Well friends. We’ve got some excitement coming your way today! We are going to make our very own tonic water, because nothing says, “I’m a pretentious ass- but a likeable one, nonetheless,” better than a craft tonic.
I was in Montreal a few weeks ago, with my besties, and we know how much I love Quebec. So we were at the very sexy Chuck Hughes’s place, Le Bremner, which I highly recommend. The very friendly serving staff informed us that they make all their own cocktail mix, and they don’t do “regular” cocktails, like Le Caesar (which, by the way, was mentioned with a strong disdain- and it could be noted that Caesars are very popular in Toronto, and thusly not en vogue at all in Montreal.)
The Caesar, for our American readership, is the pride of Canada, next only to beavers and maple syrup. It’s the same as your Bloody Mary, but we use Clamato, a tomato juice with clam juice in it. Because we’re hard like that, us Canucks. We roll deep. Anyway, this Caesar debac cause my poor friend Nicky to look crestfallen, because all she had talked about all day was how excited she was for a Caesar. In an effort to save the day, our server offered to make her a specialty cocktail, based on whatever she liked.
As you can imagine, the custom cocktails became a huge hit at our table. I was given a gin cocktail with lavender, rose and various other petals, and it was just about the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted. I Instagrammed, I tweeted, I drank.
Fast forward to last weekend, where my father and his girlfriend basically gave a 24-hour infomercial for a SodaStream, which I was sold on immediately. I go through Perrier and Pellegrino like it’s $0.49/case, which it is not at all. I spend half my monthly salary on fizzy water, because I bloody love it. Obviously, the idea of turning water into soda water is essentially my personal water to wine.
Now I have a SodaStream of my very own, and I realized that I too could create craft sodas and be just like Chuck Hughes. And while I’m at it, maybe I’ll move to Portland.
This all seemed completely doable to me, until I actually googled a recipe for tonic water. Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe seems to be the crowd favourite, and most are based from this one. The issue though, is that quinine and/or cinchona bark are essentially impossible to find. In fact, it’s borderline illegal, and if you need to pass drug tests, I wouldn’t recommend it, since apparently in can show up in your urine as a heroin derivative.
Let’s stay on the right side of the law for now, and just carry on without it. You can find it online, (or in Canada, here) so if you want your tonic water to glow in blacklights, you can still make this happen. But I used a splash of Agnostura bitters instead for the flavour, as well as some jazzy other spices.
3 cups of water
3 chopped lemongrass stalks
1 orange and zest
1 lemon and zest
1 lime and zest
¼ tsp of citric acid (more if your don’t use fresh fruits)
2 star anise
1 cardamom pod cracked
1 cinnamon stick
¼ tsp of lavender
¼ tsp of cloves
pinch of salt
A few juniper berries (because let’s not kid ourselves, this is going with gin)
A bottle of soda water
To make the tonic concentrate, bring your water to the boil, then add all your spices and sugar. Simmer for upwards of thirty minutes, then strain (use a fine mesh strainer and a coffee filter if you find the bark) and cool. Add the tonic concentrate to the club soda at about a ratio of 1 part tonic, 3 parts water.
But here’s the big takeaway here: you can kind of just make this up (okay, you do need the soda water). Add the quinine if you can find it, add whatever you like. Take other stuff out. Add peppercorns. Do whatever you want, because “tonic” means, “mix up liquids and call it a potion”. So do your thing. Then make a customized jazzy label, because you can do that too, because you’re awesome, and we’re all Dr. McGuillicuddy at heart.
Next up, I’m going to learn how to make Sarsaparilla. If anyone has a line on sarsaparilla root, get at me!