The other day a customer asked my opinion on Tonic, and I said:
“I really think they are one of the most underrated bands of the mid 90’s. Ahmet Zappa , you know Frank’s son (his more famous kids are Moon Unit and Dweezil) turned me on to the band. Their big hits were, If You Could Only See ( which reached #11 on the Billboard Charts), and Open Up Uour Eyes. They’re still touring and were in the Bay Area last year but I was out of town,… oh tonic water. Follow me…”
Tonic gets its name from the medicinal benefits of its bitter flavoring. The quinine was added to the drink as a prophylactic against malaria, since it was originally used in tropical areas of South Asia and Africa, where that disease is endemic. The mixed drink, Gin and Tonic originated in British Colonial India. The British population there would mix their medicinal quinine tonic with Gin to improve its bitter taste, and after that they didn’t worry about malaria.
In addition to the basic Schweppes and Canada Dry, we stock some newer tonic selections such as Fever Tree, Fentiman’s and Q Tonic. These brands place emphasis on using real quinine and natural sweeteners, as opposed to quinine flavoring and high-fructose corn syrup. We also just brought in a Tonic syrup from Jack Rudy Cocktail Company which is great because it allows you to control the sweetness just add seltzer/club soda or you can add a splash straight.
Some applications for tonic water include but are not limited to the following;
Gin and Tonic is the classic tonic cocktail and for good reason: it is delicious. My favorite Gins as of late to take the edge off my tonic are:
The Botanist ($34.99) From Scotland, this Gin is infused with 22 botanicals all harvested from Islay.
Crater Lake ($24.99) Produced in Oregon, Crater Lake is infused with wild juniper berries picked in central Oregon.
Greenalls ($21.99) (one liter bottle) This Gin from London is genuinely refreshing and its lower proof, 80, makes it extremely easy to drink without being insipid as other 80 proof Gins can be.
Tequila and Tonic is also delightful. It’s the lighter, healthier option to a Margarita. Skip the “skinny, light” offerings and go tonic. The floral-citrus, sweet effervescence of this drink brings to mind a Gin and Tonic, but with a peppery tequila note at the end. Make sure you’re using 100% Agave Tequila as your base. Either Blanco or Reposado work, with the Reposado being richer a result of the wood finishing. Some Tequilas I fancy are:
Frida Kahlo Blanco ($34.99) Reposado ($38.99) These delicious Tequilas, that bear the photo of Salma Hayek from a movie she was in a few years ago, are approximately $20 dollars less than they were a year ago, a revolution Frida Kahlo would support.
Partida Blanco ($34.99) Reposado ($39.99) is another premium tequila that has gone down in price $7 per bottle from our shelf price last year. Partida uses agave that is 7 to 10 years old and bakes it in state of the art stainless steel ovens.
Rum and Tonic was my first foray into an adult tonic drink without gin, and it was such a wonderful experience that I try to emulate it once a week, which is pretty easy to do because of where I work. Here is how I make the magic happen;
Mount Gay Eclipse ($16.97) This was the one that started it all for me. The barrel ageing (used bourbon barrels) adds vanilla and the tonic makes it a butterscotch delight. If you want more crispness in your cocktail The Eclipse Silver ($16.89) is a refreshing contrast to the standard bottling.
Barbancourt 4Star (3Yr) ($19.99) 5 Star(8Yr) ($24.99) These Rums from Haiti made from sugar cane and aged in oak barrels are drier than the average molasses rums which makes a delightfully refreshing rum drink.
Bourbon and Tonic is a drink that I first had with Tom Bulleit, himself about 6 years ago, and I have been enjoying the drink ever since. A squeeze of lemon makes it a Betsy’s Bulleit, although on their website it is called a “BLT”. Besides the obvious here is some great base bourbon to work with.
Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey ($21.98) It was the new kid on the block some time ago but now is a staple at finer bars and homes across the land. It’s probably the bourbon I order most when I am out. The high rye content gives it extra oomph on the finish.
Old Bardstown Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($19.99) This bourbon has a smoothness and complexity that rival much more expensive Bourbon (just ask Robert Parker).
Old Crow Reserve ($10.99) This is the tumbler Bourbon for the summer. This new offering from Old Crow is a screaming deal: very good Bourbon at a great price. Ice, Bourbon, Tonic and a lemon squeeze, and you have a tasty adult iced tea.
Have a great summer and remember no babies, pets, or wine (spirits with corks) in hot cars.
Rick C., Beltramo’s Spirits Buyer