I try to avoid all drinks (and foods, for that matter) that contain artificial &/or highly processed ingredients. When it comes to tonic, there are several commercially-available better-quality tonic waters and syrups...but they are all above my budget. Some also contain citric acid, to which I do not react well. I decided to try making my own. I created an augmented recipe based on one I found in the New York Times:
4 C Water
9 Allspice Berries
6 Cardamom Pods
1 Mesquite Bean (optional)
1 C Lemongrass (we've been having great luck growing our own!)
1/4 C Cinchona Bark (acquired from Penn Herbs)
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
Simmer all ingredients on the stove top - or in a solar oven if you have one! - for 30 minutes. Add all ingredients to a big glass jar, and continue to steep in the fridge. After two days, strain into a clean jar. After another day or so (once sediment has settled), strain through a paint filter or cheesecloth.
Now brew some simple syrup: stir 4 C boiling water and 4 C unbleached sugar (I use 2 C sugar and two cones of piloncillo – Mexican unrefined sugar – which gives the finished tonic a mildly caramel flavor) until sugar is dissolved.
Add the simple syrup to the bark infusion in a 1:1 ratio. Your tonic is now ready for use!
For a refreshing summer drink, fill a tall glass with ice and sparkling water (here in the west, we use Topo Chico). Add 1 oz gin and 1oz tonic syrup. Add lime juice to taste, and enjoy!!