As bartenders, we often get the question, "Does the brand of tonic water matter?" That depends. Are you a fussy bitch?
I would never go into a person’s house or a bar and snub my nose at generic tonic water. I grew up with Schweppes and Canada Dry, and they taste just fine to me. I’m not implying that I was drinking gin and tonics as a child; I’m saying that when I was 21 years old, I wasn’t spending $6.69 plus a 30-cent bottle deposit on a four-pack of 12 ounce Q Tonic when a liter of Polar tonic water costs only $.89.
You get what you pay for. When you buy fancier tonics, you can revel in the fact that you are drinking hand-picked quinine, whatever that means, and no high fructose corn syrup.
That said, Leah and I did a tonic taste-test for all of you fussy bitches out there, making gin-and-tonics with the best gin we had in the house: Hendrick’s. Here’s our report:
Schweppes: So sweet and smooth, you could almost drink it without gin. Almost.
Polar: Sweet, but metallic and thinner compared to Schweppes.
Q: A hint of lemon, kind of like 7UP, with a bitter finish. Sweetened with agave syrup.
Stirrings: Lighter and cleaner. A hint of lemon rind, and also a bitter finish. Contains cane sugar.
Fever-Tree: Less lemon, not too sweet, allowing the gin’s unique personality to shine through. Cane sugar.
Our conclusion? If you are going to drink cheap booze, stick with cheap tonic. For high shelf booze, try Q or Stirrings to bring out the best in your liquor, or our favorite because it was less lemon-y, Fever-Tree. Try your own taste-test and see what you think. For the record, we found Fever-Tree at Wegmans, the Vatican of grocery stores.