The Tonic Syrup Revolution
G&T lovers in Canada are reaching for a new type of tonic to pair with their favourite gins. Tonic syrups are an alternative to tonic waters. They’re crafted to support the characteristics of craft-distilled gins and give you a better cocktail. The minds behind Jack’s Tonique, Old Timer’s Tonic and Tonic Maison took a moment to talk about their creations, and explain how their tonics can take your G&T to the next level.
Creators: Joël Beaupré and Mathieu Guillemette
Buy online: Etsy
Why did you guys decide to make tonic syrups?
Mathieu Guillemette: We love G&T’s but we were turned-off by what was available on the market. The number one reason why Joel and I decided to venture in the cocktail world was to create and offer a healthier alternative to what is currently available in supermarkets and grocery stores. We wanted to offer consumers a clean tonic made from fresh ingredients and sweetened with honey (which is a much better sugar than glucose-fructose or even cane sugar).
We spent many months in R&D to come up with our own recipe and process. The idea to start off with a concentrate was primarily a financial one, as starting with a carbonated version was very expensive. To our surprise, adding an extra step to making a drink did not shy away any customers. Au contraire, a lot of people enjoy the idea of being able to dose their drinks according to their personal taste and use it to create unique cocktails.
Why should people use tonic syrups instead of tonic water?
MG: We don’t believe there is anything wrong with using carbonated tonic water. The challenge is finding a good one. There are some key advantages in using our tonic syrup. First one is that you can tailor your cocktails to your taste. Another one is that you can use it to elaborate other original cocktails. You are not confined to the bubbles. Consumers also get a better “bang for the buck” with syrups and that makes the premium products more interesting for purchase.
What makes Jack’s Tonique unique/special?
MG: Joel and I have both been working in the restaurant industry for about fifteen years. I’m a sommelier and Joel is an amateur distiller. When came time to elaborate our syrup, we were inspired by different principles that generally belong to brewing, wine making and infusing tea.
The base for a flavored cocktail syrup is generally (almost always) a simple-syrup, which is a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar brought to a quick boil or simmered and then flavored. We do things a little differently. I like to call our syrup a complicated-syrup, where we steep some ingredients in hot water and cold infuse some of our premium fresh ingredients for long periods of time. We didn’t like the idea of “cooking” our delicate and fresh ingredients. We felt it defied the purpose, so we elaborated our own process.
In your opinion, which gin goes best with Jack’s Tonique?
Our go-to’s have always been Dillon’s Unfiltered 22, from Beamsville in Ontario and Piger Henricus from Quebec. Apart from that, we really enjoy it with Tanqueray, Gordon’s, Georgian Bay and recently launched Distillerie du St-Laurent.
“We definitely enjoy Jack’s Tonique in a White Port and Tonic (WP&T). This is a very refreshing summer cocktail with a bit of a grape-y finish. It is a happy symbiosis of wine-meets-cocktail.”
1 oz White Port
½ oz Gin (optional)
½ – ¾ oz Jack’s Tonique
2-3 oz Club Soda
Mix all ingredients in a rock glass. Stir well. Garnish with a wedge of lemon
Jack’s Morning Kür
“This is a fun take on a Kir and it’s destined to be drunk at brunch. It’s a perfectly balanced bittersweet drink that is highly addictive.”
½ – ¾ oz Jack’s Tonique
4 oz Moscato d’Asti
In a flute or a coupe, add Jack’s Tonique and top it up with Moscato d’Asti. Garnish with a wedge of grapefruit and fresh basil (optional).
Creator: Gabrielle F. Panaccio
Buy online: Alambika
Why make tonic syrup?
Gabrielle F Panaccio: Gin and tonic are really popular and casual mix and everything that’s being made in the industry is made craft. We find that the tonic water often is not really appropriate for mixing. So we wanted to go back to the natural, healthy methods – there’s 1/2 the sugar than in the usual tonic – it’s more healthy and natural. We created a softer flavour that’s more powerful in the mouth that pairs better with gin.
