ran it through my pur camping water filter.

    It tastes MUCH cleaner and has a bright, reddish-yellow color to it.

  • Dora says:

    Has anyone ended up working out a stevia version?

  • Dora says:

    Oh, and does anyone know where to get organic cinchona bark, or if it’s even possible to obtain? extensive googling has yielded no fruits.

  • Mike says:

    Great recipe – I made many batches and sincerely doubt I will ever buy tonic from a store ever again.

    Regarding filtering: I use a large colander to filter out the big pieces and then pass the remaining liquid through a metal coffee filter a couple of times. It works like a charm and only takes 10 minutes or so.

    Also, a passed this recipe on to a friend who used whole bark (not powdered) and he said it tastes just as good.

    I get the cinchona and citric acid mail order from Herbal Advantage, Rogersville, MO.

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