Home Made Tonic Water Concentrate

How to make your own home made tonic water. Basically Jeffrey Morgenthaler's recipe, only Instructables style!
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Step 1: Recipe and first steps

Picture of Recipe and first steps
Here's the recipe:
4 cups water
1 cup chopped lemongrass (about 2 stalks for me)
1/4 cup powdered cinchona bark
zest and juice of 1 orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp cardamom bits
1/4 cup citric acid
1/4 tsp pink hawaiian salt

First I zested the citrus fruits, using a microplane grater.

Step 2: Add the ingredients

Picture of Add the ingredients
Next, juice the fruits and chop the lemongrass.

Measure and add the cardamom, salt, citric acid and cinchona bark.

I got my cinchona bark from Tensing Momo:

Step 3: Boil it!

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Add 4 cups of water to the ingredients in a 2-quart or so saucepan and get it on the stove.
Once it starts to boil reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Step 4: Strain it!

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Once it has boiled for 20 minutes, pour it through a filter into a heat proof container.
I used a funnel with a basket lined with cheesecloth inside it. I then waited a bit and poured the whole mess through a coffee filter into my final container. Others have said this takes forever, but maybe I had a hole in my filter or something. It was fairly quick.

Step 5: Sugar. You wants it.

So, what you've made at this point is a bitter, fragrant concentrate. My kitchen still smells awesome BTW. But! You want tonic water, which while bitter is still drinkable because of sugar.

So, I made some simple syrup: 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water, boil and cool.

You'll want about 1:1 syrup:tonic concentrate. Jeffrey suggests agave syrup; too rich for my blood but maybe I'll try it sometime. I got a lot of bitter stuff to mix!

Step 6: Make a drink!

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So, tonic water is a fizzy clear beverage. What is this concentrate stuff and how do I make a G&T out of it?

1 tablespoon concentrate, 1 tablespoon syrup, fizzy water to taste.

I make my own fizzy water nowadays, after following this excellent instructable:

For a Gin and Tonic: as above, with gin (to taste!) and a slice of lime. Heaven!

tessposthumus3 months ago

Nice article!

Tonic water is very fun to make but be careful when using cinchona bark. This bark contains the toxic quinine, which is the signature ingredient for tonic water.

I recently wrote an article on how to safely make your own homemade tonic water. If you'd like to read it or refer people who are experimenting with their own tonic water, please do. Safety first ;)


conworkman2 years ago
Looks great and tastes nice! Do not think that you can get snacks such as simple recipe. Like to add that to obtain consistent results for the measurement of the ingredients you can use the so-called jiggers, who like what you can see here. Good luck and new recipes!
ralizon3 years ago
The quinine is the thing in tonic that causes it to glow under uv. Without any of that in it there will be no glowing.
Batness3 years ago
Has anyone tried to see if this glows under UV? Commercial tonic is different than homemade, so trying to figure out if the cinchona creates the right kind of quinine to glow...:P
Benstar (author)  Batness3 years ago
My uncle and I investigated this... couldn't get it to glow.
Possible too much else is in there absorbing any luminescence it might give off... it's pretty brown stuff after all.
scoochmaroo4 years ago
I've been wanting to make my own tonic for a while now. Too much HFCS in commercial tonic! But this sounds tricky. . . How long does the concentrate last?
Benstar (author)  scoochmaroo4 years ago
It's not tricky, if you have the ingredients it's like 35 minutes to done. I dunno, the concentrate is fulla citric acid and stuff so should be preserved pretty well. I haven't had any go bad, but some bottle of syrup I mixed up got kinda gelled after a few months.
Hello all,  I have been producing handcrafted small batch tonic syrup for my restaurant for over a year now.  If you want all the pleasure and none of the hassle I now have it available nationwide.  Please visit me at for more details, and spread the word.  John
Benstar (author) 5 years ago
Update! Limbo on SE 39th in Portland has cinchona bark, maybe spelled chinchona bark, on the wall of herbs. It's not powdered though, so you'd have to grind it up somehow or steep it a long time maybe.
kill-a-watt5 years ago
I considered doing something similar except first I'd talk my Doc into a prescription for quinine tablets. They're on someone's $4 for a 30-day generic medication list. Then I'd mix only a small crushed amount with some cane sugar in to a carny keg and force carbonate. I never got past the planning stage because I prefer sour-mash whiskey over gin.
This looks really good! All I drink is tea, so it would be nice to try something else. :D
Benstar (author)  jessyratfink5 years ago
It is super delicious, if I do say so myself. I'm a little worried about cinchonism...
I have no idea how much quinine I'm getting from a tablespoon of my concoction.
where do you even get the Cinchonism? I've never even heard of it.
Phoghat Benstar5 years ago
PLEASE don't worry says this old pharmacist. The dose you're getting here is WAY less than even the therapeutic dose of 5 grains (about 300 mg.) daily
If you loose your mighty strength down there, you'll know you're drinking too much tonic.
julibelle5 years ago
This looks great! Am I seeing CELERY in the photos but not in the recipe? I'm ready to go shopping, need to know.
That is the lemon grass.
Benstar (author)  julibelle5 years ago
That's lemongrass!
I'm keen to try it, but I have one question: Liquid or powdered citric acid ? I have both and a quarter cup of one does not equal a quarter cup of the other! I've been making my own for about 10 years using a commercial tonic concentrate, Splenda and a soda charger. This sounds better... Thanks!
Benstar (author)  davemackmiller5 years ago
I used powdered, I'm pretty sure that's what Jeffrey specified.
scoochmaroo5 years ago
Gray-Fox5 years ago
Hmm not a big fan of tonic water but i'll have to give this one a try haha