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.
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I spent the 2010-2011 holiday season in Buffalo with my dear family. My in-laws (who are lovely people, and readers of this blog, so consider this a “shout-out!”) usually stock gin for the sole reason that I will drink it when I am there. They had bought a bottle of Bombay Sapphire a couple of years ago, but said bottle ran out during a particularly heated “Iron Chef” competition with my wife’s future sister in law (consider this another “shout-out!”). So I, being the lovely person that I am, went to the store and bought a bottle to replace the one I “killed.”
That bottle was of Seneca Drums gin, and considering the fridge was well stocked with Q Tonic, the drink was an easy one to decide upon.
Setting the Scene: Again, this is the holidays. Hardly a mixologists’ convention. So we’re going easy here. Easy to make, and easy to drink. Though, I will say- in this case leaving the lime out was not laziness (though it could easily be mistaken for such….) it was due to the complexity and bouquet of the gin at hand. There is so much going on and so much to appreciate in Seneca Drums gin, that I elected to forgo the lime- which is unusual as in most cases, Q Tonic’s bitterness requires that bit of sweetness.
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There are some items that are a pleasure to review. This happens to be one of them, and one of my personal favorites. I knew I loved it before I even set out to write this review. But I’m going to try and be unbiased.
Fever Tree, much like Q Tonic, boasts of using “all natural flavors.” They use cane sugar and real chinchona from Peru. You can tell immediately that this is not your standard supermarket tonic.
As closest parallel is Q tonic, I will use Q as a comparison point. Fever Tree is also very fizzy, and the smart idea of selling it in 4 packs of single serving bottles means that your tonic will always be fizzy. It does lose points in that Q Tonic has a party-ready solution in the form of a 750mL champagne bottle; Fever Tree only sells packages of 4 200mL bottles. So it’s not good for parties, but did you really want to share this stuff anyway?
It’s noticeably sweeter than Q also. There’s hints of quinine bitterness, but it finishes sweet and smooth. I think that some may really appreciate the palette cleansing bitterness of the former.
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I have been excited to try this gin since the day I read that two gin distilleries were opening in Brooklyn, NY. The New Yorker in me was thrilled that a craft, seemingly regulated out of existence in urban areas, was coming back to the city I lived in.The gates opened this past spring, and a short couple of weeks ago I finally picked up a bottle.
The first thing I noticed was the lovely bottle complete with a classy wax-sealed top. Anxious to try, I grabbed a knife, slit the wax and poured myself a gin and tonic. The first thing that I noticed was the powerful scent of citrus. The bottled smelled noticeably more of citrus than many other gins I’ve tried – but it wasn’t just the smell, it was the components of the smell, and Brecuklen is the only gin I know of where grapefruit stands so boldly.
The grapefruit is hardly a secret, nor are any of the other botanicals in this gin. Brad Estabrooke, the distiller himself, told the Village Voice that in addition to juniper and lemon, rosemary and ginger are also in there.
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The first tonic water I’m going to review if the first craft tonic I’d ever tried. Before Q tonic, it was just your standard supermarket brands. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with them, and it’s not as if they don’t have their merits, but Q tonic represented a big change to the game for me. The quality of the gin was no longer the only consideration. How does the tonic work? Is the tonic right for this gin? Is the tonic even good? Let’s begin.
Q tonic began in Brooklyn, NY when Jordan Sillbert (as the oft-repeated story goes) realized to his dismay he was drinking top shelf gin with tonic water with a peeling label that he found in the back of the cooler at his neighborhood bodega. He created Q tonic as an answer to this. Gone is the high fructose corn syrup and in is agave nectar. Real, high quality quinine is used as well. Gone are plastic bottles, in are classy glass bottles. Up, up, up goes the cost.
My first reaction many years ago was that “Q tonic is bitter.” I still think it is, but not in a negative fashion.
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