Please Pass the Recipe

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Tonic Water Syrup


I love bitter flavours, I guess that explains why my favourite mixers are bitter lemon, tonic water and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.

Most nights I sip on a drink as I prepare dinner. Some nights I choose a gluten free beer, other nights a glass of wine, or depending on my mood I might choose vodka, lime and soda with my delicious homemade lime syrup, a Campari and ruby grapefruit juice, dry vermouth on the rocks or a G&T.

In the past few years there has been an explosion of boutique spirits arrive on the shelves of our bottle shops, many of them made locally. We never hesitate to try a different product, it’s always exciting to find a new favourite. High quality gins, vodkas and whiskeys demand high quality ingredients to mix with them.

Imagine my delight when Richard from REM Cooks posted step by step instructions on how to make a genuine, quinine tonic syrup. I immediately ordered both the cinchona bark and citric acid from Amazon and had almost forgotten about them when they arrived a month later. But I went into tonic syrup production immediately. Five days wait went slowly, but my response to the the first G&T made with the homemade tonic syrup was an emphatic WOW!!!

The possibilities are endless with this tonic syrup, adjusting the herbal notes and spicy highlights to make a complementary mixer for your favourite tipple. For batch number two, I’ll significantly increase the spice notes. Firstly I’ll omit the cardamom, and as most gins are made with juniper I’ll include some juniper berries. I’ll double the amount of allspice and add a couple of rolls of cassia bark and a small amount of Szechuan peppercorns.

4 cups water
1/3 cup cinchona bark pieces (available in bulk at Amazon)
1/4 cup citric acid
2 limes, zest only
2 lemons, zest only
1 grapefruit, zest only
2 stalks lemongrass stalks chopped
12 whole allspice berries, cracked
6 whole cardamom pods, cracked
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

about 3-4 cups of cold heavy (rich) syrup made in the proportion 2 parts sugar, one part water ( I’m hopeless at maths! I used 4 cups sugar, 2 cups water to yield 4 3/4 cups syrup.)

In a saucepan bring the water, citrus zests, salt, spices, cinchona bark and citric acid to the boil. Reduce the heat and cover the pot and simmer for about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.
Strain the cooled infusion through a fine mesh strainer. Seal the liquid in a jar and chill for 5 days. A sediment will form in the bottom of the jar.
After 5 days, strain the liquid again through a coffee filter or a piece of muslin.
Measure your volume of tonic infusion, then mix with an equal volume of heavy syrup.
Your tonic syrup is now ready for use.
Mix by volume half a measure of tonic syrup to a full measure of soda water, or experiment and find the proportion you prefer. This syrup is very bitter.
Pour your favourite gin over ice, add tonic syrup and soda and a wedge of lime, now enjoy the best G&T ever!
Thanks Richard for this wondrous gem!

*for my taste test, tonic without gin, I used Schweppes brand soda to mix with my tonic syrup, I poured too quickly and it frothed up like a badly poured beer! Go slow!!



About ladyredspecs

I live in sunny Brisbane, Australia. My love of good food drives me as a cook, a reader, a traveller, an artist and but mostly as an eater. I cooked professionally for many years but have no formal training. Simply guided by a love of eating good food, respect for ingredients and an abhorrence of artificial additives, I cook instinctively applying the technical know how acquired by experience. I hope you enjoy what I share Sandra AKA ladyredspecs

10 comments on “Tonic Water Syrup

  1. Pingback: In My February Kitchen 2015 | Please Pass the Recipe

  2. Fig & Quince
    December 22, 2013

    Most interesting!


    • ladyredspecs
      December 23, 2013

      Thanks, it’s interesting to explore new flavours and now I have an understanding of the outcome, which is fabulous BTW, I’m eager to push this around a bit and change the botanical notes.


  3. richardmcgary
    December 14, 2013

    Hi, Sandra. Glad you enjoyed it. We really like it. I wish I could find some Seville Oranges to use instead of the grapefruit. I’ve seen several recipes that call for it and I’m sure it would provide a very nice flavor to the tonic. I, too, am going to play with the spices on the next batch. I am also going to double the recipe. I drink the stuff way too quickly. 😀


    • ladyredspecs
      December 14, 2013

      With luck, you should find them (Seville oranges) toward the end of winter, I think orange would make a great contribution to the flavour! I really think you are on a winner with this! Thanks🍻


  4. chef mimi
    December 13, 2013

    So I’m assuming this is worth the process. I’m going to have to try it out. Thanks!


    • ladyredspecs
      December 13, 2013

      It’s quite a simple process. The flavour is wonderful, a bit like an espresso coffee compared to instant, vaguely like the commercial product, but head and shoulders above in flavour!


  5. Leah
    December 12, 2013

    Can’t wait to taste this…. I love tonic water and won’t ever say no to a g&t. Here’s hoping the first batch was big enough for some to end up packed for the holidays 🙂 xxxx


    • ladyredspecs
      December 12, 2013

      You bet, there’s a big bottle in it’s way! Xx

      From Sandra Gay’s iPhone



      • Leah
        December 13, 2013



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This entry was posted on December 12, 2013 by in FODMAP diet, Food, Gluten Free, Syrup and tagged , , , , .
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