Tonic Water

Tonic Water

Fever Tree Premium Lemon Tonic

fever-tree-lemon-tonic

*Note, we reviewed this bottle, which we purchased in France.

Bitter Lemon or Lemon Tonics are something of an interesting creature in the world of mixed drinks. Many of the sodas themselves occupy an odd space between supermarket tonic and Squirt Soda. In many cases, the saccharine, and sweetened soda character is part of the charm. Surely, with lemon notes, it’s less real lemon and more a facsimile of lemon like lemon soda.

Certainly that is not its origin, but that’s where it generally is.

Now contrast this with another trend towards authenticity and more natural ingredients in soda. You see soda makers like Q, taking an approach more rooted in the natural flavors and botanicals that modern “cola flavor” is derived from.

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Tonic Water

Haber’s Spicy Hibiscus Tonic Syrup

Haber's-Hibiscus-Tonic-Syrup

Russet in hue, Haber’s Hibiscus Spicy Hibiscus Tonic is the more floral offering to complement their primary offering Haber’s Tonic. Crafted in my very neighborhood, I’ve seen Haber’s locally at a few bars and small local stores. I included their tonic in my tonic syrup giveaway this past fall, and when I did, they sent me a preview of their forthcoming Hibiscus tonic.

On the nose, the syrup has a lot of ginger, hibiscus flower and vegetal, peppery notes underneath. Sipping it, you realize that the note of hot pepper and the label “spicy” doesn’t refer to an abundance of spice as much as it serves a note: there’s hot pepper in here.

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Tonic Water

Ruby D Tonic, Citrus Quinine Tonic

Ruby-D-Citrus-Tonic

Ruby D’s Citrus Quinine Tonic takes their main tonic syrup offering and subtracts some of the herbs and spices and instead veers in a totally different direction with citrus zest and citrus oils. It’s part of a series of tonic syrups which instead of cultivating a following based around catering to one subset of the tonic syrup market, Ruby D makes one for everybody. More spice. They got it. More bitter. That too. Citrus. That’s where we are today. So if the idea of a citrus forward tonic syrup doesn’t appeal to you, you can stop here. They make one that might be more to your tastes. But if your G&T demands more citrus, then here you are.

Tasting Notes

The nose has woody notes, orange flesh, grapefruit, and a lower sweet spiced base that slightly resembles cinnamon and allspice.

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Tonic Water

Boylan Heritage Tonic

boylans-tonic-water

The Boylan Bottling company has teamed up with W&P design to elevate their line of sodas with the cocktail audience in mind. Boylan Heritage Tonic eschews the distinctive longneck bottles and throwback Boylan look and instead occupies a shorter, fatter bottle (like others, including Q Tonic in this space) and sports a simple, stylized, rustically designed bottle that looks exactly like it should belong in the cooler at your local cocktail joint. In short, they’ve hit the mark. It looks like a high end tonic. But how does it taste?

Tasting Notes

Soda like, with quinine and sweet orange zest on the nose, lemon-lime soda, the palate is clean and crisp, with a pleasant dry lemongrass and lemon-lime soda/7up sort of flavor, that gets drier and more bitter on the finish with quinine and bitter orange notes taking over.

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Tonic Water

Hella Tonic (original)

Hella-Tonic

Founded in Brooklyn, produced in Queens and proudly representing New York City, The Hella Company is small batch, all natural and handcrafted. Originally started as a bitters company, they’ve recently moved into the world of tonic syrups as well. Today we’re reviewing their baseline offering, a combination of citrus peels, real sugar, lemongrass and other undisclosed spices. They offer other tonic syrups, including a Hibiscus variant as well.

Tasting Notes

A surprising herbal note, is present on the nose as well. It’s deep, surprisingly resinous and green.

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Tonic Water

Ruby D Extra Bitter Quinine Tonic

Extra bitter. Two words that are music to my ears (-1 pt, mixed metaphor) when it comes to food. Yes, I love the bitter and the challenging. And the folks at Ruby D have been doing some experimenting. They have a original, spice, citrus, and this one- the extra bitter. All are small (very small) batch, made by hand with organic agave and all natural ingredients.

