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. While the bitterness is there, it doesn’t read as cleanly as quinine. The vaguely citrus and herbal finish reminds me a lot of the way Campari clears the palate. But of course, you’re (probably) not going to be drinking it straight as I am.
How does it work with Gin?
It’s worth remarking that I found it to be much more balanced once I combined it with gin and soda. The overwhelming clove notes were more subdued and I found that pleasant bitterness to be a bit more tonic like. But this is still an assertive mixer that does like to dominate the show. When mixed with a contemporary gin with a wide array of subtle flavor, it can be overpowering. Liber and Co. Tonic Syrup does its best work when paired with strong traditional style gins. This is where I found it to be an exceptional mixer, with its exotic notes filling in the gaps. If you’re making a top notch gin and tonic with this syrup: think Plymouth (for those of you lucky enough to be in the UK, go Navy Strength), Pinckney Bend, Gale Force Gin, or another high proof gin. I think it works best with a juniper-forward gin, but if a high-proof citrus forward gin is more your liking, I’d suggest going for it. The results are top notch.
Liber and Co. Recommended Gin and Tonic Proportions
3/4 oz. Liber and Co. Tonic Syrup
1.5 oz. Gin
2 oz. Seltzer
Overall, I think that Liber & Co. Tonic Syrup has been crafted with a very certain market in mind, and if you’re in it than I would suggest seeking this out immediately. But I’m not sure this complex herbal tonic syrup is for everyone. If you want a complex cocktail, go with this tonic. If you’re opting for a refreshing beach cocktail, you might be better served looking towards Fever Tree or Q Tonic.
Price: $10 / 8 oz.
Best consumed: High Proof, juniper-forward gin. Skip the lime.
Availability: Kansas, Texas, and Washington DC. But Most Importantly, online.