Do you ever take a moment to ponder which of your possessions you would never, ever, ever want to live without? Say you’re starting from scratch (with basic necessities for day-to-day functioning already taken care of), what are the first three items on your MUST BUY ASAP list? I have a pretty good idea of what mine would be:
#1. Sewing machine. I dealt with sewing machine separation anxiety when I went off to college; it wasn’t pretty. Luckily, my mom quickly tired of the marathon sewing sessions that would happen every time I came home to visit, and thoughtfully suggested that my aunt buy me one for my birthday.
#2. Awesome knives. One serrated; one large Santoku. My days of maiming fruits and veggies with steak knives (that may or may not have been “procured” from crappy chain restaurants) are far behind me, and it’s going to stay that way.
#3. SodaStream. Part of me feels like this spot should go to a camera, or maybe a bike, but who am I kidding? I need those bubbles. Still water bores me, and I pretty much have to be on the verge of dehydration before I actually think to drink a glass. And not only does my SodaStream keep my hydrated, but it also takes care of one of my least favorite things: flat beverages.
This was my first time making tonic syrup, and I was extremely pleased with the result. Not only does it save me from pouring half-full bottles of flat tonic down the drain, it is less sweet and far tastier. In perusing tonic water recipes online, one of the things that surprised me is that most call for cinchona bark powder. Filtering powders out of liquids can be annoyingly time-consuming, and is something I’d like to avoid if at all possible. Fortunately, cinchona bark is also available in “cut” form, although it is a bit harder to come by. I wound up purchasing a 16 oz. bag from Penn Herb Company. It’s a large amount, but it’s totally worth it if you’re a big tonic drinker. And I only wound up straining the mixture twice: once through a sieve to catch the big stuff, and once more through a coffee filter to remove the small particulates. Less filtering time = more drinking time!
Homemade Tonic Water
(adapted from Jeffrey Morgenthaler)
- 4 cups of water
- 1/4 cup of cut cinchona bark
- 1 small lemongrass stalk
- zest and juice of 1 orange
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- zest and juice of 1 lime
- 1 tsp whole allspice berries
- 1/4 cup of citric acid
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 cup of agave (or a little over 1 cup of granulated sugar)
Combine all ingredients except the agave/sugar in a large, non-reactive saucepan. (If you do not use a non-reactive pan [i.e., stainless steel or ceramic], you will likely wind up with a pan damaged by the citric acid.) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool for a bit, then pour mixture through a sieve to remove the large pieces. Run remaining mixture through a coffee filter to remove the small particulates. (You may need to stir it a little bit to keep things from backing up.)
Once you’ve finished filtering, return the mixture to the stove and place over medium heat. Add agave/sugar, and stir until combined. Remove from heat and let cool, then transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. To make your tonic syrup last even longer, add an ounce of high-proof vodka.
To make a gin and tonic, combine 3/4 oz. syrup, 1 1/2 oz. gin, and 2 oz. of seltzer over ice. Serve and enjoy!