Tonic Water (& Gin)

I love, love, love gin & tonics! When I was pregnant with Luc, our friends in Boulder (a big brewery town) would ask me if I couldn’t wait to have a beer, and I would always so no, because all I wanted was a G&T. In fact, when I hit week 39 of my pregnancy, I stopped in a liquor store to pick up some gin… I’m sure it looked absurd that a hugely pregnant lady was buying gin with her two year old in the shopping cart, but other women get the urge to nest, and I got the urge for gin.


Meanwhile, waiting at home for me was an awesome homemade tonic water kit that Calder’s sister gave me last July for my birthday. That was days after I became pregnant with Luc, and it killed me to have to sit on it for all those months! While Sarah was in town last month, we finally made the tonic water and broke open some new-to-us gins.

Do you know why tonic water’s a tonic? For hundreds of years, cinchona was known to be a muscle relaxant by indigenous groups in South America. Then, in the 15/1600s the malarial-curing properties of the plant were observed by a missionary and it was introduced to Europeans. In the 1800s the cinchona plant was taken to British colonies in southeast Asia, and they would make a “tonic” from the bark to treat malaria! And, of course, they eventually mixed the tonic with gin.


Until I received this kit, I didn’t realize that I was so late to the homemade tonic party! Although, I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, given all of the fun stuff going on from companies like Fair Game to cocktail menus like this to the homemade bitters craze. But here I am, fashionably late to a party that’s been going on since at least 2008, when this popular tonic recipe was published.


The kit I used comes from Oaktown Spice Shop, and has almost everything you need to make your own tonic syrup.  You have to add sugar, water, and the zest and juice of a lemon, lime, and orange. Once you have the syrup, you just add a bit of it to soda water when making G&Ts.

All tonic recipes contain some sort of sweetener, a bit of citric acid (it makes the tonic it bitter and I’ve read that it’s helpful for preservation), and cinchona bark (the natural source of quinine). From there, the remaining ingredients vary by recipe and are simply meant to create a flavor profile that tastes delicious, but not too strong, in your mixed drinks. Almost every recipe I saw used lemongrass (either fresh or dried) and some citrus, and many recipes included allspice berries. And every recipe requires that you strain out the ingredients after your syrup is made, this is particularly important so that you don’t end up accidentally overdosing on cinchona.

After making this batch, I’m fully on the homemade (or small batch) tonic train! It makes for such a more interesting G&T than the flat/unexciting flavor of the big-brand tonics. I think it’ll be fun to try a few other recipes. For example, I’m really intrigued by this one, especially since they recommend against boiling the syrup and in addition to the fresh lemongrass (which I love!) they use a few other botanicals that sounds delicious in the mix.


About the gins in this post ~ I stumbled upon this small tasting set of gins from St. George’s and was immediately taken by the descriptions. They also received rave reviews by Wine Enthusiasts and a few other sources, and in my experience, each has made a fantastic G&T (although, many reviewers also recommend drinking them straight, as they are that good).

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2 thoughts on “Tonic Water (& Gin)

  1. I share your love for G&Ts! 🙂 I’m so intrigued by ‘Botanivore’ gin! I hope I can find it here… And do try the cold extraction method sometime. It’s wonderful, I promise!

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