Tasting the homemade version of tonic water at Portland, Oregon’s Teardrop Cocktail Lounge changed our whole perspective on the mixer. There, owner Daniel Shoemaker makes it spiced with Sichuan peppercorns and cardamom, then bottles and carbonates it with champagne yeast. He kindly shared his recipe, which we’ve adapted into a tonic syrup for the home cook—just add carbonated water, then drink it on its own as a dry, sophisticated soda, or mix it with some gin for a gin and tonic unlike any you’ve tasted.
What to buy: Cinchona bark, a.k.a. quinine bark, is what gives tonic water its characteristic bitter flavor. It’s a dark reddish-brown, so don’t be thrown off when this recipe gives you orange-ish tonic water instead of the clear stuff you’re used to. You can order quinine bark powder online from ZooScape.com.
This recipe was featured as part of our DIY Holiday Gifts Advent Calendar.
- 1Combine cinchona bark powder and vodka in a container with a tightfitting lid; cover and let sit overnight.
- 2Combine cinchona-vodka mixture and remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan, cover, and bring to a simmer (be careful—the vodka is flammable). Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit overnight at room temperature.
- 3Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a container with a spout. Transfer syrup to a container with a tightfitting lid and refrigerate for up to 2 months.
For the tonic water:
- 1Combine 1 part syrup with 6 parts carbonated water. Serve immediately.