Bootblack Brand Classic Citrus Tonic hails from Rhode Island and the brand name refers to an “ideal from generations’ past but firmly rooted in today’s’ culture.” Although tonic syrup is a relatively modern creation, the methods for adding quinine flavor to the average gin and tonic with a syrup have more in common with the G&T’s of old. Quinine is added through maceration/infusion of bark in Bootblack Brand Classic Citrus Tonic; whereas, the quinine in most modern tonic waters is chemically pure.
So perhaps Bootblack is on to something with their name.
Otherwise, Bootblack Brand Classic Citrus Tonic is a standard tonic syrup, sweetened with cane sugar. Unusual among syrups, Bootblack Brand Classic Citrus Tonic is fairly transparent about what goes into it.
Cinchona Bark a.k.a quinine
…and Schizanda Berry
So the Schizandra berry is also known as the “Magnolia Vine,” or “Magnolia berry” is a woody vine native to Northern China/Western Russia. While traditionally important in local medicinal cultures, it’s probably best known for its berries which purportedly contain all five primary tastes. In fact its Chinese name— wu-wei-zi, means five taste fruit.
On its own, Bootblack Brand Classic Citrus Tonic smells vaguely medicinal. Piquant, peppery spice along with hints of mentholated cherry and rooty, earthy spice makes Bootblack’s tonic syrup a relatively pungent and intense aromatic on its own.
Sipped as a syrup, it’s again a bit more medicinal than other tonic syrups. While I’d say many are cloying and rather sweet, Bootblack Brand Classic Citrus Tonic is rather bracing and medical. Bitter herbs at first segue into a spicy/earthy mid palate— finishing with a rather bright and pungent quinine laced bitterness.
With seltzer, on its own Bootblack Brand Classic Citrus Tonic becomes a complex, herbal spirit that reminds me a bit of Moxie cola. Citrus and coriander combine to create a cola like nuance, suggesting notes of nutmeg as well— but it’s more bitter than say Pepsi or Coca Cola. The botanicals suggest gentian in addition to an assertive Cinchona like bitterness on the finish. In short, if you like Moxie, I think you may find that Bootblack syrup makes a good moxie just with soda water. And for the record, I do like Moxie.
I mixed up Bootblack Brand Classic Citrus Tonic with Williams Chase Seville Orange Gin and found that the bitterness of both combined beautifully. I got a lot of bitter orange as per the gin, but also a really earthy, again gentian influence bitterness. Rooty, earthy, and only gently sweet, Bootblack Brand Classic Citrus Tonic delivers an assertive and less sweet take on the expected quinine notes that we get from most shelf tonic syrups and tonic waters.
Similarly, I find that the palate suggests a bit of the cola flavor accord— citrus, nutmeg, coriander— that works delightfully with gin. Overall, I’m a bigger fan of Bootblack Brand Classic Citrus Tonic mixed with gin than I am simply on its own. Although it does create a good soda on its own, Bootblack makes a solid G&T.
One of my favorite things about Bootblack Brand Classic Citrus Tonic is the balance between sweetness and flavor. It’s less cloying than most other tonic syrups which I think will appeal to many gin drinkers, and perfectly flavored with a brisk combination of citrus and bitterness. Certainly Bootblack tonic syrup trades on the cola flavor profile, but in a way that balances nicely with gins.
I prefer the way Bootblack Brand Classic Citrus Tonic complements citrus forwards contemporary gins and classic style juniper-forward gins. In a world awash with mediocre tonic syrups, Bootblack Brand Classic Citrus Tonic is proof that it’s still possible to do it well.
If you’ve given up on tonic syrups— don’t. Give this one a try.
Recommended in its category.