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”

  • Tom says:

    As far as gin is concerned, I really like the flavor of the Cascade Mountain gin. It’s made in Oregon and flavored with wild juniper berries. I prefer it over the gins I’ve had (aviation, beefeater, hendricks, a few others).

  • About 9 months after my first Bel Ami House G&T, I’m finally making my first batch of tonic. Excited.

  • The Concierge says:

    I am planning on making this on Friday after work. I am concerned with preserving it for as long as possible.

    Thus, I plan on storing half in freezer. However, doesn’t the citric acid preserve the mixture for about six weeks in the fridge?

    Anyone have any thoughts on this?

  • The Concierge says:


    Thanks for posting all of this information. I made the recipe, using a metal strainer, followed by a french press. The french press seemed to remove very little compared to the amount still left in suspension. I was left with a maroon colored liquid prior to adding the agave. What is the color of your liquid before adding the agave? Do I have the right color or is there another way to make it more clear?

    Btw, I used cinchona bark from tenzing momo like you used.

    Also, coffee filters were pretty much useless to break out the powder left.

  • Tom says:

    @The Concierge
    I used a coffee press as well. I usually stop after that, then let it settle overnight. After that, I just decant and pour as I go, and don’t worry about the solids at the bottom.

  • The Concierge says:

    Thanks Tom. I have a reddish batch sans agave sitting in my fridge. After it settles, I plan on just pouring off the top and discard the liquid holding most of the powder on the bottom.

    Looking more closely at Jeff’s G&T pictured above, it is possible that the reddish color of the tonic liquid prior to the adding of agave is consistent with the recipe since the G&T has lots of clear liquid lightening the color of the drink.

  • cordwainer says:

    Boodles gin (if you can find it) is fantastic with this. It’s my favorite; thank you Travis McGee 🙂

  • wgbar says:

    Can’t wait to try this recipe! Has anyone tried sweeting the tonic with Stevia?

  • JC says:

    I bought all the ingredients and am ready to go – except I don’t have a soda siphon. Is there any way to make this without spending $70 on that?

  • JC – Get yourself a seventy-nine cent bottle of club soda and add two ounces of the stuff to three quarters of an ounce of syrup and two ounces of gin. Squeeze some lime on top, with ice, of course, and you should be fine.

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