Few things beat the taste of a gin and tonic on a warm spring day. At least until you check out the back label of your store bought mixer. Ever notice how a swarm of ants descend upon the smallest drop of your drink? Grocery store tonic water is either more full of sugar than a Mountain Dew or drifting dangerously close in taste to the aspartame-filled versions of their diet soda counterparts. Yet these don’t have to be your only two options. There are a handful of restaurants crafting their own tonic syrup that are heavy on flavor and a lot lighter on the artificial ingredients that fill most options out there. It is also extremely easy to make your own blend of tonic syrup at home that is a sure crowd pleaser. We will show you where to find and craft your own here.
First off, a little history. Tonic water came about because of quinine, a medicinal ingredient that is said to protect against malaria. Mixed with citric acid (another ingredient used for its medicinal properties) quinine is quite bitter. To combat these harsh flavors, British sailors combined the mixture with carbonated water and sometimes sugar to create a “tonic.” It was only a matter of time time before this original creation was mixed with gin and… Voila! The original gin and tonic was born. Quinine and citric acid aren’t something that you stumble upon in your local grocery store, which accounts for part of the reason why homemade tonics haven’t become more prevalent. This is a minor hurdle for us in Jackson, as most everything not stocked on the grocery store shelf comes from Amazon anyways.
Quinine is derived from cinchona bark. While you won’t be able to find it in the bulk section of many grocery stores, it is quite easy and cheep online where a one pound bag will get you around eight batches of syrup. The other unique ingredient is citric acid, which also can be easily found at numerous online retailers. These two ingredients mixed with a simple syrup infused with aromatics is sure to be a great crowd pleaser. There are plenty of different recipes that you can find online but let us offer you a tried and true favorite perfect for those first nights spent lounging in the late afternoon sun.
If you are craving the taste of homemade tonic with zero effort, a few restaurants in town are offering up their takes on the homemade mixer.
Cafe Genevieve: Their iteration of the classic gin and tonic is a straight forward as you can get. House Made Tonic and Taqueray Gin are the only two ingredients this cocktail needs. The HGT is a great cocktail to showcase the flavors of their house made elixir.
Teton Tiger: As the roots of the Gin and Tonic go back to maritime England, it is no surprise Teton Tiger features a great version of this classic cocktail on its menu. The Calvary G&T features gin infused with lemongrass and Kaffir leaf, lime, and tonic, creating a perfect accompaniment to one of their tasty curries.
If you feel like a classy Gin and Tonic at home without the fuss of crafting your own syrup, there are a few great options that just require soda water, gin, and a lime. Stop by Mountain Dandy for a wide range of artisanal mixers including tonic syrup. My favorite is produced by Speed Craft. Their 16 oz bottle of tonic concentrate will get you over 80 oz of tonic water without the additives of your store bought alternatives. Jackson Whole Grocer carries Jack Rudy Cocktail Tonic syrup, mixed with sparkling water to your pleasing, you can easily customize your G&T to you liking. Both products make great gift for the cocktail aficionado in your family as well.