Homemade tonic water recipe.

Homemade tonic water recipe. {Clean.}

Homemade tonic water recipe. {Clean.}

Hello sweet people. Below is one of my favorite recipes of all time. A re-post from summers gone by.

I make it every year. And now that I'm not drinking alcohol, tonic is my non-alcoholic cocktail of choice for my evening drink.

It's crazy good.

This recipe does require one small piece of pre-planning wich is ordering the one random ingredient required. Order some now and you'll be ready when inspiration strikes! (Details below.)

Tonic water is bitter and sweet and great with gin if you are so inclined (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 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~

Homemade tonic water recipe. {Clean.}

Homemade tonic water recipe. {Clean.}

Homemade tonic water recipe. {Clean.}

Homemade tonic water recipe. {Clean.}

I have since modified the original recipe a bit to suit how we 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 – if you are off sweets, try liquid or powdered green stevia to taste)


  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.

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.

Homemade tonic water recipe. {Clean.}

Homemade tonic water recipe. {Clean.}

Homemade tonic water recipe. {Clean.}

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.

Homemade tonic water recipe. {Clean.}

Homemade tonic water recipe. {Clean.}

Homemade tonic water recipe. {Clean.}

Stay cool and be nerdy, you all.


11 thoughts on “Homemade tonic water recipe.

  1. Gypsy Forest says:

    Thanks for the reminder…. I picked up the citrus and made this today. I can’t find cinchona or fresh lemongrass. So I subbed 3 heaping TBSP dried lemongrass and 2 TBSP quassia powder (after a bit of research). Next time I think I might a few TBSP of ginger root to it…. sipping a nice cool glass of it now. 90+ degrees here….. this tonic is like magic.

  2. A. says:

    Yum. I just made my first batch. It is much more citrus-y and less bitter than store bought tonic. Is there a problem with adding a bit more cinchona bark to add more bite? (As in, too much quinine isn’t good for us, according to the interwebs, etc). Or, maybe I didn’t steep/simmer it long enough (is it supposed to boil? What temperature do I simmer it on?).

    Thanks for the recipe!

  3. A. says:

    Just read several worrisome articles about ‘dangers of homemade tonic’ and how it has higher quinine content. Is there a way to know calculate how much is in this recipe? And therefore how safe it is to drink/in what quantities?


    My second batch is delicious, mostly limes, a little lemon, love it. I mean, really fabulous.

    These articles give me pause, though. If I drink a 16 oz glasses of it, and it has 4 oz of tonic mixture (mixing 1-3 parts water)…I have no idea how high a level I’m drinking, and if that’s going to be a problem.


  4. A. says:

    I didn’t mean to be a downer with my question re too much quinine, just curious, really. Such differing reports online.
    Thank you again for a fabulous recipe.

    This last batch I did 3 limes juice and zest, 1 lemon juice and zest, 1 lemon just juice held aside.
    I did a bit more of the bark, instead of ¼ cup, (maybe an extra T)
    I used ¾ c. raw honey. The rest was the same as the recipe.

    Oh, my, it’s SO good with all that Lime. mmm.

    Thanks again.

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