Not Just Gin
A Vodka Tonic Taste Test
After thoroughly enjoying the Tonic Tasting that I had the opportunity of helping to organise at Graphic Bar, I started wondering about what to do next. I’ve had an excellent suggestion regarding Ginger Ales (something that I will definitely pursue), but whilst perusing the Fevertree website, I became aware of their new Mediterranean Tonic, which has been developed specifically for vodka. This got me thinking about mixing vodka with tonic, or similar alternatives, and thus we came to test six such products, all mixed with Brannvin 1467, a smooth Swedish vodka.
From Left to Right: Schweppes Tonic Water, Fevertree Lemon Tonic (Bitter Lemon), Fevertree Mediterranean Tonic, Schweppes Russchian, Fevertree Tonic Water, Schweppes Bitter Lemon
Fevertree Lemon Tonic
Originally, I thought that this was another new product, but, after speaking to a helpful lady from Fevertree, I discovered that this is essentially a re-branded version of their Bitter Lemon, specifically for supermarkets (the on-trade version will still be called Bitter Lemon).
When served ice cold, this was really nice and had a taste similar to Sicilian Lemonade; it was rather tart and fairly bitter (it contains Quinine). Unfortunately, when mixed with the vodka, it lost most of its flavour and didn’t make a very refreshing drink.
Schweppes Bitter Lemon
Being a rather lurid aquamarine, this was strikingly different in appearance to Fevertree Lemon Tonic. In addition, it had a nose somewhat like orange pith. To drink, it was quite sweet, but rather bitter at the end; it was less refreshing than Fevertree’s version and tasted more artificial. However, I did really like this when it was mixed with vodka. In conclusion, this wasn’t bad, but was a lot better when mixed.
This is known in Schweppes’ ancestral home as Russian Wild Berries and was invented in the mid-1980s, created specifically to partner with vodka. It seems to have a small, but cult-like following among drinkers. I first encountered it during my last years of secondary school and really liked it; however, I’ve not had it for a few years.
Russchian is a light pink colour, was very fizzy and had a berry flavour, which reminded me of blackcurrant Opal Fruits (Starburst). The tremendous fizz actually warms the throat somewhat, but was very refreshing when served chilled. When mixed with vodka, I thought that it gained some sickly characteristics normally associated with alcopops: it was too sweet and lacked balance.
Fevertree Mediterranean Tonic
A new member of the Fevertree family and designed, like the Russchian, specifically for Vodka. It contains quinine as well as flavours of the Mediterranean coast such as lemon oil, thyme, geranium, rosemary and thyme.
The flavour of this Mediterranean Tonic was a pleasant mix of tonic, lemonade and soda water. It was fresh, with little notes of herbs and spices and other savoury notes in the middle. When mixed with vodka, it added a freshness to the spirit that lengthens it; very good indeed.
I think this a smart edition to the Fevertree range and certainly addresses a gap in the market.
Schweppes Tonic Water
A familiar face to many, this came out very well at a recent blind tonic tasting at Graphic bar in Soho.
Sweet with a short flavour, this was quite drinkable on its own. It made a good, standard vodka tonic that was smooth, easy to drink and not too fancy.
Fevertree Tonic Water
On its own, this seemed cooler and was quite fizzy; it was bitter in the middle and rather clings to the tongue at the end. I thought that it needed a little more flavour.
With vodka it was bitter, with a little citrus. It was cooling and moderately refreshing. Initially, it was not a great vodka tonic, but with a little ice-melt, it really improved.
My favourite was certainly the Mediterranean Tonic with Mrs B. favouring Fevertree’s Lemon Tonic (Bitter Lemon) followed by the Schweppes Russchian. I enjoyed revisiting a drink and it’s associated mixers that I had tried in a long while and, for once, got me to think that there may be something beyond Gin.
Summer Fruit Cup Will Return In “Cocktails With… Hayman’s London Dry Gin”