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”

  • Joe says:

    After much searching I found a place that sells cinchona and is not out of stock. They disclaim, however, that this product is for research or collecting purposes only and is not for human consumption (I do not actually collect powdered bark, and if I did it would be cinnamon). They appear to have these disclaimers on things that are(or are similar to) prescription or restricted drugs. But I’m not entirely secure about the stuff now.

  • Joe says:

    So, it turns out that the aforementioned disclaimer is solely due to the cinchona itself and not any adulterants or whatnot, so we’re go. I’ve got a batch cooking now with some juniper, cardamom and lavender in addition to the listed ingredients.

  • Sam Tannahill says:


    Any place to get cinchona in Portland???



  • caver01 says:

    Well, after a year, I finally made this. I was never a fan of gin and tonic, but I have to say, this has changed my mind. One stalk of lemongrass (in MN) was only enough for a half recipe. I filtered ten times through paper towels before using a coffee filter with good results. Now, I love a gin and tonic using Tanqueray Rangpur. Wonderful and refreshing! Thanks, Jeff!

  • Snowpea says:

    I am planning on making this; I finally got my bark powder and just need to fetch some lemongrass and find me some time.

    My question: I wonder if anybody’s tried using their espresso machine to extract the quinine, or would that just gum up the works in my machine…?

  • Snowpea says:

    I was too nervous to try my espresso machine, so I divvied up the powder into two coffee filters, which I twisted up and tied with kitchen string.

    Still lots of filtering to do (one tore a bit so I had to transfer the mud to another filter packet), but it’s coming along nicely. Next time, I will try to located make-your-own tea bags.

  • Snowpea says:

    (arg, make that “locate”, please)

  • Snowpea says:

    Well, Houston, we have touch-down.

    I just served my significant other and me a couple of G&Ts using Jeffrey’s recipe (sans citric acid).

    We’ve been using the spottily available Q Tonic (not great market penetration in Canada yet), but this is another animal altogether! Wow. Just… WOW

    We love it.

  • Herr Grau says:

    I just made my first batch..
    Needed a lot more agave syrup (a little more than a cup) to balance it out at least a little.
    The allspice berrys smell like christmas, why are they in the recipe? I feel like it destroyed the whole fresh tonic water citrus odeur. Otherwise a realy nice recipe, thanks!

    Herr Grau

  • If you don’t like the allspice, take it out!

    I’ve made about 6 batches of this so far, and I haven’t used exactly the same ingredients twice. I’m loving playing with it.

    Most most interesting variation was adding pomegranate molasses instead of lemon juice. One of my lemons was unexpectedly rotten on the inside, so I went hunting for something else with a pleasant sour flavor. I saw the pomegranate molasses, and threw in a good-sized dollop, to approximate the amount of sourness from the lemon.

    The result was interesting. Personally, I tend to prefer bourbon and tonic to gin and tonic; with bourbon, the pomegranate flavor really didn’t work. But with Tanq#10, it’s terrific.

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