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! ??

crystal lowball glass with lime wedge and herbs for making gin and tonic