Homemade Tonic Is Summer’s Best Friend.

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Michael C. Moberly brews a High Desert Tonic

I am constantly looking for ways to make delicious cocktails at home, but with only three ingredients at most. This can be difficult as I love the depth and flavor of complex cocktails. The best way to get these complicated and interesting flavor profiles is to spend a little time making an ingredient you love that you can use in multiple drinks, whether alcoholic or not.

Tonic has a long history of being the Swiss Army knife of ingredients — not as sweet as a syrup, not as bitter as an aperitif, and with many uses. This combination of botanicals, citrus, and a little bit of sugar has been a staple of cocktail lovers for a few hundred years. This is because tonics help create the balance we are looking for as imbibers, giving that depth of character we want while still keeping the cocktail simple.

Moberly gathers ingredients for his High Desert and Strawberry Mint tonics

There are several ways to use a carbonated tonic that comes in a can or bottle, but a tonic syrup is different. Tonic syrups allow you to control how much you want that tonic to stand out in your drink. If you have a bold and complex gin, maybe you want just a touch of tonic to complete the cocktail. If you have a standard vodka, perhaps you want a lot of tonic to make the cocktail bold and refreshing. I love tonic with white rum; the soft, creamy rum flavors with the citrus and botanicals of a tonic speak to my preferred style of drink.

Tonic syrups also allow you to play with the world of sparkling water options available today. A splash of grapefruit or blackberry soda water with tonic syrup can be a refreshing afternoon cooler, even without the spirits. Keeping homemade tonic in my fridge is a great way to make no-ABV drinks when I don’t want alcohol.

Hopefully, these tonics and their accompanying cocktail recipes inspire you to explore homemade tonic and experiment with your favorite botanicals and citrus. I have always found the best tonics can be made from the ingredients grown in backyard gardens. As always, the best-tasting cocktails are the ones you make for yourself, so combine some of your favorite flavors and enjoy the day.

Michael’s High Desert Tonic
(Makes 18 ounces of tonic)

2 large sprigs of rosemary

4 leaves of fresh sage

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped

1 stalk lemongrass chopped

Peel from ½ grapefruit, cut into large strips

Peel from ½ lime, cut into large strips

½ ounce lime juice

2 tablespoons cinchona bark (available at Reno Homebrewer)

Pinch of salt

2 cups water

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon citric acid (or lemon salt, which may be found at Reno Homebrewer)

Boil water. Stir in all ingredients except sugar and citric acid. Let simmer 10 minutes. Stir in sugar until dissolved. Let simmer another 10 minutes. Let cool, then strain. Once strained, strain again through a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Add citric acid to remaining liquid. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 30 days.

Summer on Martin Street

(Serves 1)

2 ounces Bently Heritage Juniper Grove Estate Gin

¾ ounce Michael’s High Desert Tonic (recipe above)

3 ounces soda water

Add all ingredients to glass, stir, and add ice. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Strawberry Mint Tonic

(Makes 18 ounces of tonic)

1 cup strawberries, quartered

½ cup mint leaves

2 cups water

Peel from 1 lemon

1 ounce lemon juice

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon citric acid

Boil water. Stir in all ingredients except sugar and citric acid. Let simmer 10 minutes. Stir in sugar until dissolved. Let simmer another 10 minutes. Let cool, then strain. Once strained, strain again through a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Add citric acid to remaining liquid. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 30 days.

Kelly Strawberry Tonic Lemonade

(Serves 1)

2 ounces Strawberry Mint Tonic (recipe above)

1 ounce lemon juice

4 ounces soda water

Combine ingredients in glass, stir, then add ice. Garnish with mint.

Michael C. Moberly is a spirits educator and creative consultant. His 14 years in the industry have been spent learning, loving, and imbibing with some of its best minds, both locally and nationally. He also is good at wearing hats.

Michael C. Moberly is a spirits educator and creative consultant. His 14 years in the industry have been spent learning, loving, and imbibing with some of its best minds, both locally and nationally. He also is good at wearing hats.

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