Top 10 Tonic Waters

Since our last update in 2012, we’ve reviewed a  lot more Tonic waters and syrups. Being one of our most popular features (ever) written, we felt it time to update based on several years of additional research. As always, you can check out our entire tonic review archive and search for your personal favorites.

A couple of quick considerations and notes: The list does not correspond directly with our star ratings (though there are many highly rated tonics on here). It instead looks at a tonic and how well it works in a wide range of G&T’s. It’s a guideline for what might be the most versatile, general recommendation. For those looking for something more specific, there are lots of excellent tonics that don’t appear here, even though we love them.

Also, tonic waters and syrups appear side by side on this year’s list, though we may break them out in the future. I’m curious to hear what you think, do you consider tonic waters and syrups side by side? Or are they their own thing? Let me know in the comments. Without further ado, here’s your top 10 for 2015.

2015 2012 2011
1 2 1 Fever Tree Tonic ()  Recommended, One of the Best, Year to Year
fever-tree-tonic-waterReturning to the #1 spot, Fever tree is our go-to tonic water where at all possible. Clean, brisk, with a pleasant bitterness, not-too-much sweetness, and one of the finest fizzes you’ll taste. It works well with any and all gins, making it the most versatile entry on this chart, and the one that I feel most comfortable recommending without asking a follow up “what are you drinking?”
2 3 2 Q Tonic ()  Recommended, One of the Best, Year to Year
q tonicCrisp and clean, with a lot less sweetness than most other tonics: Q Tonic can be divisive. But, for the gin drinker in short of a show case tonic that allows the gin to shine through (and the tonic to be a co-star), Q is perhaps your best option out there. For those looking for fewer calories, it fits the bill without being billed as light. When you get hooked on Q, no other tonic will do. Refreshing and brisk, it’s still a class unto itself.
3 4 Schweppes Indian Tonic [European Union Version]* ()
schweppes-indian-tonic-frenchPuts the American version of this supermarket tonic water to shame. Less sweet than its US counterpoint, Schweppes is a little more accessible than the two above, simple because it has more sweetness and a little bit of a citrusy edge which makes it a little less a signifier of cocktail culture than just a good drink you can get at the store… if you’re in Europe.
4 Bradley’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Kina Tonic ()  Debut
Bradley's Kinda Barrel Aged Tonic SyrupAged Gin is a thing. But how about aged tonic syrup? And aged in Barrels used at one point to house the quite excellent Bourbon Barrel Aged Big Gin? If that doesn’t convince you, how about this quote from the review: “Incredibly well balanced, with plenty of citrus, spice, and bitterness to make the perfect gin and tonic. One of our favorites, and an excellent pairing for nearly all gins, but especially classic styles with a heavy juniper head.”
5 Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water ()  Debut
fever tree tonic bottleCritics might say it was “designed for vodka,” but I encourage you to make up your own mind. For classic or citrus forward gins, the bright herbal, aromatic profile is a welcome dance partner. The only reason it isn’t higher is that it doesn’t work with everything, and alike some of the syrups outside the 3, it has a flavor unto itself. Here’s a quote from the review: “Herbal and a touch less bitter than others, but no less sophisticate and well-balanced. Crisp, effervescent and recommended.”
6 1 Todd Thrasher’s Tonic ()  
thrashers-frontI was hooked on this tonic back in 2012 when the first version of this countdown came out. I still stand by the review, as the flavor was unique and accessible. But it’s got a lot of competition now. If you’re in the Vriginia/DC area, check out a bottle. Here’s a  Quote from the 2012 review: “I’d say many tonic syrups are for people who already love the taste of quinine and rich herbal concoctions. Thrasher’s tonic, not so much. Its sweet, nicely balanced, and has an appeal that spans a wider array of drinkers.” 
7 6 Tomr’s Tonic ()
tomrs-front-web Smooth and herbal, Tomr’s is almost drinkable on its own. Use that to your advantage and mix up a gin and tonic syrup without the water. But even with water, Tomr’s is the tonic syrup which helped set the stage for the explosion we’ve seen of tonics in the past five years. And fortunately for us, one of the first is still one of the best. Quote from Review: “At first I was struck by how radically different this Gin and Tonic was from what you may be used to. Strong notes of cinnamon and orange come through. The requisite bitterness and flavor from the quinine is muted put still refreshing and palate cleansing, beckoning a second sip. I tried to mix it with lime and it was very difficult to add enough lime to taste it, but not so much as to overwhelm the drink.”
8 6 3 Fentimans Tonic Water () Recommended, One of the Best, Year to YearDebut
 fentimansFentimans is that loud friend, that although you might not want at every party, at the right points there are few tonics more fun to be around. Probably closer to a lemongrass and quinine soda, it overpowers weak gins with nary a batted eyelash. But for those few that can stand up, it makes one of the brightest, and most stunning G&T’s you can make by only opening a bottle. Here’s a quote from the original review: “Lemongrass is prominent and almost the dominant counterpart to the quinine. Its not as sweet as other tonics, opting for cane sugar over high fructose corn syrup giving it a sharper sweetness… It tastes and feels fizzier, meaning your gin and tonic will stay fizzier longer.”
9 1724 Tonic Water ()  Debut
1724 tonicMany fewer tonics than gins come with a story, 1724 evokes the feeling of being 1724 meters up in the Andes, but back here on the ground the tonic delivers more than just a fantastic vision: effervescent, fruity, floral, sweet, and a wonderful companion to especially your more juniper-forward classic style gins. “It comes to a meek crescendo, bitter and palate cleansing like quinine should be, but not overwhelming. The sweetness lingers only faintly on the finish, allowing your closing notes of the gin to take shape and unravel, though slightly colored by the dash of remaining sweetness. Overall, quite nice.”
10 8 5 365 Everyday a.k.a. Whole Food Store Brand Tonic Water ()
 365 tonic waterSomething of a worthy honorable mention, because it might be one of the most frequently asked questions about tonic water: are any supermarket brands worth your time? Sweetened without High fructose Corn Syrup, not overly sweet, with a nice balance of bitterness and a slight citrus-inspired lift that allows the gin to shine, it’s really one of the best bargains for your money available on the market.
Post last updated by Aaron

3 thoughts on “Top 10 Tonic Waters

  • November 8, 2016by Natural Agave

    Quinava – The first Water Tonic handcrafted Gourmet Premium created in Mexico by craftsmen delicately tending the selection of 100% natural ingredients and sweetened with organic nectar agave.

    Our infusions of lemongrass, avocado seed, lemon peel, grapefruit seed, lemon juice, citric acid, quinine concentrate(naturalagave), natural bark, cucumber and other herbal, are ideal for creating our unique flavor and fresh. No preservatives and carbonated water premium.

    Light golden color transparent, perfect to combine.

    Naturally, as I always should have been.

  • December 26, 2016by John Dryden

    For me, 1724 beats the rest. No bitter after taste as found in many other tonics. Not easy to find here in Southern Spain but well worth the effort.

  • March 6, 2017by lily

    What about Bette Jane’s or Fever Tree Elderflower?

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