Medicinal liquids : Gin and Thai tonic water

While I tried everything to will myself to make 2011 the summer of the mint julep, I find the cocktail falling into my hands more often than not is the irreverent gin and tonic.

I've been trying to load this post up with talk about gin and history and bark of the fever tree, but it's taking forever for me post it. That said, update promised soon.

Bring the perfect balance of bitter, sweet and citrus back to your happy hour by making your own tonic water. It looks complicated -- don't sweat though. The work you put in comes back ten fold. Guarenteed.

The original recipe comes from the website of barman d'excellence, Jeffrey Morgenthaler. (Click here for the original recipe.)

Thai Tonic

I made this recipe a little more complicated from the original, to try to avoid some of the surplus (and unpleasant) bitter flavors that can come from zest and too much quinine. Feel free to play around with the balance of botanic elements in relation to ingredient availability and preferred gin profile. Try to go for an organic lemon and orange, if you can -- while I'm already inclined to do organic, I feel even more obligated when I'm using zest or produce skin in a recipe. 

As noted above, quinine can be found here online, here in Paris, or at your local herbalist (go for chunks, not powder). Likewise, citric acid can be found online, in Paris at G. Detou or, if you have some time, you can kindly ask your pharmacist to order you a kilo. While it's unlikely that a pharmacy will still have citric acid hanging around because fewer prescriptions are prepared in house compared to yester-years, they typically still have access to it in bulk. If you're State-side, you can typically find citric acid in a health-food or specialty (pastry) store. Ah, yes, and you'll wanna make sure it's good for use in food ...

Lastly, if you're one of those that thinks their not a gin person, but consumes vodka with an unholy force -- fear not. You're not hopeless : You've probably just never had a really good gin.

2 tsp whole allspice berries
2 Tbl fresh green peppercorns, crushed (alternatively 2 tsp black peppercorns)
1 tsp whole black peppercorns, cracked (but not ground ...)
1/2 tsp toasted, crushed cardamom (sans pods)
1/3-1/2 cup (roughly 2 oz) sliced galangal (or ginger)
2 Thai (kaffir) limes (or 1 organic lime)
1 cup chopped lemongrass
1 organic lemon, zest and juice
1 organic orange, zest and juice
2+2 cups of water
2 heavy pinches fleur de sel
1 1/2 cups thai basil
1/4 cup quinine bark (chunks are preferable -- you'll be thankful when fine filtering)
1/4 cup citric acid
1 1/3 cup Agave syrup
2/3 cup muscavado sugar (or similar moist, unrefined brown sugar)
Boil quinine and citric acid and one pinch of salt in 2 cups water for 5 minutes. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before straining through a chinoise (or other fine strainer), and then through a coffee filter (don't be scared -- this takes 5 minutes tops and will make your life easier in just a few minutes).

Throw the allspice, green and black pepper, galangal, cardamom, lemongrass, juice and pinch of salt to a medium-sized sauce pan with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add zests and quinine/citric acid mixture and go another 5 minutes on simmer.

Remove from heat and stir in thai basil. Let the stew sit for another 5-10 minutes (until the edges of the basil start to brown) before straining through a chinoise again. At this point there's still a fair amount of sediment and whatnot floating around in there. If you're cool with that, tant mieux. Personally, I then, with the patience of a lesser zen master, run the mix through an unbleached coffee filter. When I'm lucky this takes about an hour; and when I'm not ... well, I'm sure aged tonic water will soon be in fashion.

Return the filtered mix to low heat and add the sweeteners. I like a well-balanced bitterness in my tonic, but if you've got more of a sweet tooth feel free to throw in a squirt or two more agave.

Add 2 ounces syrup to a highball filled with 1 1/2 ounces gin, 4 ounces soda water, a shit-ton of ice, and the juice of a (organic, western) lime wedge. Garnish with a kaffir lime wheel (god, that cedar smell, I can't get enough ...).

Recipe adapted from Jeffrey Morgenthaler website.
Gin and Homemade Thai Tonic

* Or if you have access to Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic and Bob's Cardamom Bitters you can skip this recipe and relish in the convenience and competance of a reliable few.


  1. so you know, if you win my blog giveaway ill have it shipped to me then ill ship it to you. derr. cause i know you and whatever. plus, you ARE a US resident sort of through your family and stuff...you're just being French. ;) love you
    ps-i shouldnt be trying to do this giveaway thing because im drunk. yes. drunk. my mom plied me with wine. blame her!
    skype date soon?
    *au revoiiiirrr

  2. Wow, this looks amazing! I have literally just stumbled across your blog and I just love what you are doing here! I am setting myself aside some time tonight to devour this entire blog.
    PS- Massive Gin fan here! I just bought a bottle of the most amazing locally made gin so this is what I will be sipping on whilst reading your blog 