The rise of craft cocktails has been accompanied by micro-distilled spirits, handmade bitters, and flavorful tonic water bottlings, and craft syrups. The goal of these higher-end products is to make better cocktails. Undoubtedly Fever Tree or Fentimen’s tonic waters are superior than Canada Dry-style sugar water. But is tonic all that it can be?
Bittermens founder, Avery Glasser, pretty clearly thinks the answer to that is a resounding no. At a recent visit to Amor y Amargo, Avery and I spoke about tonic. Avery’s theory is that because both bottled tonic water and tonic syrups don’t have alcohol in them, they are limited in bitter (or how “tonic-y”) they can be. Bittermens’ solution is the Commonwealth Tonic Cordial. By having a cordial with 21% alcohol, they can use more bitter and less sweet in the tonic. Boy did they succeed. This carries with it a hearty dose of quinine, making it bitingly bitter. That’s only a problem if you want to drink it on its own (and I’m sure there are some members of the Cocktail and Spirits Writers Online Group who will anyway).
The recommended recipe for a Gin and Tonic with the Commonwealth Tonic Cordial is:
1.5 oz London Dry Gin
0.75 oz Bittermens Commonwealth Tonic Cordial
5 oz soda water
This is a remarkably light and refreshing Gin and Tonic. Because there is more bitterness, there is less sugar needed and thus less sugar present. That makes the drink light, but bitter. I think it’s a great improvement, especially over anything involving a conventional tonic water.
But what I really like to use the Commonwealth Tonic Cordial for is a recipe from Bittermens’ site that plays on a Vesper.
Eva Green – Mayur Subbarao’s interpretation of a Vesper
2 1/4 oz Plymouth Gin
3/4 oz Cocchi Americano
1/2 oz Bittermens Commonwealth Tonic Cordial
Stir and serve up in a coupe glass with a lemon twist
The Eva Green has already put a significant dent in my stock of Commonwealth Tonic Cordial and just about cost me all of my Cocchi Americano. Seriously, this is a cocktail that is for you if you like gin, bitter, spirits-only drinks.
As for the Commonwealth Tonic Cordial, I definitely recommend it. There are lots of good choices for tonic water or tonic syrups these days. But if you want a crisp, light tonic without the extra sweetness, the Bittermens bottling is for you.