Tonic syrups are really popular. When you have a look at the food industry, it’s just the right line to follow. Over the last few years, people are more conscientious of what they are eating, cooking and buying. I think that’s why craft beverages are now on the market. It’s a beautiful trend.
In your opinion, why should people use a tonic syrup instead of tonic water?
Because it’s more versatile. You can use it in gin and tonic for sure, but you can also use it as a base syrup for any other cocktail, like Collins or any home syrup. Instead of simple syrup, you can flavour your drink with a tonic syrup. Also, it’s healthy and it’s more complex in the taste, so it’s more interesting to suggest something like this.
When you work with a craft tonic, you usually know how it’s made and what’s in it. It’s fun to tell a story to your customer, it’s more unique. Depending on the gin that you have as well, it’s nice to match it with the tonic you have.
What makes Old Timer’s Tonic unique?
We really studied the history of the cocktail and the tonic, where it’s from and how it’s made. At The Lab, we’ve always had our own syrups. Tonic syrup is something I created because it’s more interesting for the taste. We did about a dozen tests. I wanted something natural – so no citric acid and no essence. I know that citric acid and acids is natural as well, but I really wanted to do something fruity.
We wanted to create it not to bitter and not to citrusy, because we find that over powers the gin, depending on the gin. We worked on different bitter tastes, with different bitter agents, like quinine bark, ginseng and lime peel. In the end, we have a syrup that lasts longer in the mouth; it’s less powerful but it last longer. Because we don’t put citric acid, we suggest that customers add a fresh lime rather than for us to add the citric, because it’s healthier and they can choose how citrusy it is.
Which gin goes best with Old Timer’s Tonic?
I would say Tanqueray – it has more citrus and brings a lot of style and full flavour.
“This cocktail leans more to the bitter side of things.”
3/4 oz Lemon juice, fresh
3/4 oz Triple Sec or Cointreau
1 oz Campari bitter
1/2 oz Le Lab Old Timer’s Tonic
Orange slice, for garnish
Put all ingredients into an old fashioned glass and add ice. Stir. Fill rest of glass with soda water. Garnish with an orange slice and enjoy!
Old Timer’s Melon
“A bit more fruity.”
1 slice watermelon
1 oz Le Lab Old Timer’s Tonic
3/4 oz lime juice, fresh
2 oz gin
In a shaker, muddle the watermelon slice and then add tonic syrup, lime juice and gin. Add ice and give it a good shake. Strain into a tumbler glass and top with soda water. Garnish with a piece of watermelon and serve.
Creators: Alexandrine Lemaire and Hannah Palmer
Buy online: 3/4 Oz Tonic Maison
Why did you decide to make tonic syrups?
Well, the idea came to us as all great ideas come: after one too many gin and tonics. But seriously, we were interested in the new gins from micro-distilleries that were coming out and we thought that there was no tonic specifically made to really appreciate them.
Why should people use tonic syrups instead of tonic water?
All tonic syrups are different. 3/4 oz. Tonic Maison is different as it contains very little sugar and no unnecessary chemicals or ingredients (unlike commercial tonic water that contains high fructose corn syrup, phosphoric acid, etc.) It really allows you to taste the aromatics that the distillers put so much care in putting in their gins. The secret is in a well-balanced recipe; between the bitterness, sweetness and acidity that makes it possible to enjoy and appreciate a well-balanced drink and the gin that you are using for your cocktails.
Which gin goes best with your tonic syrup?
That’s the beauty of our tonic, it goes well with most gin. A really neat experiment to do is to have a couple of gins and try them side to side. You can make out how different the flavours of different gins are. Tonic syrups also allows you to make good quality cocktails at home, it’s fun and delicious!
Other than a G&T, what other cocktails can your tonic syrup be used in?
I would say, Stick to what you’d normally do with a tonic. Gin tonic, vodka tonic, Jaegermeister tonic, white port tonic. It can also be used as a replacement for bitters. But please be creative!
3/4 oz Tonic Maision
1 1/4 oz gin
2 – 3 oz sparkling water
In a glass with lots of ice, put tonic, your favorite gin and neutral sparking water. Stir gently and enjoy! Don’t forget to refrigerate the bottle after opening!