Homemade Tonic Water Recipe (and yes, some snazzy glass straws).



Clearly the hottest week of the year is a beverage week around my blog. From kombucha I have moved directly on to tonic water. Because we all need more than just kombucha.

Tonic water is bitter and sweet and great with gin (of course). But a decent tonic can stand on its own as well. (Really. It can.) But store bought tonic water? Blech. Have you read the ingredients list on a bottle ever? Yeah. It's enough to make you stay away from the stuff. Like forever. Corn syrup and preservatives… not the health tonic you might wish it were.

A couple of summers ago Pete and I got a taste for tonic so I asked out local food coop to carry a natural (corn syrup- and preservative-free) brand. He said he would order some but it would probably take weeks to come in. In true Rachel form I decided to have a go at making my own. I found a great recipe on-line, ordered the one random ingredient  (a ground bark that smells a tiny bit like incense) and made a batch. Whoa. I finally understood why it was called a "tonic". So amazingly delicious in a whole ingredients sort of way – rather than that synthetic (anti)tonic that you buy at the grocery.

Take a look at what went into my cooking pot~





I have since modified the original recipe a bit to suit how we now eat. Here is my version.

Homemade Tonic Water Recipe    


4 C water

1 orange, zest and juice

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 lime, zest and juice

1 chopped lemongrass stalk

1 tsp allspice berries

1/4 c cinchona bark (natural quinine I guess?)

two pinches celtic sea salt (or what ever salt you prefer)

juice of 1 lemon, reserved

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 C raw local honey (or sweetener of your choice)


  1. Simmer everything (except the reserved lemon juice and the honey) for 20 minutes covered.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 5 minutes.
  3. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, a thin cloth, or your french press.
  4. Add honey and stir to dissolve.
  5. Add reserved lemon juice.
  6. Cool.

This is a concentrated tonic syrup. All you need is fizzy water (and perhaps gin) and you'll be set. I used homemade Sodastream Penguin fizzy water for a completely homemade tonic water but of course you can use any purchased carbonated water – whatever type you like best.

When all is said and done you'll have close to 5 cups of tonic concentrate. That is a lot. And since it has no preservatives in it you'd have to have a serious G&T habit to charge through the bottle before it went bad. Freeze in ice cube trays, then bag for use throughout the summer. And label those cubes, okay? Otherwise you might mistake them for beef broth or something and make a regrettable stew.




To use dilute 1 part tonic concentrate with 2 to 3 parts fizzy water. You can also add 1 part gin if that's your style. Your drink will be amber colored, unusual for "modern" tonic but really pretty natural when you think about it. So fill your cup, go outside, and take dorky pictures of yourselves.




Oh, and the straws. The straws!

You love them, don't you? So do we. These lovely bits of kitchen wonder are our glass drinking straws from Glass Dharma. Straw fun without straw waste. Rad. The kids love them so much Pete and I rarely manage to grab them for ourselves.

I can not say enough good things about these. Really and truly. They are guaranteed for life against breakage (and we've dropped them an embarrassing number of times) so if you do figure out how to break one they'll repair or replace it. That works in my world.

I suggest you buy a set for your whole family. That way you won't need to swipe them from your kids when you take your dorky pictures of yourselves with your tonic.

Stay cool you all.


edited: I just got an email from Glass Dharma that they'd like to host a glass straw giveaway on my blog. Are you interested? I hope to put it up in the next couple of days.

60 thoughts on “Homemade Tonic Water Recipe (and yes, some snazzy glass straws).

  1. Casey says:

    Those straws are ROCKIN. And if the hubby didn’t have an aversion to gin…we’d probably be all over that tonic. I’ll stick with mojitos for now. 😉

  2. Rachel Wolf says:

    The beauty with this recipe is that you can tweak it to suit your tastes. Lots of orange. More/different spices. Play around and make a tonic that you love.
    ~ Rachel

  3. Eva says:

    Yes, Cinchona bark was originally used to treat malaria because it contains the alkaloid Quinine (fever reducer). Tonic water used to have larger quantities of quinine and was drunk as prophylactic against malaria (hence “tonic”). Now, apparently, there is only enough quinine in it to really make it bitter, not reduce malarial fever. My mom, however, swears by it for easing her restless leg syndrome.

  4. Kim Akari says:

    Cool! Glass straws! I will certainly get these when my girls grow a little older and a little less clumsy. For now, it’s stainless steel straws for us. 🙂

  5. anne says:

    i can’t wait to make this! my husband got a sodastream for christmas and we love it! i’d love a chance to win a straw–we go through an embarrassing amount of plastic straws here…

  6. Heather says:

    Do you think there is a way to can this that is both safe & doesn’t compromise flavor, so that it could be preserved without freezing? (My freezer is going to resign if I shove anything else in there!)

  7. Rachel Wolf says:

    Hmmm… I wonder if you could do a bit of research on safe pH for canning and then use litmus paper to determine what it is. You could adjust with more acid (citric acid or citrus juice), then can it! Let me know if you find anything out.

