Home-made Bitter Lemon Recipe

Following a number of requests for Bitter Lemon recipes, I decided to have a go at making one myself.

So what is Bitter Lemon? Essentially, it is tonic water with an added element of lemon; often this comes from the juice, but it could come from the zest or the pith/peel. In addition, sugar is often added to stop the lemon from making the drink too tart. So there is a difference between tonic water with a twist of lemon and bitter lemon.

The world’s biggest name in Bitter Lemon is Schweppes who, already famous for their tonic water, released their variety, which they claim was the first commercial one, in 1957. Another increasingly well-known name in the market is Fevertree’s Lemon Tonic, which is essentially Bitter Lemon, but uses its name as a more accurate description of what it is.

On with the recipe:

Juice & zest of 4 medium lemons (or 3 large)

Pith of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp of Chili Powder

1 tsp Cinchona Bark

4 tsp Citric Acid

300ml Granulated Sugar*

100ml of Water

Add all the ingredients to a pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

Leave to cool, strain through a sieve, then coffee filter and bottle.

Mix one part of your newly made Bitter Lemon Syrup to two parts soda water, and serve with ice. For an extra treat, add an ounce of your favourite gin. I like mine with Foxdenton’s. And of course who could resist mixing it with a spot of Sloe Gin in a Long Peddler?

* For a less messy method do not add the sugar to the pan:

Add zest/juice/pith, chilli powder, chichona bark, water
Bring to the boil, simmer
Stain the mixture through a clean tea towel in to a bowl
Stir in the sugar whilst the mixture is still hot
Cool, Bottle, Refrigerate

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Long Peddler / Sloe Peddler – Mixing Sloe Gin

The Sloe Peddler

Some readers may have caught our Tasting of 17 Sloe Gins, but, in the in the interests of thoroughness, we did not just try these sloe gins on their own: we also tried them mixed in Long Peddlers, thanks to some bottles kindly sent to us by Fevertree.

A Long Peddler Made with Fevertree Lemon Tonic (Bitter Lemon) and Gordon's Sloe Gin in a 2:1 ratio.

Background and history on the Long Peddler is very thin on the ground. The recipe is simple: a measure of sloe gin topped up with bitter lemon; a bit like a gin and tonic. My best guess is that it was created as a cooler for the summer months so that sloe gin could be enjoyed all year round and it certainly achieves this purpose.

I imagine the “long” came about because it makes a long drink, but the “peddler”? Your guess is as good as mine; maybe it’s a nice refreshing drink once you’ve finished a long cycle?? Recent research points to the fact that the Long Pedlar was original made using Hawker’s Pedlar Sloe Gin, it was a long way to drink the sloe gin.

Either way, it seems to be an established drink among sloe gin drinkers and, when I was speaking to Fevertree, they also suggested making it with their Lemonade (Sloe Peddler) as an alternative to bitter lemon.

Fevertree Lemonade is carbonated, but it’s a distant cousin to the likes of 7UP and Sprite, which nonetheless do still have their place. With Fevertree’s Lemonade you can really taste the lemon juice and it doesn’t have any artificial sweetness that you may find with others; it is still quite fizzy, but it doesn’t leave you with that cloying feeling in your mouth.

Fevertree’s Lemon Tonic (their version of Bitter lemon) is refreshing, but a little bitter; however, when you consider that it has quinine in it, it’s not so surprising. Once again, this is a departure from the sharp, sweet, and turquoise drink presented as bitter lemon by others and I believe it was renamed to take a step away from this image.

A Sloe Peddler made with Fevertree Lemonade

But the most important question is how did they mix with sloe gin? After various tests, we found that Gordon’s worked best with the Lemon Tonic and probably made the panel’s favourite Long Peddler of the evening.  SLOEMotion and Bramley & Gage Organic also mixed very well with the Lemon Tonic.

The Lemonade was rather more surprising, I had never tried it before and wondered how well it would work. It created a lovely drink when mixed with the Lyme Bay Sloe Gin (this drink was my personal favourite). In the pairing, once again Bramley & Gage worked very nicely in a Sloe Peddler.

In conclusion, I found that I enjoyed both the Lemonade and the Lemon Tonic, but I found that the Lemon Tonic went better with the bolder sloe gins and the Lemonade complemented the more subtle ones.

So if you ever want a refreshing drink and you have some sloe gin to hand, why not try a Long (or Sloe) Peddler?

Vodka Tonic Taste Test

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.

Schweppes Russchian
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.

In conclusion
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”