A Superior Gin or Vodka Finds
a Better Tonic
By JOHN HOLL
Like so many before it, Jordan Silbert’s great idea came several years back
while he was having cocktails with friends. With so many premium brands of
gin and vodka on the market, he wondered, why were drinkers forced to use
tonic water that came in a plastic bottle for .99 cents a pop?
“So I woke up the following afternoon and went to work on my plan to create
a high-end tonic water,” said Silbert, the founder of Q Tonic, a Brooklyn-
based company that is bringing a better mixer to the party.
For decades the tonic water market has been dominated by two familiar
brand names – Canada Dry and Schweppes. Both packaged in plastic soda
bottles with strikingly similar yellow labels are the that are most often found
in grocery isles and poured out of beverage guns behind the bar.
There are some who believe that pairing spirits like Belvedere and Grey
Goose vodkas or Hendricks and Citadel gins with run of the mill tonic water
takes away from the overall quality of the beverage. And, they are right.
Q tonic ($7.40) is packaged in frosted 6.3 oz bottles that, not coincidently,
look like its high-end alcoholic brethren. Silbert urges bars that carry the
mixer to serve the tonic chilled and give it the “bottle service” treatment
allowing drinkers to control how much or little goes into their glass.
Similarly, Stirrings, a company known for cocktail mixers for Mojitos and
Bloody Mary’s, has also gotten into the higher caliber tonic business, offering
4-packs ($5) that also come in pry-off capped 6.3-ounce bottles.
"For Tonic, quality is even more important since the finished cocktail is
usually only comprised of two ingredients: the soda and the spirit,” said
Kristine Ford, marketing director for Stirrings. “The stuff that has permeated
the market is overly sweet, with a stale and soft carbonation compared to the
fresh, natural and balanced tonic we produce.”
Tonic, also known as quinine water, is typically the result of mixing cinchona
bark with carbonated water and some citrus juice. The result is a sweetly
bitter liquid with a scent of lemon or lime.
Most drinkers notice a stark difference in quality and taste when conducting
side-by-side comparisons of plastic bottled tonics and craft tonics.
The plastic bottled versions are made with corn syrup and extracts that leave
a sticky residue on drinker’s teeth after just one glass. On the nose they
more resemble a drink like Sprite or 7-Up.
Stirrings uses cinchona bark extract but cane sugar, which gives the drink a
nicer, less sticky finish. Cinchona is native to South America.
Q Tonic stands out above the rest, however, with handpicked cinchona and
organic agave, adding a new level of complexity that – especially with gin –
brings the classic summer cocktail to a whole new level of enjoyment.
John Holl writes about wine, beer, spirits and the culture of drinking. He may
be reached at JohnHoll@gmail.com
*** *** ***
SHAKE THINGS UP A BIT AND MAKE YOUR OWN TONIC WATER
Feeling a little adventurous? If you’d prefer to take a stab at making your
own tonic water, there are several recipes out there. Here’s one that is fairly
easy and yields a quality mixer. Just be aware that the fresh cinchona bark
will turn the drink slightly brown but does not affect flavor.
Tonic water concentrate:
2 cups Water
1⁄8 cup Powdered Cinchona Bark
11⁄2 tsp. Cardamom
1⁄2 tsp. Allspice Berries
1 pinch Salt
1 1⁄2 cups Agave Syrup
1. Zest and juice the lemon, lime and orange.
2. Combine fruit zest and juice, water and herbs, and cook on medium heat in
a sauce pot until it reaches a boil.
3. After it boils, remove from heat and let the mixture cool. Strain through a
paper coffee filter and mix with seltzer water. Blend with your spirit of choice
A Journalist Looks at Beer
|The Beer Briefing
by John Holl