33anda3rd wrote:Tonic. TopNote. Female-made. Mary used to be a beer brewer at Goose Island. She started brewing up soda instead. She makes three dynamite tonics, a ginger beer, and a grapefruit soda that as a lifelong Squirt addict is like crack.
Just took a peek at the website. A 32 oz syrup/concentrate format and 750ml sparkling for the entire lineup is a nice touch.
The guy I bartend with at this place I work on Friday nights (who, as an aside, has a Harvard undergrad degree) brought in some homemade tonic - pretty sure he said it was this Morganthaler recipe
. Anyway, it was great. The allspice was really prevalent in a good way.
That was the first tonic syrup I made. I didn't like it. Couple things about it. One big thing about it is that Morganthaler back then was saying to cook citrus juice, which: yuck. The other thing was the powdered cinchona bark. PITA. You basically have to filter once through a strainer to get the big stuff, then once through a China cap to get the finer stuff, then once through a coffee filter to get the very fine cinchona out--keep it in, you risk making someone sick via an inattentive bartender who doesn't shake it before every use and who leaves the dust in the bottom for that last pour that's oh-so-favorful in its bitterness but could legit make someone unwell. To get it all through a Chemex filter with no waste? For a batch big enough for a cocktail bar to not have to make it again this week? At least 36 hours.
I think Jeff figured this out too, the citrus part, because by the time he wrote his book 5-6 years later the citrus juice was out of the tonic recipe (zest only) and he was starting from a tincture, where he still used the power and was macerating it in vodka then running it through a coffee filter.
I moved to the chunks of cinchona, messed around with ratios to get the bitterness I wanted, which was pretty aggressive. I scrapped the juice going into the pan and only cooked citrus zest. It was better but still not what I wanted. Lemon and lime notes already came through in most gins, fairly aggressively in the New Western styles. I wanted a different flavor. The one I settled on that became the main staple, was very simple:
1 L Filtered Water
30g Cinchona Bark
90g Citric Acid
120g Grapefruit Zest
The juice of those grapefruits, reserved
Start a 3:4 syrup, when the sugar is dissolved add the cinchona, citric and grapefruit zest, turn it down to a simmer, let it go, covered, about 30 minutes. Strain, fine strain, cool. Add grapefruit juice to the syrup to taste--that will be most of the juice but not all--bottle it and store it in the fridge for up to 10 days.
If I was working with a mild gin, I might add a few juniper berries to remind people they were drinking gin, which also had the double-bonus of surprising vodka drinkers. In fall I did one that added rosemary and replaced the grapefruit skin and juice with the skin of granny smith apples, no juice, and poured it with Death's Door since that gin had a nice fennel flavor I liked with apple.
Now, it's kind of a relief that bartenders don't have to waste time on that stuff. They can read Morganthaler's book and make their own, or find a bunch of recipes online (including mine, which was published in 2014), but they can also buy TopNote or Fevertree or Three Cents or any of dozens of good craft tonics. They don't have to make orgeat, a pain-in-the-ass, time consuming, nut-allergen-spreading process, they can buy the Small Hands stuff. They don't have to have dozens of mason jars macerating bitters like we used to, they can buy almost any flavor. You want Japanese chili and lime bitters? Cool, 18.21 makes them. I'm glad I know how to make all that stuff, but I wish I was still bartending now just for the ease of not having to. Today they have an extra 6-10 hours/week I was spending on that stuff to either have a life outside work or focus their work time on other skills/tasks.