The Gin & Tonic of… THE FUTURE!

A fair bit has been written about the history of the Gin & Tonic and I’ve written previously on its variations, but what you see less of in blind speculation is regarding its future! So I’ve peaked at the tea leaves and carefully analysed the shapes formed by the condensation on my cocktail shaker to provide some suggestions.What follows is a list of three tonic innovations behind which I have noticed have a growing following.
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Pioneers: 6 O'Clock Gin and its Companion Tonic Water

Pioneers: 6 O'Clock Gin and its Companion Tonic Water

1) Companion Tonics

This is where a gin producer also creates a tonic water that has been specially designed to harmonise and be the perfect partner to their juniper spirit.I first heard about this from Michael of Bramley & Gage with his 6 O’Clock Gin and I’m pleased to have been one of the first to write about it on this very site. That was a year ago and since then the popularity of the drink and the concept, as well as its availability, has increased. There have been a few enhancements of the packaging and the tonic is now available in a handy four-pack of individual bottle serves.

When combined, 6 O’Clock Gin and 6 O’Clock Tonic create a soft, yet flavourful drink, which is probably one of the most relaxing Gin & Tonics I have ever had. That is not to say that it doesn’t have much flavour, as there is, without a doubt, a distinctive mix of juniper and quinine. It really is very good.

Gin Mare and 1724 Tonic Water

Gin Mare and 1724 Tonic Water

Since then, the idea has taken of a little, with rumours of other boutique gins following suit. The folks behind Gin Mare have brought out 1724 Tonic and, whilst not designed solely for Gin Mare, its mixability with this gin was a consideration.

Broker’s Gin (who seem to be on a bit of an award-winning roll of late) have a companion tonic water available in Spain. This isn’t actually created/produced by Broker’s, but rather by a third party that decided to do to it on their behalf, with the gin company’s blessing. I’ve yet to try it, but am looking forward to doing so.

Eighteen months ago, there were no companion tonics and now there are at least three, with more in development; this is a trend if ever I saw one.

Broker's Gin, Spanish G&T Goblet and the Tonic Water

Broker's Gin, Spanish G&T Goblet and the Tonic Water


2) Tonic Syrup

A bottle of John's Premium Tonic Water Syrup

A bottle of John's Premium Tonic Water Syrup

This comes in two forms: in-house bar creations and commercial products, but the premise is the same in both instances: you take a quinine tonic syrup and then mix it with soda water to create your tonic water. Various bars create their own now, although I first encountered it in Purl.
There was a limited run of a Battersea Quinine cordial made by Hendricks, which was a similar concept.

But, interestingly enough, it has been in America where this idea has really taken off; I have already reviewed John’s Premium Tonic Water and one by Tomr. I am also aware of one made by The Jacy Rudy Cocktail Co. and there are probably others. One of the advantages of creating these as concentrated syrup is that it is easier, cheaper and greener to ship (250ml will make a litre and half of tonic), but also it means that it can be shipped further without the tonic loosing its fizz.
A third advantage is that you can use the syrup in other drinks such a Purl’s GT Turbo.

All of the various tonic syrups I have tried have been brown in colour, creating an orange-brown tonic water when mixed. They also tend to be more bitter and more herbally intense than other tonic waters, but, as someone with a palette accustomed to the flavour of quinine, I quite like this. Here is my favourite Tonic syrup cocktail.

With a plethora of home-made recipes also available, people have started to make their own non-quinine syrups and as even the Wall Street Journal has picked up on this trend, yet again I feel that this is a development well-worth watching.


3) “Final Touch” Gin & Tonic


An innovation from the gin-drinking country of Spain, this was pioneered using Sacred Gin and distillates; the idea was initially relayed to me by Ian and Hilary of Sacred. The premise is simple: you make a Gin & Tonic (something like a 3:1 ratio, tonic:gin) and then layer 5-10ml of botanical distillate on top of the drink. This results in a double drinking sensation and more intense drink: firstly, you get the nose of the distillate and then, on tasting, you get a burst of that flavour, followed by the usual fresh Gin & Tonic flavours. As the two layers reduce proportionately as you drink, the effect remains until the end.

I made up a Gin & Tonic with Sacred 47%ABV Gin and Waitrose Tonic Water – 1 part gin to 3 parts tonic – and then added 10ml of distillate on top.

i) Grapefruit
Initially, the nose is more subtle, with a hint of extra citrus. In terms of taste, there’s some fresh citrus to start with, followed by strong, clean juniper and a dry bitterness from the tonic. Although the pink grapefruit is there, it seems to accentuate the juniper more than anything.

ii) Cardamon
There’s an initial scent of cardamon; this is repeated at the start of the taste, then the more refreshing Gin & Tonic notes come through; juniper, citrus and quinine flavours are rounded off with a finish of dry juniper and a lingering hint of cardamon. This is my favourite “Final Touch” Gin & Tonic. From speaking to Ian of Sacred the general public seem to share my opinion.

iii) Cassia Bark
Very lightly louched at the top. There’s a warm, creamy earthiness at the start, followed by a more mellow Gin & Tonic. Rather than being a distinct, separate flavour, the cassia flows into the G&T to create a much softer drink.

This is a trend in its infancy, but awareness of it in the UK is growing and both Mrs. B and I think that it’s great; I hope it continues.

UPDATE: Since this article was posted last week lots of folks have mentioned this to me and how much they like it. I know it was tried out at a very consumer-focused tasting with great success. It seems it’s moving along more than I thought.

Large bottles of some of the distillates are now available here.