    ~ Rachel

  8. Rachel Wolf says:

    We considered the steel ones too. I liked that the glass are made in North America (vs. China), but the steel seem more appropriate for young hands.
    ~ Rachel

  9. Jenn B says:

    Last time I saw a recipe for tonic water it looked really complicated. Yours doesn’t look any hadrer than my ginger beer. I’m going to have to try it! Thanks so much for simpifying it for us.

  10. jeanine says:

    I’d never even thought about making homemade tonic. And I love me a cold gin and tonic. Thanks for sharing this and for of course inspiring with all of those lovely photos of you and your love sipping. 🙂

  11. Gypsy Forest says:

    Those pictures are so freaking adorable…. love them! My husband brews and he’s been using his brew gear to carbonate 5 gallon batches of fruity herbal tea. Sooo good. I’ll have to track down that Cinchona Bark to give this a try. It looks like such a good thing to put in our bodies. Loving the beverage week 🙂

  12. Rachel Wolf says:

    The original recipe called for agave I think, but yes – either. Just adjust the amount to taste. Honey is a bit sweeter than sugar so you might prefer it with a touch more.
    ~ Rachel

  13. Punkdomestics says:

    I’m the founder/moderator for Punk Domestics (www.punkdomestics.com), a community site for those of use obsessed with, er, interested in DIY food. It’s sort of like Tastespotting, but specific to the niche. I’d love for you to submit this to the site. Good stuff!

  14. Becca C says:

    I finally got my cinchona bark today! Mine actually came in bark-like pieces though, so I just ground them in my coffee grinder.

  15. Becca C says:

    I love this! The concentrate was finally cool enough to use. The only thing I would change for myself is I think I’d leave out the reserved lemon juice…it’s just a bit too tart for me. Other than that, it’s fantastic! Now to wait for my glass straws to come in…

  16. Kristen says:

    OK, My 5 yo just broke another one so I had to comment. I bought 6 of these straws ~2yrs ago and we are now down to 1. We have a stone floor so it is unforgiving. I know I could return the shards but it’s just not worth the hassle. I’m going with stainless steel at this point. Just figured I’d add my 2 cents.

  17. Rachel Wolf says:

    Hey Kristen. For months every time we dropped one on our floor the whole family would chorus together, Theyre unbreakable! And then they werent. We too have had casualties (not like yours) and so I discouraged a friend with stone floors from getting them and talked her into stainless. In the past two or three years, using these with small children, we have broken three. Their guarantee is awesome though, for what its worth. But I get it. It sucks when they break. ~ Rachel

  18. Rachel Wolf says:

    So glad you love it! I substituded a lime for that in my next batch and love it. Also, my new batch of bark was also not ground. I just used it as is and increased the steep time to 20 minutes. Turned out great, and was easier to strain.


  19. Karen says:

    On your link for the bark, there’s no indication of the quantity you get for $1.75. I would need to know how much to order to make sure I have the 1/4 C. needed for the recipe. Do you know what the quantity is? Thanks!

  20. Robert says:

    Thanks for the recipe and resource for the glass straws.

    Has anyone tried the tonic syrup in kombucha? I’m guessing a teaspoon or so in the bottle would be good. I’m gonna try it.


  21. Robert says:

    I just made the tonic concentrate and tried it with KT. I didn’t have a new batch of KT ready so I mixed the tonic with some bottled KT. I tried 1:1, too sweet. and 1 part tonic to 2 parts KT, better. My KT has lots of ginger in it so I will try the tonic with the next batch and I will omit the ginger on the part for the tonic. The ginger might interfere with the taste of the tonic.
    I used 2 cups table sugar in the tonic so I will cut that back to 1 cup next batch.

  22. Atalanta says:

    One of the more popular suppliers for the bark (and local for me) is Penn Herb. They do mail order. I happen to like the cut vs powdered since its easier to strain. Use 1oz of cut bark instead of 1/4 cup powder.

    I get my citric acid from Herbalcom.com. They tend to do 1 pound lots. I’ve also seen it at Indian markets and brewer supply (though it’s MUCH cheaper at the indian market).

    BF didn’t want to try it because of the color. Now he’s tried it and said I’ve probably ruined him for store bought!

  23. Amber says:

    Thank you thank you thank you. Much to the dismay and mis-understanding of friends and family who just don’t get how I can drink it straight, I was a tonic water drinker for years. I say “was” because once I got wise to the junk they were putting into it, I stopped. Cannot wait to give this a try.
    Sincerest thanks from this homeschooling mom, artist and like-minded free spirit 🙂

  24. seedflax@gmail.com says:

    this is a real nice vibes , i live in trinidad and tobago and i drink lots coconut water and some times the home made drinks really – do it for me , i like the idea of this ,,, even if you use it as a chaser for your rum drinks , just taught i would say ” well done ”

    my email is seedflax@gmail.com any body comming this way etc ,,,m

  25. Gregg says:

    While gin and tonics are great, if you don’t like gin, vodka tonic with a twist of lime is quite good …

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