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”

  • Dood says:

    It’s been a long time since you made it for me, but I just have to reiterate how amazing this tonic water recipe makes a gin and tonic. The drink Jeffrey made me in New Orleans was easily the best G&T I’ve ever had.

  • Aw, Dood, that’s the best way I could have started my morning. Thanks!

    And, Tom, the answer is yes.

  • Can any of you help me with a good recipe for 12 bridges gin?
    We made it just to drink out of a glass and I’ve been asked to make a cocktail. I’m a distiller, not a mixologist!

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    So – as someone who has not typically liked G&T in the past, but loves the taste of this tonic, can you recommend a good beginners gin, for up to $50/bottle?

  • Mark – Try Rich’s (above) 12 Bridges, Aviation, Martin Miller’s, Beefeater, Plymouth, Hendricks, Tanqueray No. 10, or wait it out and see what everyone else has to say!

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    Interestingly, I actually have a bottle of Tanqueray #10. I picked it up a few months back for cooking – I had a recipe that called for a gin-based marinade. I didn’t realize when I bought it that the #10 was anything different – just needed a marinade for a steak, and tanqueray was a familiar brand.

    I just gave it a try; interesting. Not my favorite – but I can definitely see why it’s so traditional with the tonic. It blends nicely with the bitterness, and really brings out the citrus. But the cardamom that I put in my tonic clashes with it – too much citrus with the spice of the cardamom.

  • Blaise says:

    I Just made this for a dinner party tonight after the hostess bemoaned the fact that all the tonic waters had high fructose corn syrup and she was craving a G&T. I used 1 cup of organic evaporated cane juice instead of the agave, and have just sampled a pre-party G&T. (Tanqueray #10). Oh boy, is it delicious! (Obviously, still sampling…)

  • mrParker says:

    Jeffrey, do you use agave nectar or a 1:1 syrup when sweetening the mix

  • mrParker – I use straight agave nectar. A 1:1 syrup would just bring too much additional water to the party.

  • mrParker says:

    thanks jeffrey, the tonic turned out better than expected. i ran it as a special paired with hendricks last night and received nothing but fantastic feedback. also really enjoyed it with the m millers westbourne. good luck with the move to cc.

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