Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 18

Spirits
Tonic Boom

by Jordan Mackay

While the wild
diversity of gin
styles on the
market today may
be the primary
motive for building
better tonics,
cocktails can go far
beyond the stolid
pairing with gin.
18

WINE & SPIRITS

It's about time, when you take into account
that tonic is the G&T's raison d'ĂȘtre. Kevin
Law-Smith, founder of East Imperial, vividly
remembers his grandparents mixing their
own tonics to stave off malaria in Kenya,
where he grew up.
"Originally, tonic water was disgusting," he
says. "In the army, they just mixed bark dust
[from the cinchona tree, the source of quinine] with water. It's horribly bitter, doesn't
dissolve well, and gets stuck in your throat,
leading to fits of hacking." Gin turned out
to be key in getting the medicine down, he
explains. "Tonic wasn't very soluble in water.
Gin made it so, and the oils from the spirits
and botanicals actually fuse with tonic to
make it more palatable. You might hate gin
and hate tonic, but the two together become
something drinkable."
By 1820, Pierre Joseph Pelletier and Joseph
Caventou had figured out how to extract
and purify quinine, so the tonic Law-Smith's
grandparents were drinking was much improved. In honor of the stripped-down version they would have known, made before the
age of cheap sweeteners and artificial flavors,
Law-Smith created East Imperial's Old World
Tonic. It's remarkably austere, with the lowest
sugar content of any tonic on the market, and
makes a terrifically dry, brisk G&T. He also

OCTOBER 2017

created it with the New Western style of gin in
mind-the brash type popular today, which
de-emphasizes juniper in favor of bold notes
of citrus, florals and spice. When paired with
new gins like Monkey 47 or Sipsmith, the Old
World Tonic allows their complex flavors to
shine through.
However, as Law-Smith found out, the Old
World Tonic is so spare in its flavor-just quinine and bubbles, really-that it gets run over
by more potent gins and makes too bitter a
drink for some palates. So, Law-Smith formulated Burma Tonic, bumping up the sugar,
quinine and citric acid, producing a more
robust tonic. He pegs it as a natural for another cocktail his grandparents enjoyed, the
Pink Gin. Another drink with historical roots,
Pink Gin is just gin reddened by Angostura
bitters, which were used to ward off seasickness in the British Navy; the gin was added to
make the bitters more palatable. Law-Smith's
grandmother had another use: She would rub
bitters on her skin, as well as drink them, to
ward off mosquitoes. "She would drink long
pink tonics in the morning and Pink Gins
with tonic in the afternoon," he says. "The
Burma is made to have a fullness that stands
up to the bitters."
Earlier this year, Jordan Silbert, founder
of Q Tonic-an early boutique tonic water

illustration by Vivian Ho; tonic photo by Daniel Krieger

For one of the world's simplest drinks, the Gin and Tonic has become
surprisingly complex. But these days, it's not gin that's shaking things up.
Rather, it's tonic water, which is blossoming into a category as compellingly diverse as the world of gin.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wine & Spirits - October 2017

Contents
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover1
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover2
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 1
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 2
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 3
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 4
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Contents
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 6
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 7
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 8
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 9
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 10
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 11
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 12
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 13
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 14
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 15
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 16
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 17
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 18
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 19
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 20
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 21
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 22
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Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover3
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover4
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