Tonic Syrup: for Gin, Vodka or Rum and Tonics

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This is the first in our series on syrups. The simplest syrup to make is, of course, simple syrup. However, this is not where we are going to start. While tonic syrup is more complicated, it is not difficult. Tonic syrup is easily customized and is highly adaptable to cocktails other than gin and tonics. So, we are going to discuss two different aromatic syrups that you can mix with a tincture of quinine. These “Tonic Syrups” can then be combined with carbonated water to make tonic water, or used directly in cocktails.

Tonic Syrup and TinctureI had an opportunity to discuss Gin and Tonics with Jason Kosmas, Co-founder of The 86 Company, (Ford’s Gin among others), Co-founder of Employees Only and Co-author of Speak Easy. His take on tonic syrups is to include citrus, coriander and herbs – even herbal tea. Keep in mind that the base spirit you choose will lend itself to various flavors. As Jason pointed out – read the back label for flavor ideas. For syrup used in Rum and Tonics, he would add lime, pineapple, cinnamon and vanilla. (The rest of the interview centered on Gin Tonics and will be included in a future post)

Fever TreeqtonicThese days, you are not limited to buying tonic water in 1 liter bottles. There are a number of premium tonic waters available such as Fever Tree and Q Tonic. The primary idea of making your own tonic syrup is to customize it for various drinks. These recipes will take about 15 minutes of active and 45 minutes of inactive time.

Tonic water is primarily carbonated water and quinine. Quinine is most famous for treating the symptoms of malaria. The idea of mixing gin and quinine dates to the British in various malaria prone climes where soldiers used gin to make the bitter quinine more palatable. In those days, quinine was extracted from cinchona bark in a process not unlike making tea. Since World War II, quinine has been manufactured as a white powder formed into pills. You can purchase quinine pills over the internet and dissolve them to use in tonic water. This is a bad idea. First, you can poison yourself and guests with too much quinine. Secondly, an extract of cinchona, which you will make in 30 minutes or less, brings a lot of flavor to your cocktail. If you want quinine water, buy commercial tonic water, it’s cheap.

Making tonic water at home became a widespread fashion in the early 2000’s. An internet search for ‘DIY tonic water’ will result in a number of recipes. Jeffrey Morgenthaler posted a recipe in 2008, (found here), which became one of the most popular. Since then, he has published a newer version in his book, The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique. I like his new version, which can be found on line here, because he separates the aromatics from the quinine. This lends itself to easy modification. My recipe for tonic syrup for use with gin differs only slightly from his.

The only equipment you will need that is slightly out of the ordinary is a digital food or postage scale. Only the precise weight of ingredients ensures that your syrup will be consistent from one batch to the next.

For the Quinine Tincture:

Quinine Tincture

  • 6 gr. Powdered red cinchona bark
  • 150 ml 100 proof vodka
  1. In a 1 cup measuring cup, dissolve the cinchona in the vodka
  2. Allow to sit 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
  3. Strain the liquid into a second measuring cup. This will take up to 30 minutes total time. Filter the tincture back and forth between the 2 measuring cups in the following order:
    1. First through a fine mesh strainer
    2. Second through a metal “Gold” coffee filter – preferably cone shaped
    3. Thirdly through a paper coffee filter
  4. Pour into a small bottle and store at room temperature. The tincture will keep indefinitely.

For the aromatic syrup for gin or vodka and tonics:

 

Tonic Syrup Aromatics

  • 20 gr. citric acid
  • 10 gr. whole gentian root
  • 1 gr. coriander
  • 1 gr. Ceylon soft-stick cinnamon, broken into small pieces
  • 30 gr. lemon peel
  • 30 gr. grapefruit peel
  • 400 gr. sugar
  • 500 ml. water
  • 2 – 3 to 4 inch sprigs of fresh lavender (optional)

Tonic Syrup Prep

  1. Combine all of the ingredients, except the lavender, in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes
  3. Remove from the heat, add the fresh lavender and allow to cool.
  4. Strain through a fine mesh strainer.
  5. Add 1 ½ oz. Quinine Tincture and store, refrigerated, in a seal-able bottle or jar. It will keep 3-4 weeks before it turns cloudy.

 

 

For the aromatic syrup for rum and tonics:

 

Tonic Syrup Rum Aromatics

  • 20 gr. citric acid
  • 10 gr. whole gentian root
  • 1 gr. Star Anise
  • 2 gr. Ceylon soft-stick cinnamon, broken into small pieces
  • 3 Kaffir Lime leaves (Optional – available at Asian Markets)
  • 10 gr. lemon peel
  • 50 gr. Lime peel
  • 400 gr. Turbinado sugar
  • 500 ml. water

 

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes
  3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  4. Strain through a fine mesh strainer.
  5. Add 1 ½ oz. Quinine Tincture and store, refrigerated, in a seal-able bottle or jar. It will keep 3-4 weeks before it turns cloudy.

 

To make tonic water add 1 part Quinine Syrup to 3 parts carbonated water.

The resulting tonic water will be brown.  It is not unattractive and tastes amazing!!

Gin, Rum or Vodka Tonics

  • 2 oz Spirit – either Gin, Rum or Vodka
  • 6 oz. Tonic Water (1 1/2 oz Quinine Syrup and 4 1/2 oz. Carbonated Water)
  • Optional dash of simple syrup for gin or vodka/demerara simple syrup for rum
  • Garnish – see below
Rum and Tonic

Rum & Tonic

Method #1

  1. Add large ice cubes to a large, stemmed wine glass
  2. Add garnishes except for any citrus peels for expressing
  3. Add your Spirit of choice
  4. Slowly add the Quinine Syrup followed by the carbonated water.
  5. Express any citrus peels and serve

Method #2

  1. Fill your large wine glass with large ice and garnish
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir
  3. Strain into your prepared glass
  4. Express any citrus peels and serve

Suggested Garnishes:

You should let your imagination run with the garnishes.

Gin or Vodka

  • Lemon & Lime Wheels
  • Lemon & Lime Peels
  • Grapefruit Peels
  • Sliced Berries
  • Cucumber Slices
  • Fresh Lavendar
  • Fresh Rosemary
  • Fresh Sage
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • Lemon Grass

Rum

  • Lemon & Lime Wheels
  • Lemon & Lime Peels
  • Sliced Berries
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Pineapple
  • Corriander
  • Fresh Hibiscus Flowers
  • Lemon Grass

Tonic Garnishes

G-n-TiniGnTini

Here is a cocktail that uses Tonic Syrup directly in the drink.

Fords Gin

  • 1 1/2 oz. Fords Gin
  • 1/2 oz. Dolin Sweet Vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. Tonic Syrup for Gin
  • Grapefruit peel for garnish
  1. Stir the first three ingredients in a mixing glass with ice to chill
  2. Strain into a chilled coup
  3. Express the grapefruit peel over the drink and float the peel

Cheers!


 

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: A Tonic Bar for Your Next Party | Doc Elliott's Mixology

  2. Pingback: Gin and Beer Tonic | Doc Elliott's Mixology

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