Gin & Homemade Tonic


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Although it’s not really G&T season for the rest of the States, down here in Florida, the weather is still nice enough to call for a good old gin and tonic in the evening on the back porch. For an extra tasty G&T, one calls for homemade tonic.

Quinine is the ingredient in tonic that has made it a sought-after drink now for centuries. It comes from the bark of the cinchona tree, grown in South America, and was found to be an early cure for malaria. (For a good account of the importance and value of cinchona bark, I’d recommend Elizabeth Gilbert’s beautiful new historical fiction: The Signature of All Things. She delves into the early European cultivation of the crop in her novel. And is a fantastic writer to boot.) Fortunately nowadays, one only has to click a button on a computer to have cinchona bark delivered to your doorstep instead of traveling across the ocean by boat.

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We used our lemons, limes, oranges, and lemongrass for this recipe.

Ingredients for the tonic:

4 c water
1 c chopped lemongrass
1/4 c powdered cinchona bark (you can get it online at herbal stores)
Zest and juice of one orange
Zest and juice of one lemon
Zest and juice of one lime
1/4 c citric acid (I got this at Walmart in the canning section)
1 t whole allspice berries
1/4 t Kosher salt


Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the mixture starts to boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Once cool, the mixture will be thick. Some recipes say you can filter with a coffee filter; we’ve never had luck with that. We rigged up our own system to filter the tonic.

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If you cut off the bottom of a 2 liter pop bottle, it will act as a funnel to filter the precipitants (we used a wine bottle here–WAY too difficult to cut glass. Don’t try it. Just use a plastic pop bottle.) We put the cap on, and inverted it in another 2 liter bottle that had the top cut off. We poured in all the tonic mixture, and let it stand overnight. Most of the precipitants will settle. The next day, pour off the liquid on the top into another bottle, and you have your tonic!

To make your gin and tonic, use this recipe:

1 1/2 oz gin
1 oz tonic
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup (to make simple syrup, heat 1 c sugar + 1 c water until it dissolves.)
Top with seltzer water

Add all this to a glass full of ice and use a lime wedge as a garnish. Depending on the tonic, you may have to use a little more simple syrup or a little less lemon juice. You might have to tweak this recipe to your liking. Cheers!


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