Home Made Tonic: Part 2

IMG_2563At the end of May I wrote a piece about home-made tonic since then I made two more recipes in an attempt to try to conquer the perfect tonic.  What I’ve learned is: homemade tonic varies greatly and can take some time to find the right balance for you.

There are two basic techniques – boil all the ingredients in a sugar syrup or make a “tea” with all the ingredients then add sweetener.  I think the latter is better because it gives you a lighter colored tonic which you can adjust the sweetness of to your liking.   Because both of the two tonic waters I made called for powdered cinchona bark the filtering process was not inconsiderable – in the case of Kevin Ludwig’s recipe it is suggested by the Food Dude at Portland Food and Drinks that a 5 day waiting period is called for to let the sediment rest to make the filtration process easier.  I found this recipe to have an intense bitter lime flavor with a strong quinine presences.  Of the 4 friends who helped me do a tasting, only one person preferred this one.  The winner was Jeffrey Morganthaler’s which I modified (of course).  Jim Meehan of PDT whose Tonic Syrup I initially wrote about and was disappointed with has turned in to a really lovely lemon lime syrup to serve friends who don’t want booze.  The other thing I now really appreciate about Mr Meehan’s recipe is the use of whole not powdered cinchona.  If you could use the whole bark it would make the entire process much easier and eliminate the endless straining.

The addition of Grapefruit to my recipe gave the tonic a distinctly grapefruit aspect – which I liked,  but again there is a lot of room for play here and if you decide to try this I highly recommend you take a deep breath and realize that it will take several tries before you find the one that is perfect for you.  The use of a French Press to help strain the mixture was helpful, tho after 2 days of sitting there was sediment in the bottle (which was easily filtered out).

Options abound when it comes to what to add to home-made tonic – from bitter Oranges to Lavender I found the thing that I couldn’t get out of my head was the taste of the tonic that I grew up with, which is made with chemically extracted quinine (which is what gives it that lovely opalescent aspect) and GM High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Remember your first batch of Tonic Syrup will end up being something very different than what you have known tonic to be before.  And that’s a good thing 😉

Tonic Syrup

In a heavy bottomed non-reactive pot add 4 cups of Water, 1/4 Cup Cinchona bark, 1 Cup of Chopped Lemongrass (remove an inch off the bottom, three inches off the top of each lemongrass and then before you remove the tough outer skin pound the stalk with the fat edge of a knife or a mallet to help extract the flavor) the zest and juice of 1 Organic* Lemon, Lime, Orange and Grapefruit,  1 heaping teaspoon of  Whole Allspice, 10 Green cardamom pods, 1/4 Cup Citric Acid, and 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt – bring the mixture up to a boil reduce heat and simmer  20 minutes (*get Organic if possible and always wash the fruit well before you peel it).IMG_2444Let this mixture cool to room temperature.  Strain through a fine sieve, then place in batches into a French Press and strain again.  Finally pour the strained mixture through cheese cloth folded in 4.  There will still be sediment which you can remove as the syrup sits and settles.   Measure the liquid and pour it back into the pot, add 3/4 cup of Agave Syrup for every cup of liquid.  Heat over medium until the Agave has melted then using a funnel our into a resealable container.

There you have it: mix 3/4 ounce of syrup with 2 ounces of soda water and 2 ounces of Gin squeeze in a generous wedge of Lime and enjoy!

The syrup on the left is Kevin Ludwig’s recipe and the syrup on the right is my adaptation of Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s notice how much lighter the later is.IMG_2568My thoughts for the next round of Tonic Syrup experimentation is the use more cardamom, maybe only half a grapefruit rind and most importantly to try to figure out a way of making it with cinchona bark not powder – my guess is you need to use a cup of bark and let is sit longer – the only downside to this that I can figure out is that it makes it more expensive (Cinchona bark is $9.20 for 4 ounces plus shipping it cost me $15.15 from Pennherb.com) still given the boutique nature of homemade Tonic I for one would be willing to splurge.IMG_2557 Homemade Tonic Syrup is much more distinct than commercial stuff so it requires a Gin with more umph than the usual Tanquery – I use Hendricks and find it to be a very delicous match.  IMG_2565Cheers!

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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