How to Make Tonic Water: A Step-by-Step Guide


Greetings, fellow enthusiasts of homemade beverages! After a long day at work or play, nothing beats the refreshing taste of a crisp, cold glass of tonic water. Besides, what better way to impress your friends than by mixing up a batch of homemade tonic to use in your various cocktails and beverages?

However, making tonic water from scratch can seem like a daunting task. Fear not! In this article, we will equip you with everything you need to know about making tonic water, from the ingredients and equipment to the step-by-step process. Let’s get started!

What is Tonic Water?

Tonic water is a carbonated beverage that has been infused with quinine, a bitter compound derived from the bark of the cinchona tree. The first tonic waters were used by British colonial officers in India as a way to prevent and treat malaria. Nowadays, tonic water is a common mixer used in cocktails and enjoyed on its own.

While commercial brands of tonic water are readily available, they often contain high amounts of sugar and artificial preservatives. Making tonic water at home allows you to control the ingredients and create a healthier, more flavorful drink.

The Ingredients

Before we begin, let’s take a look at the ingredients you will need to make tonic water at home:

Ingredient Amount
Citric acid 1/4 tsp
Cinchona bark 1/4 cup
Lemon zest 1 lemon
Lime zest 1 lime
Lemongrass 1 stalk
Juniper berries 1/4 cup
Coriander seeds 1/4 cup
Water 4 cups
Honey 1 cup

Aside from these main ingredients, you will also need some cheesecloth, a fine-mesh strainer, and some bottles or jars to store your finished product.

The Process

Now that we have all the ingredients, let’s go through the process of making tonic water step-by-step:

Step 1: Prep Work

Begin by gathering all your ingredients and equipment together. Cut the lemon and lime zest into thin strips and crush the juniper berries and coriander seeds lightly with a mortar and pestle.

Once all the prep work is done, tie up the cinchona bark and lemongrass in a piece of cheesecloth.

Step 2: Infusing the Flavors

In a saucepan, combine the water, honey, and tied-up cheesecloth bundle. Heat the mixture on low heat until the honey is dissolved. Once it’s dissolved, turn up the heat to medium-low and let the mixture simmer for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 20 minutes, remove the cheesecloth bundle and add the crushed juniper berries, coriander seeds, lemon and lime zest, and citric acid to the mixture. Let the mixture simmer for another 15 minutes.

Step 3: Straining and Bottling

After 15 minutes, remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool down to room temperature. Once it’s cooled down, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any solids or impurities.

Pour the strained tonic water into bottles or jars and store them in the fridge for up to 1 month. Enjoy!

Advantages and Disadvantages of Making Tonic Water at Home


The main advantages of making tonic water at home are:

1. Control Over Ingredients

When you make tonic water at home, you have complete control over the ingredients. You can use high-quality and natural ingredients, avoid additives, and adjust the sweetness and bitterness to your liking.

2. Healthier Option

Making tonic water at home allows you to avoid the high amounts of sugar found in many commercial brands. Also, since you’re using natural ingredients, you’re creating a healthier drink overall.

3. Saves Money

Commercial brands of tonic water can be expensive, especially if you use them frequently for cocktails or other beverages. Making your tonic water at home can be a cost-saving option.


The main disadvantages of making tonic water at home are:

1. Time-Consuming

The process of making tonic water at home can be time-consuming, especially if you’re new to it. You’ll need to gather all the ingredients, do some prep work, and follow the step-by-step process.

2. Risk of Spoilage

Since you’re not using any artificial preservatives, homemade tonic water has a shorter shelf life than commercial brands. It’s important to store your homemade tonic water in the fridge and consume it within a month.

3. A Learning Curve

Making tonic water at home requires some knowledge and experimentation to get the flavor just right. You may need to adjust the ingredients or the process a few times until you find the perfect recipe for you.

FAQs about Making Tonic Water

1. Can I use powdered cinchona bark instead of whole bark?

Yes, powdered cinchona bark can be used instead of whole bark. However, the recommended ratio is 1 tablespoon of powdered bark for every 1/4 cup of whole bark.

2. What can I use instead of honey?

You can use other natural sweeteners like agave syrup, maple syrup, or stevia. Keep in mind that using a different sweetener may affect the overall taste.

3. How long does homemade tonic water last?

Homemade tonic water can last up to 1 month if stored properly in the fridge.

4. Can I experiment with different flavors?

Yes, feel free to experiment with different flavors and ingredients to create your unique tonic water recipe. Just make sure to follow the basic process and adjust the ratio of ingredients accordingly.

5. Can I use a soda maker to carbonate my tonic water?

Yes, you can use a soda maker to carbonate your tonic water after you’ve made it. It’s a great way to add some fizzy bubbles without having to buy a separate carbonation machine.

6. Can I use bottled lemon and lime juice instead of fresh zest?

In general, fresh zest will give your tonic water a more authentic and flavorful taste. However, if fresh zest isn’t available, you can use bottled lemon and lime juice instead.

7. Can I make tonic water without quinine?

Quinine is a crucial ingredient in tonic water as it gives it its distinctive bitter taste. However, if you don’t want to use quinine, you can experiment with other bitter ingredients like grapefruit peel or gentian root.

8. Can I use a slow cooker to make tonic water?

No, using a slow cooker to make tonic water isn’t recommended. The heat from the slow cooker may not be high enough to extract the flavors from the ingredients properly.

9. Can I use this tonic water recipe for medicinal purposes?

This recipe is intended for culinary use only and isn’t recommended for medicinal purposes. Consult a healthcare professional for any medical concerns.

10. Can I use this tonic water as a standalone drink?

Yes, you can enjoy homemade tonic water on its own as a refreshing, carbonated drink.

11. How long does the infusion process take?

The total infusion process, including the simmering and cooling time, takes around 1 hour.

12. Is it necessary to use cheesecloth?

While using cheesecloth isn’t strictly necessary, it’s recommended as it makes it easier to remove the cinchona bark and lemongrass from the mixture.

13. Can I adjust the sweetness and bitterness of the tonic water?

Yes, you can adjust the sweetness and bitterness of the tonic water by adding more or less honey and cinchona bark, respectively. Keep in mind that small adjustments can make a big difference in the overall flavor.


Now that you know how to make tonic water from scratch, it’s time to try it out yourself and enjoy the delicious, refreshing taste of homemade tonic water. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors and adjust the ingredients to your liking.

Remember, making tonic water at home may take time and effort, but the results are worth it. You’ll have complete control over the ingredients, a healthier drink, and a unique recipe that’s sure to impress. So go ahead and try it out, and let us know how it goes!

Closing Disclaimer

The information in this article isn’t intended to replace or substitute professional advice or treatment. Consult a healthcare professional or knowledgeable expert before using any natural or herbal remedies. The author and publisher of this article aren’t responsible for any adverse reactions or consequences resulting from the use of the recipes and information contained herein.

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