How to Make Your Own Tonic Water

Tonic water may be something you don’t often wonder about, but you likely enjoy it all the same. If you would like to recreate it on your own, like many Minnesota culinary schools do, then here is a closer look at this versatile liquid.

Tonic water originated in England about one hundred and fifty years ago. Tonic water is supposed to impart heath and vigor upon those who drink it. You likely most often encounter it when it is added to alcoholic drinks like gin and vodka. Generally, tonic water is supposed to contain the bark of the cinchona tree and contains a substance called quinine which has also historically been used to fight malaria. This is how it acquired the name we now know it is as today - “tonic water.” In today’s marketplace, tonic water is commercially available but you can make your own at home if you feel like taking a bit of a challenge. Who knows, if you enjoy making things like this you may have a future at one of the many Minnesota culinary schools or perhaps another culinary college.

Quinine is bitter in taste and hence sweet sugary syrup has to be added to soften the bitter taste of quinine. Often lime and lemon juice are both added to make the tonic water more palatable and healthy as well. Lemon contains citric acid and Vitamin C. In fact, all citrus fruits contain Vitamin C and hence it makes the tonic water more beneficial to health.

Making your own tonic water is fun but it will require a bit of culinary creativity, like the type you find in Minnesota culinary schools.

You can start by taking one full glass of clean water. You can add some lemon juice to it. Make sure that you squeeze a good-sized lemon and remove the seeds before doing so. Some people prefer to add orange juice instead. You can even add some ginger to it. Ginger powder is available in any large retail store. The powder dissolves easily. Ginger is said to have good therapeutic value. The most important part of the tonic water is the bark of the cinchona tree. This bark should be cut up in little pieces. Sometimes even ground bark can be added. This makes it easier to dissolve in water. Now, add some lemon grass. Again, you can cut up the stem into little pieces.

You can add a few bits of cardamom after opening them. Finally add some citric acid. It is widely available at any chemist's shop. Now take the mixture in a deep pan and allow the mixture to boil for a few minutes. Then allow the mixture to cool before adding some sugary syrup to it. Let this mixture be heated at a low heat for several minutes. Do not stir the mixture.

Finally, let the mixture cool for a while. This will allow the tonic water to remain preserved for a long time. If you store it in a refrigerator, it can last well over a month.

These days the bark of the cinchona tree is replaced with chemically available quinine capsules. This is because finding the bark of the cinchona tree is not easy. Adding over the counter quinine capsules works just as well, although it is somehow not the same thing. You can vary the ingredients a little. For instance, you can forget the cardamom and replace it with cloves or an all spice powder. You can even use soda water instead of plain water. Instead of the syrup, you can even try using pure honey. It works well as a sweetener.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Minneapolis/St. Paul offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in the Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota area. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit for more information.

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