Occasionally, it takes me a while to get around to getting a review up. I’ve had this wonderful bottle of tonic syrup chronicled in my notes for some time. I unexpectedly received another bottle very recently which prompted me to look in my notes and realize [to my chagrin] that I have not written about this fantastic syrup here.
Bradley’s Kina Tonic is small batch, made by hand, and hails from Seattle [Hi Seattle!]. It’s alike many other tonic syrups in terms of appearance and aroma; however, you won’t quite know exactly how it differs until you open it up. That’s right, the “spices” labeled on the back are not listed. They’re a secret. You’ll just have to taste for yourselves.
The color is a light cocoa, with this hint of rusty maroon, giving it an almost ciderish appearance. The liquid is thick and somewhat viscous; however, not unctuous I’d place it somewhere in the middle, and perhaps slightly less rich and syrupy than other tonic syrups.
The nose is lemongrass, orange, and nutmeg. It smells a bit rich and earthy, with some background notes that read as somewhat sweet; however, it is the spice and citrus which carries through most strongly.
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In a rather nondescript, almost generic appearing bottle lies a tonic syrup crafted by one of the biggest names in the Virginia Cocktail scene: Todd Thrasher. On this blog, he’s probably best known for his partnership with Alexandria, Virginia’s PX.
Todd Thrasher’s syrup is available at Society Fair,a boutique food shop in Old Town Alexandria that he again helped open. It seems that everywhere you look in Alexandria, if you see fine cocktails or cocktail product’s, Todd’s name is on it.
Now on to the Syrup
A deep brown, almost root beer colored tonic syrup. The nose is sweet and citrusy. The taste is distinctly sweeter than most other tonic syrups out there and the bitterness rather muted, evolving and coming in towards the end of the taste on the back of the palette. There’s a bright floral quality here also, likely owing to the Lavender*. Crowd pleasing for sure. 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.
If this tonic has a wider distribution, I think it has the potential to be a “breakthrough” tonic that might turn people on to exactly what a tonic syrup can be; it might break it out of the speak easy bar back and into the mainstream.
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Again, the cocktail show hit the road for the weekend. My friend happened to pick up a new Tonic Syrup that I had not yet had the pleasure of tasting.
There’s a great story about who Jack Rudy was. I won’t ruin it for you, but suffice to say that you can’t help but smile a bit while reading it. Probably not the character behind the syrup that I might have expected, but the syrup really does stand on its own.
Interestingly enough, I found it to be a stark contrast from some of the other tonic syrups I had. The flavor is mild, more herbal. There isn’t that strong bitter note on the palette that other tonic syrups might have. There was a warm lemongrass and citrus flavor that reminded me a little bit of the notes in Fentiman’s Tonic Water. What is rather unique, especially among tonic syrups, is that Jack Rudy’s syrup has a layer of sweetness. I felt that it was a bit out of place when sipping the syrup straight (as I do, I take my tasting it quite seriously). I wanted a little bit more of the emphasis on the quinine and a little bit more bitterness.
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When the fine folks at Liber and Company asked if I wanted to test out their tonic syrup, I was enthusiastic. I am a big fan of the effort to bring tonic back to its roots, to step back from the High Fructose Corn Syrup edge and to offer something that is much more complex and more interesting. When you look at Tonic Syrups, its clear to see what the tradeoff. While it may never be as pleasing to the masses as they finely sweetened and only subtly bitter mainstream brands like Canada Dry, the complexity and richness of Liber and Co. Tonic Syrup is likely to create hardcore fans among devotees and cocktail aficionados.
Getting down to the Taste
Smells very sweet on the nose. Hints of Cinnamon and a powerful dose of clove. It smells pleasant and warm, the aroma has more in common with the gin you’re pouring than the tonic that you’re replacing. The taste has a more strongly citrus burst. Lots of orange, a grassy note of lemongrass, while still a good dose of clove that was present on the nose, but all of it is nicely balanced with a pleasant dose of bitterness.
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The definition of what “Tonic” is has expanded* significantly in the last couple of years. I would place this expansion squarely within the trend of “making it yourself” and the healthy skepticism about about “what IS in our food?” What exactly IS in Tonic Water? Often times High Fructose Corn Syrup and very little that resembles the tonic water of old. The craft revolution has come from the farmer’s market and now sits squarely in the bar.
So cocktail celebrities like Jeffrey Morgenthaler have written excellent guides to making your own tonic water from scratch. And companies like Tomr’s have brought the hard work of homemade tonic to the home cocktail crowd and the now rare bar without a housemade bitters program.
On Its Own:
Strong notes of cinnamon and a warm fruity taste. There is a pronounced bitterness but its sweeter and decidedly less herbal than you might think. It begins very fruity and well rounded. Warm hints of citrus and remarkably pleasant.
In a G & T:
At first I was struck by how radically different this Gin and Tonic was from what you may be used to.
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