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Making Tonic Water and Tonic/Quinine Syrup

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#61 Chris Amirault

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 11:25 AM

We're a Fever Tree household, and always have a few bottles handy. However, I started fiddling around with this Imbibe magazine tonic syrup recipe by Kevin Ludwig at Beaker & Flask in Portland. Here is a halved recipe with several items converted to weight:

300 g sugar
450 g water
13 g quinine (cinchona powder -- tx Hennes!)
35 g citric acid

I used two, not 1 1/2, limes, and 12 kaffir lime leaves instead of the lemon grass. Citrusy aromatics will be fun to play around with moving forward, it's clear.

Next time, I'm definitely cutting the citric acid back by half or so, as it's too much for my tastes. Still, as others have said here, the ability to control these variables is going to make for some real fun.

ETA: some white cardamom tincture is another tasty addition.

Edited by Chris Amirault, 16 January 2012 - 11:40 AM.

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#62 Kevin Liu

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 05:36 PM

Did some mixing and testing over the weekend.

Used 20 g cut cinchona bark: 1 cup of water (about 220g). Heated to boiling, then steeped for 30 minutes. Cooled (had reduced to 1/2 cup), then strained through a DIY 1-micron polyester filter rigged to an aeropress.

The result was gorgeous, a transparent light-brown with no sediment.

Added a half cup of water to get it back to original dilution, as well as 220g of sugar to create a syrup.

I found that this syrup tastes great with gin, but it's still a little bit too sweet and not bitter enough. I think I will up the cinchona even more. Also, I found that citric acid is absolutely crucial, but in small quantities, as Chris mentioned. Adding lemon juice and lime juice somehow just don't cut it.
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#63 Bohemian

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 04:24 PM

Coming across this thread in my "perfect" gin & tonic research, while not using bark or syrup, I decided I may as well report in with my results.

I decided to see how easy/hard it was just to get quinine sulfate and start from there. The reason was ultimately a desire to have better control over the finsihed product. I actually found several viable sources for USP grade chemical, but several required some proof of academic affiliation, i.e I would either have to work/teach at an actual educational instituion or lie. In the end, I found two soruces that would ship small quanitites of quinine sulfate - The Lab Depot (www.labdepotinc.com) and ArtChemicals (artchemicals.com). The latter will ship out of the US, while the former will not.

Past that point, I followed some of the guidelines around process provided by Dave Arnold (Thanks Dave!) in one of the Harvard lectures and ran some taste experiments. After some spirit-fueled debate, the recipe that scored the highest was more or less the following:

60 ml Gin
25 ml Clarified Lime Juice
15 ml Simple Syrup
100 ml water
3 ml of 0.2 % Quinine solution
Pinch of salt

Mix the above and chill in Freezer. Add to ISI (optionally with ice), shake and carbonate with two CO2 and one N2O charge. Serve and enjoy slowly. Nice balance of taste that gets even better as you go and bubbles that last right to the end. I should say that this results in a very stiff drink, so I'm not sure more than one would be required, but your mileage may vary.

Edited by Bohemian, 18 September 2012 - 04:54 PM.

#64 Lisa Shock

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 11:51 PM

I'm about to embark on a few experiments with making my own tonic. I recently acquired a Primo Flavorstation soda machine and a bunch of accessories on the cheap, it's discontinued, and want to make something special for my first batch of homemade soda.


Anyway, I've looked around at some formulas here and other places online, and have some ideas for changes based on personal preference.


I notice that some recipes have you boiling citrus peel and in some cases juice, along with dry things like allspice berries for about twenty minutes. IMO, cooked lemon peel isn't a great flavor. (ditto for lime and orange) I am thinking about finely grating the zest into a small amount of grain alcohol and letting it infuse for a couple of days. Then, adding the strained infusion at the end of the process, to the cooled, strained product along with freshly squeezed juice. Yes, it will make the tonic alcoholic, but, that's not really a problem when it's just for home consumption. I also know it won't have a long shelf life, but, I'll be keeping the base refrigerated and using it all up within 5 days. (if it's good, I'll take some to a friend's birthday party) I'm also willing to bet that my tonic will be cloudy, but, I don't care. Anyone foresee any issues I might have with this?

#65 Volition

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 06:55 AM

Question for the above recipe. Why the n2o? When carbonating.

#66 EvergreenDan

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 02:27 PM

Question for the above recipe. Why the n2o? When carbonating.


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#67 Volition

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 02:55 PM

Thanks. Cavitation to infuse. I take it you cavitate first then carbonate. Is that correct?

Edited by Volition, 04 March 2014 - 02:56 PM.

#68 Lisa Shock

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Posted 08 March 2014 - 07:17 PM

I had the opportunity to speak to a chemist yesterday and asked him about cinchona and extracting the quinine from it. (early on in this thread, thee was speculation about different solvents) He said that water with added acid, like the citric acid that's in most recipes, would be one of the best ways extract the quinine from the bark -for those of us without access to fancy extraction machines. This sync's up with my, limited research in old formula books where I found a recommendation to use hydrochloric acid to encourage the quinine to mix with the water. Essentially, grain alcohol would be better than plain water, but, water with acid works better than alcohol, in this case.


Right now, I have a small jar of Everclear with the peels from a lemon, lime, and orange along with some allspice berries in it. The flavor is pretty intense and I am fairly certain that I wont need all of it. I am taking apart Jeffrey Morgenthaler's recipe and am probably going to wind up re-assembling it with different proportions. I am debating whether or not lemongrass is needed at all, but, I have a small amount in Everclear as well -I'll test the flavor as an additive at the end. -Same with the juice from the lemon, lime and orange -the fruit is waiting in the fridge right now. I am thinking of substituting my 'complex syrup' made with jaggery and gum arabic for the agave syrup.