In Conclusion

These are just three possible future ways that the classic gin drink could progress; there are others, and if you think of any, please let us know, but I wholeheartedly believe that they all have their merits and I’d like to see them all succeed. The future certainly looks bright for this 200 year old drink.

TOMR’s Tonic Syrup

TOMR’S

Artisan Tonic Water Syrup

Those who attended the tonic tasting last year at the Graphic Bar, London will recall our “wildcard” tonic, John’s Tonic Syrup. I thought that this a rather interesting innovation and  reviewed it here. So imagine my (pleasant) surprise when I recently came across another tonic syrup from the US: Tomr’s Handcrafted Tonic from Tom’s Handcrafted Artisanal Elixirs in New Jersey, USA.

Tomr’s Tonic was the result of a perceived gap in the market for a top-quality tonic water to accompany high-end gins. This is a similar story to other boutique brands, such as Vya vermouth.

Tomr’s Tonic, like John’s, comes in the form of a syrup, which means that it lasts longer, is easier to ship and alleviates any concern of the tonic water going flat. It comes in a hipflask-esque glass bottle with a wine-red wax seal.

The Taste
I decided to taste the tonic syrup with soda, in a Gin & Tonic and in a GT Turbo (a compacted Gin & Tonic served at Purl in Marylebone).

L:R GT Turbo, TOMRs Tonic Bottle, TOMR Gin & Tonic, TOMR Plain Tonic Water, Broker’s 47% was today’s gin of choice.

Tonic Water

On its own, the tonic water was quite tart with a good level of bitterness, but also a juicy and fruity rounded flavour, some sweetness and a little spice, perhaps cinnamon. I thought that it was a little reminiscent of fruit pastilles. Certainly not your run-of-the-mill tonic water, but very good.

Gin & Tonic

The fruit and spice in this tonic go really well with the gin (I used Broker’s) and I can imagine it going well with New Western Gins, such as Death’s Door & Aviation. It produces a very flavourful drink and, although stylised, it is still obviously a Gin & Tonic; dry and bitter on the finish.

GT Turbo (created by Purl)

Gin, Tonic Syrup, Lime Juice, Orange Bitters – shake with ice.

Quite a smooth and soft cocktail; the fruit notes of the tonic syrup go well with the citrus juice and the juniper and citrus of the gin, resulting in another very pleasant drink and another great way to enjoy the syrup.

TOMRs Tonic is available from http://www.tomshandcrafted.com/tonic.html

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Just the tonic!

Just the tonic!

John’s Premium Tonic Water

Whilst looking for potential tonic waters to try at a tasting I was helping to arrange at Graphic Bar, I came across a gentleman making tonic water syrup in Arizona, USA. John, of John’s Premium Tonic Water, was kind enough to send us over some samples and it was met with great excitement by those attending the tasting. Having experimented with making my own tonic water before, I was one of them.

John runs The Tuck Shop restaurant in Arizona and seems to be an almost life-long fan of the Gin & Tonic. He explains that, whilst people may spend a lot of money on top-shelf gin or vodka, they then choose to mix with it the closest tonic to hand and not one that necessarily brings out the best in their chosen spirit.

John's Premium Tonic Syrup Bottle

A bottle of John’s Premium Tonic Syrup

John’s tonic is packaged as a syrup; this both reduces the cost of shipping and stops the water from going flat during transit (John ships internationally). Interestingly, I think that it was in this concentrated form that Tonic Water was originally shipped around the British Empire, as well as in crystalline or powder form (thanks to Louis for this tidbit of information!).

John’s tonic syrup contains Agave Syrup to sweeten, dried Cinchona Bark, and a variety of other fruits and spices, such as lemongrass (also used by Fentiman’s and myself).

John suggests a 6:1 ratio of soda water to syrup and he prefers dispensing the former using a soda syphon. I imagine, however, that the syrup could be added directly to the syphon along with the water and carbonated along with it, producing tonic water straight from the syphon.

The Taste

I decided to taste the tonic syrup with soda, in a Gin & Tonic and in a GT Turbo (a compacted Gin & Tonic served at Purl in Marylebone).

John's Premium Tonic Syrup Cocktails

Tonic Water

On its own, the tonic water was tart and sharp, with some great herbal notes. It tastes unlike anything available in both the budget and premium commercial tonic markets.

Gin & Tonic

John’s tonic syrup makes a lovely Gin & Tonic; it really brings out the best from the tonic, so even if you’re not a fan of water on its own, do still try it with gin as it is quite a different drink. I found it to be very enjoyable, and, once you have got over the unusual colour, I doubt you will ever look at the tonic water premixes the same way again. This is a must-try for all G&T lovers.

GT Turbo (created by Purl)

Gin, Tonic Syrup, Lime Juice, Orange Bitters – shake with ice.

Mrs. B really liked this. It was a lot silkier than I had expected. The flavours started with lime, before moving to spicy and herbal notes and finishing with the trademark bitterness of quinine. Mrs. B described the increase in bitterness as a “graceful crescendo” that finished just before the drink became too bitter.

I’m really pleased that I and the other folks at the tasting got the chance to try John’s Premium Tonic Syrup and it has made me think about making my own syrup again, as well as about other ways in which the concentrated syrup can be used.

I would definitely recommend it to friends and fellow enthusiasts, as it is likely to open your eyes to, not only a new flavour of tonic, but also more potential uses of it in your drinks.

John ships internationally and you can order from his website at: http://johnstonic.weebly.com/.

For a tonic tasting please visit: www.summerfruitcup.com/tonic

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