As promised, this next recipe is my attempt at Pinch and Swirl’s Homemade Tonic Water. Not long after turning “of age”, I discovering that vodka and tonic is darn tasty–and refreshing, which is not something that you often come by when bartenders suggest drinks for 21-year-old females. Contrary to your belief, I came here to taste something besides sugar, thank you. So I set out to make them at the apartment. I soon learned, however, that the name-brand tonic water at the local grocery store was not much more than “carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, and natural flavors”. I’m not about to get into a controversial discussion of that little bugger listed in the middle there, but I’ve got to say that I do not like the sensation of it in my face. You know what I’m talking about–sodas sweetened with it now leave that weird feeling on your teeth that you don’t get from the “throwback” versions made with real sugar. Plus, I was super curious as to just what kinds of “natural flavors” were in there.
A quick internet search led me almost directly to Pinch and Swirl, and for good reason! Marissa, the owner of this lovely site, and her husband did a lot of work to come up with this recipe. So, I dared trust it 100% as it is written–something I rarely do. I bought all of the exotic ingredients, rationalizing that I’ll only have to do it once–til the syrup runs out, of course. I even had extras of some of them (one of which I’ll use in my next recipe, Lemon-Lavender Cookies). I followed Marissa’s directions, and on the third day, there was tonic syrup (please, everyone read that like a preacher). The only thing I did not do was strain it finely right away. I took the big chunks out with the help of a sieve, but I had gotten cheesecloth on the internet for the purpose of straining it finely, and the kind that came to me wasn’t fine enough. So, I waited until I went home next to grab some coffee filters from my parents. I vastly underestimated how much time it would take for now-sugary syrup to strain through these filters. Have patience, friends, and you shall be rewarded with non-sediment-y, delicious, citrus-y, slightly herbaceous tonic syrup made “throwback” style.
Yield: About 4 cups
3 1/2 c. water
1/4 c. (1 oz) chopped cinchona bark
1/4 c. citric acid
Zest of 3 limes
Zest of 3 lemons
Zest of 2 oranges
3 stalks of lemongrass (check your grocery store’s organic section–you need fresh, not dried)
4 allspice berries
3 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon lavender
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
Combine first 11 ingredients in a glass container with a seal. Shake to combine, and place in the refrigerator, continuing to shake at least once daily. Keep refrigerated for 72 hours. After 72 hours, strain the big pieces out, then strain again with a coffee filter.
Place the sugar and extra 1 cup of water in a pot over medium heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Transfer to a heat-proof container and allow to cool.
Combine the cooled sugar syrup with the strained liquid, stirring to fully incorporate. Transfer the tonic syrup to a storage container, and store in the fridge.
To make tonic water–add syrup to taste to sparkling water. Marissa suggests 1/2 oz—or half a pony, if you’re measuring with a jigger—per glass. I say a little more never hurt anybody.
Notes: I followed Marissa’s advice and got my dried herbs from Penn Herb Company. Need something to do with all that zested citrus? Check out my Citrus Nectar that came to be because of this recipe. Tonic water is a source of quinine, a now-unused natural medicine to treat malaria, which is what gives the water its signature bitterness. It is extracted from the cinchona bark in this recipe by the citric acid.