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#69 Lisa Shock

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 07:58 PM

Ok, update time. I decided to try infusing lemongrass in EverClear, and it didn't work. The liquid was a delightful bright green color, but had no flavor for days, until finally after 5 days, it took on a vague, somewhat green vegetable flavor -but just a little bit. So, I wound up cooking lemongrass in with the bark and citric acid. However, I used a lot less lemongrass than the original recipe called for. That said, I like my final product. The citrus flavors and allspice are very subtle. I had infused the citrus peels and allspice in a cup of EverClear, I wound up only using a half cup of that, so, I'll trim my recipe down, and use the current leftovers in vin d'orange.


I also wound up using an entire quart of 'complex syrup' to balance out the tartness.

#70 cdh

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 05:42 PM

I've done a very successful tonic batch recently.


Here's what I used:


2T cinchona bark - the chunky stuff, not the fine powder

1lb lemongrass - fresh from the korean market

dried peel of 1 temple orange - homemade... dried the peel of an orange I ate over the winter.

2 drops lime oil - NOW foods brand is what I used.

citric acid - standard food safe chemical grade... same stuff I use to clean my espresso machine.


Here's how I did it:


Part I - Dealing with the cinchona


In the past, I've dumped the cinchona bark in with the other stuff... and it made the tonic brown and woodsy and bark-flavored with weird floral notes.  I did no want that.  Noting the post above that mentions that quinine is much more soluble in alcohol than in water I decided to make use of that trait.  This time I made cinchona tea... twice... and threw it out both times. Standard 5 minute steep with water near boiling.  It was bitter and bark-y and weird like all of the boiled-in-water cinchona experiments before.  I then soaked the pre-boiled cinchona in some cheap vodka for a half hour.  That made for some slightly brown and very bitter quinine tincture.  I've still got 20x the quinine tincture I used in this batch in a bottle.


Part II - Getting the citrus/sour/sweet thing balanced


I took the pound of lemongrass, 5 big long stalks and ran them through the slicing blade on the food processor.  Then I took the heap of little woody circles and put them in a pot with 2 cups of sugar and the orange peel, and added water to cover.  Heated to boiling.  Added lime oil while it was boiling in hopes of it emulsifying some.  Let it cool and filled a 750ml bottle with it.   Didn't measure the citric acid I added... Just until it tasted "right" to me. 


Part III - Getting it together


So I find that the quinine tincture goes a long long way.  2 or so tablespoons of it added to the 750 ml bottle  seems about right for a good tonic-y bitterness. 


Part IV - Using it


So far, I find that a 3/4 oz measure of the tonic syrup makes a good 10oz glass of gin and tonic when combined with a 1 1/2 oz measure of gin, and topped with seltzer and a squeeze of lime.


Moral of the story-  boil your cinchona... then throw out the tea and extract the quinine you need with alcohol. 

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#71 bostonapothecary

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 09:11 PM


Moral of the story-  boil your cinchona... then throw out the tea and extract the quinine you need with alcohol. 


very interesting idea. I always thought I'd find a research paper that detailed more of how commercial tonic is made but I never have. I suspect they do something similar to remove a lot of color and undesirable compounds. I've been helping someone to develop a product with Chaga, which is a fungus that grows on birch trees. extracting flavor from it has been a unique challenge and some parts of it are very water soluble and others are only alcohol soluble. most people extract it in boiling water first and then take the insoluble grounds and put those in high proof alcohol. eventually the water extract and the ethanol extract are married.

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#72 EvergreenDan

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 04:45 AM

I've still got 20x the quinine tincture I used in this batch in a bottle.


What would that be like added to just gin -- sort of a minimalist Gin & Tonic?

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#73 cdh

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 05:11 AM

What would that be like added to just gin -- sort of a minimalist Gin & Tonic?

My guess?  Unpleasant and potentially dangerous, if the FDA dosage rec of 82 mg/l is a threshold for bad things starting to happen... Really, the bitterness of tonic is not the majority of the flavor in there... it's just the unusual aspect, so it is what we notice and pay attention to.  Commercial tonics are mostly sweet, with a bit of sour and a hint of bitter... look at the approaches above in the thread that use sugar, citric and quinine and little else... without the complexity of the citrus-y melange in the background, gin and quinine would be horrible.

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#74 GlorifiedRice

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 06:24 AM

2 links for you...


Wild Quinine Seeds, not Cinchona bark




Quinine Sulfate

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#75 lesliec

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 07:46 PM

'Not for ... human ... or food use', says the bottle of quinine sulphate.  Worth the risk?

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#76 JoNorvelleWalker

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 08:28 PM

I have been known to use other than food grade chemicals for culinary purposes.  And I've done my share of quinine sulfate for medicinal reasons.


What is the provenance of your bottle, Leslie?  (Why one would want to drink the stuff for pleasure is an entirely different question.)

#77 Shel_B

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Posted 17 July 2015 - 06:58 AM

From David Lebovitz's Blog, Homemade Tonic Water

 ... Shel

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#78 weinoo

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Posted 17 July 2015 - 07:10 AM

I like David's blog, and he's helped me previously on trips to Paris.


But - this is another solution to a problem that has already been solved. A lot of work, and there is already good stuff on the market and easily available. Maybe not in France, though...

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