Gin Dandy: Three Tonic Syrups for Your Summer G & T

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Photograph by Bruce Peterson, Styling by Molly Shuster

Gin, tonic, ice, and a lime wedge—the ultimate summer concoction. The “tonic” part of the equation, however, often holds this crisp cocktail back. “Most tonic is terrible,” says Felisha Foster, of Somerville’s Spoke Wine Bar. “It’s really high in cheap, high-fructose corn syrup.” To improve the classic G & T, Spoke and other spots around town have started to craft their own tonic from scratch. You can make it yourself, too—or simply let one of the small-batch tonic syrups featured here do the work for you.

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Photographs by Scott M. Lacey

The Great Tonic Taste-Off

We field-tested three artisanal syrups—and one great Italian soda—with our favorite local gin, GrandTen Distilling’s Wire Works. When making at home, add a half ounce of tonic syrup for every three ounces of soda water. Once opened, the tonic will keep in the refrigerator for up to six months.

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Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.

Owner Brooks Reitz has worked at some of the best bars in the South, including Proof, in Louisville, and Fig and the Ordinary, in Charleston. His slightly sweet tonic is crisp and bright, with hints of the orange peel and lemongrass he uses for aromatics. 

$24 for a 17-ounce bottle, available at Ball and Buck.

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TomR’s

Former Broadway actor and New York bartender Tom Richter was so tired of cheap tonic mired in synthetic quinine that he created this 100 percent organic syrup. The cinchona bark lends a dark-brown color to the elixir, while the evaporated cane juice gives it a crème de pêche quality.

$12 for a 6-ounce bottle, available at The Boston Shaker.

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John’s Premium Tonic Syrup

Launched at Tuck Shop, in Phoenix, John’s is now one of the most popular tonic syrups on the market. In an homage to the Southwest,its creator, John Cavanagh, uses a base of organic agave nectar (rather than simple syrup) blended with citrus fruits and herbs. It’s earthy, with notes of chamomile, elderflower, and bold lemon zest that bring out the juniper in the gin.

$9 for a 4-ounce bottle, available at Perry’s Wine & Liquors.

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San Pellegrino Chinotto

This Italian cola, made from the bitter fruit of Sicilian Chinotto oranges, has the same distinctive bittersweet flavor that can be found in liqueurs like Campari. Top off your G & T with a float of this apéritif soda for an extra layer of flavor, or make a quick Chinotto cocktail by combining one 6-ounce bottle with 2 ounces of gin, basil, and a splash of Asti Spumante.

San Pellegrino Chinotto six-pack, $5, available at most Shaw’s locations.

  • Christophe Vain

    You could also found some high quality Indian Tonic ready to use without high-fructose corn syrup like Fever-Tree Indian tonic. http://www.fever-tree.com/index.php

  • Hendrik Schaulin

    Great article. In a G&T 4/5 of the drink is the tonic, so you can upgrade the gin as much as you like, but it’s to no avail unless you make the tonic part of the equation better.
    May I suggest a pHenomenal tonic, hand-crafted from entirely natural ingredients in Hamburg?
    http://www.phenomenaltonic.com