Thursday, June 23, 2011

Homemade tonic water

Several friends have invested in seltzer makers. They save money and make fun farting noises, what is not to love? The discussion about whether it was possible to make homemade tonic water arose. Always a fan of an overly complicated way to make something from scratch that is probably cheaper and easier to just purchase, I decided to research the project immediately.

Step 1 - find a recipe
There are several out there, but almost all point to Jeffrey Morgenthaler's How To Make Your Own Tonic Water. Other recipes offer more exotic mix-ins, and some offered sugar rather than agave nectar as sweeteners. 

Step 2 - find ingredients
I knew that citric acid was available at the co-op, but I could not find the cinchona bark - the ingredient that contains quinine - anywhere. I tried the health food store, the food co-op, spice shops; a friend even translated cinchona into pinyin and I attempted to find the bark at 3 pharmacies in Chinatown. No dice.

I finally broke down and purchased online from Penn Herb Co for $25/lb. plus shipping. I had to get a pound of the stuff, and the recipes only call for a quarter cup, so its safe to say that this is going to be one of many attempts at tonic water.

Step 3 - Making the goods

Tonic Water Syrup
4 cups water
1 cup chopped lemongrass
¼ cup cinchona bark
zest and juice of 1 orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon
zest and juice of 1 lime
zest and juice of 1 grapefruit
1 tsp whole allspice berries
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
¼ cup citric acid
¼ tsp Kosher salt

3 cups of sugar
1 cup of water

1. Combine the 4 cups of water, bark, zest, juice, spices, citric acid and salt into a sauce pan.
2. Bring to a boil, lower and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Allow the mixture to cool, then strain through coffee filters - this takes a while.
4. In a clean sauce pan, combine the strained mixture with 1 cup of water and 3 cups of sugar. Bring to a low boil to disolve all the sugar.
5. Allow the mixture to cool.
6. Combine the mixture with seltzer and booze of your choice.
¾ ounce of syrup, 1½ ounces of gin and 2 ounces of soda water - is what Morgenthaler recommends. I prefer 1 part syrup to 2 parts soda water and 1 part vodka. But you have taste buds of your own, so do what feels right.
Lemongrass is a beast of a plant to cut. You will need a sharp knife, and probably 2 stalk = 1 cup chopped. Its worth it. Don't skip this step, plus the inside is PURPLE!

A rasp is key for this project - it will get the zest without the white pith.


Cool down...

The flavor is a lot more complex than the clear tonic water you can buy in the store. It is not nearly as sweet, and with the exception of the bitterness from the quinine, its hard to pick out each of the individual ingredients, but I mean that in a good way. The flavor is pretty complex, but it doesn't fight with the gin, if gin happens to be your mix-in of choice. I would say that if you have a soda-stream at home, to make the water extra farty, since stirring in the syrup does knock out some of the carbonation.

The final product is good, really good. Better than I expected and worth the effort.

Consider it summer and me tickled pink.

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