Everything old is new again, and cocktails are no exception! Gin & Tonic was originally created as a more palatable way for 19th-century British soldiers to take their quinine, a bitter tasting antimalarial extract from the bark of the cinchona tree (Cinchona officinalis).
Turns out, it tasted pretty darn good!
The classic G&T is now a popular and refreshing cocktail, typically made from gin, lime juice and tonic water (which, in case you’re curious, doesn’t contain anywhere near the quinine needed for a medicinal dose). It’s become one of my (Kim) favorite “adult” beverages. I really enjoy the complex citrus flavors and hint of bitterness.
What I don’t love is the high-fructose corn syrup found in most store-bought tonic waters. There are a few high-end brands that have better ingredients, but they tend to be pretty spendy.
Fortunately, it’s not at all difficult to create your own tonic syrup at home. ?
You will need to plan ahead a bit, since a proper G&T requires quinine to taste right. To do that, you’ll need some cinchona bark. It’s not a common ingredient, but I’ve found it in a number of places online. You can also order a kit containing both powdered cinchona and citric acid here.
To make your cinchona bark tincture, simply fill a half-pint-sized jar with approximately 40 grams of powdered cinchona bark. If your bark is cut into larger pieces, you can grind it finer using a mortar and pestle or give it a whirr in an electric spice grinder.
Add 200 mL of 151 proof grain alcohol (such as Everclear) to the jar. Cap with a tight-fitting lid, label and shake. Medicinal tinctures normally infuse for 4-6 weeks, but this is not medicinal and you should have most of the flavor you’re looking for within 8 hours. The alcohol will turn a lovely deep red color as it infuses. ?
Now you’re ready to make your tonic syrup! Don’t get too hung up on exact measurements. I’ve probably made half a dozen variations of this recipe, and they were all slightly different and all quite good. Feel free to customize according to your own tastes! ??