Update: it has come to light that some precautions must be taken with making your own tonic at home using cinchona bark. Remember to TRIPLE filter until no solids are left. Please read this article if you are new to making tonics at home.
It feels so good to check something off my “To Make” list. And thanks to Mixology Monday, I got to do that today. Some time ago I happened upon an article about making your own tonic syrup. I forget where now, but I immediately added it to my ever fluctuating list of projects I assign myself. Making the syrup seemed the obvious choice this month as HIGHBALLS! was the assigned theme by Joel over at the Southern Ash blog. What is Mixology Monday you might be asking yourself (if you are new around this site)? Well, every month a group of cocktail (and food bloggers…we’re not picky) get together and face a challenge presented by whoever is “hosting” this online cocktail party that month. To check out what we did last year, please check out the archives over on the MxMo site, there were quite a few epic drinks. Everyone submits by the deadline and we eagerly await the roundup to see what everyone came up with, and secretly friend-hate on those that did a better job than you. It’s all about community.
One of my favorite Highball drinks is a Gin & Tonic (also Amaro Highballs but we’ve already covered that on here), and what better way to feature this drink than with an amazing homemade tonic syrup? What is your go-to Tonic Water? Do you like some of the more exotic ones like Fever-Tree or Q-Tonic? Or do you go with plain ol’ Canada Dry? No judgement here; I’ve had them all. Before I became aware that you can actually MAKE your own, I was a big fan (still am) of Fever-Tree’s Indian Tonic Water. It had more character than I had experienced in other tonic waters and added a nice, spicy flavor profile to a G&T. In making my own, I wanted to capture some of that spiciness, but also introduce more bolder flavors into the mix. The tonic ingredients moved away from what I thought of mostly as “Indian” spices (cardamom, coriander) and moved more into the broader category of “Southeast Asian” (kaffir lime leaves, ginger).
Since this was my first time venturing down the path of this DIY project I sought out someone who I trust implicitly with these homemade concoctions: Morgenthaler. (You can read his original recipe with the link below.) Ingredients were tweaked from his original to include other’s favorites and whatever I had in my spice cabinet that I thought would be interesting. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty interesting. Also, tasty.
Southeast Asian Style Tonic
adapted from Jeffrey Morgenthaler
4 cups water
2-3 dried Kaffir Lime Leaves
4 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1/2 tsp. whole allspice berries
1/2 whole star anise
1/4 tsp. whole white peppercorns, lightly crushed
1/2 tsp. whole coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1″ knob of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup cinchona bark powder (update: cut this back to 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup citric acid
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
zest and juice from one lime
zest and juice from one lemon
zest and juice from one orange
7 oz. sugar
1 oz. vodka, optional
Combine all ingredients except sugar in a medium sauce pan. Stir to combine (a slight skin may form over the top, don’t worry, that will dissipate once the boil starts). Heat over high heat until a rolling boil is reached. Reduce to low and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine strainer and cheesecloth. Strain a second time through a coffee filter to remove any remaining sediment and a third time if solids are still left. You DO NOT want any remaining solids in your final product. Pour strained mixture back into a clean sauce pan over medium heat, after mixture warms, about 3-5 minutes, add sugar and stir to combine. Once sugar has fully melted, about 7-9 mintues, remove from heat. Let cool and then transfer to an airtight container. If not using right away, add one ounce vodka to syrup.
Gin and Southeast Asian Tonic
2 oz. tonic syrup (recipe above)
2-1/2 oz. carbonated water
2 oz. Gin, Hendrick’s used here
Build the cocktail by adding all three ingredients to a highball (or double rocks if you’d like one large ice cube) glass filled with ice. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with a small lime wedge.
Holy flavor bomb Batman! This syrup has a lot of spice and tartness going on, but one ingredients does not overpower the other. The citrus element here is very strong in the tonic and I found that adding lime wedges, which I usually squeeze in, were not needed. If you close your eyes and slowly taste, you can definitely point out the pepper, the coriander, etc. But it’s so refreshing and delicious you’re just going to want to gulp it down.
**If you have a hard time sourcing herbs in your neighborhood, Dandelion Botanical Company is a great online resource (and where I get the majority of mine).
Thanks to the Southern Ash blog for hosting this month and to Fred for keeping the dream alive. Check back here next week for the round up of everyone’s submissions.