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.
First we tried it in a Vodka and Tonic. Our vodka of choice was Death’s Door’s Red Winter Wheat Vodka which boasts a creamy, almost vanilla tinged sweetness to it. Mixed to El Guapo’s ratio, it’s much more mile than it was on its own: the creamy texture of the base spirit shines through [you can taste the vodka here, not an often spoken sentence though, is it?]. It has some citrusy peaks with lemon and grapefruit again, a touch of ginger on the finish but strikingly little bitterness or tonic-like touches.
Next we did a Gin and Tonic with Diplome Gin, which boasts a clean, nicely balanced classic gin profile. Again, we’re trading in mostly citrusy touches. There are some delicate hints of spice which add some nuance and complexity here; however, this is where I get to the crux of my issue here.
I just don’t get the quinine here in any amount large enough to help me discern this as a tonic. It’s too mild and stated back. As it’s so concentrated, if you up the ratio to get more flavor, your drink becomes far too sweet. It seems a bit of a balancing challenge here for me. There’s plenty of room in the market for a less bitter/quinine-forward tonic syrup, yes. But the honeyed, cloying sweetness is a bit too overwhelming. In short, there’s a good idea at the heart of this, but I’m just not sure it works, especially with a market as full of quality tonic syrups as today’s.
Price: $14 / 8.5 oz
Sweetened with: cane sugar
Availability: From Amazon.
Rating: A touch too sweet with not enough bitterness. It likely will appeal to some who are looking for a spiced/citrus syrup for their G&T. But as for others, they’ll find that a G&T with this tonic syrup misses the mark.