This was supposed to be a blog post of victory. Of trial and triumph and making my own homemade tonic for the most amazing Gin and Tonic ever.
Most importantly, I would finally uncover the answer, dear readers, as to whether cut/sifted (C/S) cinchona or cinchona powder truly made the best flavored tonic. So many recipes don’t even specify; or if they call out C/S or powder, they never say why. At last, the mystery would be solved, with tasting notes so you would know which option worked best for your own tonic endeavors.
Oh, how I failed.
As the basis for my research, I used this recipe for two reasons: I thought the cold brew method would produce the best flavor, and because they were trying to produce a tonic “just barely sweet and pleasantly bitter.” Sounds like a sip of perfect to me!
I split the recipe quantities in half, and for one portion used powdered cinchona and the other portion, cut/sifted. I measured them by weight; powdered is more dense, due to the fine particle, so measuring by volume may have resulted in more actual cinchona in the powdered half, compared to the C/S half.
Results, Take 1
The true test – the long awaited G&T – tasted like Gin and 7 Up. Not “bad”, but totally NOT the effect I was hoping for.
I stuffed the two batches of tonic syrup in the back of the fridge while I contemplated how to recover from this tragedy.
Dead Rabbit to the rescue. (Yes, I really did type that…)
See, The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual has a recipe for quinine tincture, so I decided to try the powdered vs. cut/sifted taste off one more time. Split the recipe in half – 1 oz c/s and 1 oz powdered, each covered with 2.25 fl oz Everclear.
After three days of steeping, I strained the two tinctures, and realized that with or without a workable tonic water, I have a DEFINITE preference for the cut/sifted cinchona over the powdered. Even if the powdered was 100 times more strongly flavored (which it wasn’t), I lost so much tincture while filtering, straining, pressing, and re-filtering. The wet powdered cinchona formed a fine, silty mud that clung to anything it touched and clogged up three Chemex® filters. (I should have taken a picture of the cinchona mud, but I was so dismayed that was the last thing on my mind.) Even after all the work, the resulting photos show clearly that the powdered cinchona tincture isn’t, well, clear.
REMEMBER, dear readers – strain the cinchona really, really, really well. Cinchonism is a “thing”. You can read more about it here. OK, done nagging now!
- Powdered cinchona bark is messy to work with and requires thorough filtering. If you’re making tonic syrup, the flavor difference isn’t dramatic enough to justify all the extra work.
- You can’t take out rich syrup once you’ve added it.
- If you want to make your own tonic syrup, you can buy cinchona bark online here.
- I’d rather drink gin in a Corpse Reviver #2 anyway!