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A Tonic Water Tutorial in the Test Kitchen

A visit from tonic-water maker Fever-Tree takes the G&T to the next level.

Associate Digital Food Editor
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Photography by: Bryan Gardner

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The 42 Burners team loves a proper gin & tonic—deputy editor Greg Lofts and assistant editor Lindsay Strand even made it a point to visit multiple G&T bars the last time they visited Spain. Suffice to say the test kitchen was excited to host a cocktail hour recently with the maker of one of their favorite tonic waters, Fever-Tree.

woman mixing and garnishing drinks

Founders Charles Rolls and Tim Warrillow started the UK-based company in 2005 with a simple idea, says Fever-Tree marketing director Amanda Stackman: If three-quarters of your drink is the mixer, then you should care about what’s in it. And care they did: their search for the best botanicals took them from research at the British Library to a cinchona tree plantation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a citrus farm in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. This 18-month journey resulted in Fever-Tree’s signature tonic water, which contains just four ingredients: quinine from the Congo, bitter orange oil from Mexico, pure cane sugar, and water.

mixed drink with large citrus slice

Senior editor Lauryn Tyrell was surprised to learn that orange oil is a traditional ingredient in tonic water. “Once you know it’s in there, you might notice a little bite,” says Stackman, “but it really just balances out the flavors. It’s not an orange-flavored tonic water.” The essential oil is processed via a hand-pressed, cold-extraction method using sfumatrice equipment, which is typically used in the perfume industry. After having the team try the tonic water on its own to see if anyone could pick up on the orange, Stackman teamed it with gin, grapefruit, and fresh rosemary for a bright, refreshing G&T.

fever tree mixed drinks with citrus peels

Fever-Tree has slowly rolled out several more tonic waters since the original (it takes time to source those ingredients!), with each flavor geared towards a different type of gin: Lemon, meant for sweeter gins; Elderflower, for, naturally, floral gins; Mediterreanean (Provençal rosemary, lemon-thyme, and geranium), for herbaceous gins; and Aromatic (South American angostura bark, Jamaican pimento berries, Madagascan vanilla, cardamom, and ginger), for juniper-forward gins.

mixed drink with cinnamon stick and citrus peel

Their newest offering, the Aromatic is sure to stand out on the shelf because of its pink hue, courtesy of the angostura. “The color makes a lot of people think it’s sweet—they associate it with sweet rosé—but it’s actually our bitterest tonic,” says Stackman. She turned it into a holiday party-ready vodka tonic with two simple garnishes: lemon peel and a cinnamon stick. A pink drink without having to resort to pink liquor? We’ll be drinking this through Valentine’s Day.

 

 

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