Montreal’s craft tonic syrups transform G&Ts into something glorious
Craft-distillers are playing with juniper, neutral spirits, herbs and flora to make nuanced, flavourful gins. As a result, bartenders, distillers and G&T lovers alike are trying to give tonic water the depth and character needed to match these craft gins. Enter the tonic syrup.
“We were interested in the new gins from micro-distilleries,” says Hannah Palmer, co-creator of 3/4 Oz. “There was no tonic specifically made to really appreciate them.” Palmer and her friend Alexandrine Lemaire founded 3/4 Oz., a high-end concentrates producer in Montreal that produces a range of syrups for cocktail enthusiasts, including their Tonic Maison.
Tonic syrup is an alternative to the name-brand tonic waters. “We don’t believe there is anything wrong with using carbonated tonic water. The challenge is finding a good one,” says Mathieu Guillemette; Guillemette and co-founder Joël Beaupré make Jack’s Tonique, an artisanal tonic syrup available at locations across Canada (and online). “Using our tonic syrup … you can tailor your cocktails to your taste.”
These concentrated syrups offer more than just a complementing set of flavours to pair with your artisanal gin — they’re also healthier. “There’s half the sugar in tonic syrup than there is in a commercial tonic water,” says Gabrielle Panaccio, director, co-owner and mixologist at Le Lab Bar and creator of Old Timer’s Tonic Syrup. “It’s more healthy and natural.”
The added benefit of tonic syrup is its sheer versatility, whether it’s Tonic Maison, Jack’s Tonique or Old Timer’s Tonic Syrup. “You can use it in gin and tonic for sure,” says Panaccio. “But you can also use it as a base syrup for any other cocktail, like Collins, or any home syrup. Instead of simple syrup, flavour your drink with a tonic syrup.” So if you’re not a big gin drinker, you can actually use tonic syrups in other cocktails and non-alcoholic mixed drinks.
3/4 oz tonic syrup
1 oz gin
2-3 oz sparkling/soda water
Put ingredients in a glass, stir gently and sip. Experiment with the amounts until you find the ratio that suits your tastes.
“We wanted … a clean tonic made from fresh ingredients and sweetened with honey,“ says Guillemette. “I like to call our syrup a ‘complicated syrup’ … we steep some ingredients in hot water and cold-infuse others for long periods of time.”
Gin Pairing: Guillemette and Beaupré suggest Dillon’s Unfiltered 22 or Piger Henricus.
Our Thoughts: Citrus and pine notes overlay woodsy flavours; delish in a white port and tonic (WP&T).
“We wanted it not too bitter and not too citrusy, because we find that overpowers the gin,” says Panaccio. “In the end, we have a syrup that lasts longer in the mouth. Because we don’t [use] citric acid, we suggest you add fresh lime.”
Gin Pairing: Panaccio suggests Tanqueray because “it has more citrus, a fuller flavour and brings a lot of style.”
Our Thoughts: Hints of liquorice, eucalyptus and menthol; great with a splash of cranberry juice.
“Tonic Maison really allows you to taste the aromatics that the distillers put so much care in putting in their gins,” says Palmer. “The secret is a recipe well balanced between bitterness, sweetness and acidity that makes it possible to enjoy and appreciate the gin.”
Gin: “It goes well with most gin,” states Palmer. Experiment and find your favourite combo.
Our Thoughts: A touch of lemongrass, notes of orange zest and lasting bitterness; a straight-up G&T syrup.