Tasting Notes

This variation arrived with a LOT of sediment on the bottom, and the color of almost packed clay.

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Tonic Water

Fever Tree Naturally Light Indian Tonic

Fever-Tree-Naturally-Light-Tonic-Water

Tasting Notes

On the nose, evident effervescence with a distinct touch of lemon/citrus. The palate is greeted with the signature Fever Tree burst of fizz, but when it clears, there’s not much else there. There’s only a tinge of bitterness and maybe a slight citric note. It’s clean, and has a touch of bitterness, but it just doesn’t deliver much on its own. It’s not wildly different from the flavor of their club soda, which while delivering plenty of effervescence, it just lacks in flavor and character.

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Tonic Water

Bradley’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Kina Tonic

Bradley's Kinda Barrel Aged Tonic Syrup

We’ve reviewed Bradley’s Kina Tonic () here before, and well we quite liked it. Like a lot. So naturally, we’re excited about their latest offering, a first as far as we know, a tonic syrup aged in barrels which held Bourbon and after that Big Gin (). Yes, that is a lot of stars between the two of them.

Tasting Notes

The nose is fresh with a lot of vibrancy. Orange oil, hints of ginger and fresh tree bark. It has a summery, backyard sort of aroma to it. Bright citrus at first, lemon and orange, with a lemongrass/lemon verbena note in the middle. Wood comes through mid-palate, with shades of cedar and cherry. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and even a dash of lavender. The finish is clean, and brisk with the quinine being remarkably subtle.

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Tonic Water

Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Elderflower Tonic

jack-rudy-bottle

As Tonic Syrups become more and more part of everyday gin and tonic culture, we’re starting to see established brands expand their offerings. Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. who is among the earlier names in this area recently put out an Elderflower Tonic. Though amber/gold in hue (vivid, and quite beautiful by the way), it’s not simply elderflower; it’s elderflower and quinine. The label isn’t coy about the bottle’s contents: quinine concentrate, water, citric acid, sugar, lemongrass, orange peel, and elderflower.

So we pretty know what’s in here. How does this sparse, curated list of ingredients work though?

Tasting Notes

On its own hints of rainbow sherbet, musky elderflower and a vegetal, slightly herbaceous low note. It smells ripe, but quite inviting as well. As if a bee drawn to a flower, we go in further.

The palate is somewhat sweetened at first, with elderflower immediately present, lime and orange peel notes leading into a quite tart, sour mid-late palate. A dash of cinchona comes in late, adding some nicely needed bitterness. The finish is floral and deep, with intimations of lily and hyacinth.

I liked the way it mixed with gin and tonic as well.

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Tonic Water

El Guapo Bitters Tonic Syrup

el-guapo-tonic-syrup

El Guapo Bitters British Colonial Style Tonic Syrup fits squarely into the modern day trend of commercial tonic syrups. It’s also designed to be “highly concentrated” so that you only need a dash for each serving, Whereas many syrups minimum G&T serving is around 1 oz. [and therefore 8-9 servings per bottle], El Guapo suggests ¼ oz, which would give you a whopping 34 G&T’s from the 8.5 oz bottle.

The nose is dusty and thick, with aromas of clay, barbeque pit, and tart, sweet, citrus fruits: lemon and orange primarily. Ginger hovers hazily in the low notes with some wood as well.

On its own, it’s incredibly thick and viscous. Argent citrus zest aglow at first, lemongrass, tart grapefruit juice, and a wood. It has the flavor of quinine bark— you’ll especially know this if you’ve ever opened up a package of the bark yourself, you get the aroma of the bark without the bitterness, that’s what’s happening here. The finish is tart, with lemongrass, and a peculiar dustiness as well. It has some interesting flavors to be sure, but it’s lacking in that bitter quinine quality. Also, keeping in mind that this is supposed to be highly concentrated, I’d imagine not many people are drinking the syrup on its own.

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