The best tonic water.

Rob, aka Mr. Boston, noticed the proliferation of artisanal cocktail ingredients at our local wine and liquor shop. Our bar is stocked with interesting (if trendy) ingredients like St. Germain (lovely in champagne or as a cocktail addition) and Cinzano Bianco (a sweet vermouth that’s a nice aperitif over ice with a lemon twist). Rob also picked up another vermouth called Carpano Antica, which we sampled at The Rookwood, a Mt. Adams restaurant whose bartenders shake up some serious drinks with homemade ingredients. has a great review of sweet vermouths that includes this note about Carpano Antica:

… this shit has a cork, a box, metal seal, the works. A lot of hoopla for an apertif that’s fairly difficult to find but not outrageously expensive. But how does it taste, you ask? It’s terribly good, and I use it strictly as an apertif.

More on Carpano Antica in an upcoming post about the ultimate Manhattan cocktail. This is about mixers; specifically, tonic water. Rob spotted several upscale tonic waters recently, and we decided to do a taste test. All come in small, single-serve glass bottles (eliminating the disheartening flatness you get when you taste a vodka-and-tonic that’s been made with too-old water). They’re spendy. But, really, why not spend money on cocktail ingredients?

  • Fentimans: Our favorite: Intensely flavored with ginger and herbs, nicely carbonated. You never knew tonic actually had so much taste. The most expensive of the four.
  • Q: The fizziest of the four, with a nice crisp flavor that makes a refreshing drink. It’s made with agave instead of sugar, so it has a light sweetness and is on the dry side.
  • Fever Tree: In a tie with Q. A clean, crisp taste that mixes well.
  • Stirrings: our fourth choice, a bit sweet for my taste. Still vastly better than the stuff that comes in a plastic bottle.

Our next task is to decide a favorite between Q and Fever Tree. I know: poor us.

UPDATE: After a third round of taste-testing that pitted Q and Fever Tree against each other, we decided that we prefer Fever Tree. Q is drier, and while I like its crispness by itself, I think Fever Tree’s slight sweetness makes a more balanced cocktail mixed with vodka and lime.


3 thoughts on “The best tonic water.

  1. I tried Q after finding it at Party Source and loving the bottle — the taste didn’t work for me, though. I will have to try Fentimans and Fever Tree!

  2. Follow-up report on our Tonic Tasting: We did a face-off last night with Fever Tree and Q, and Fever Tree came out on top. Both are brightly carbonated; Q is a bit drier, so if you like a drink that’s more crisp and sharp, that’s for you. We liked the slight sweetness of the Fever Tree balanced against the lime in our drinks.

    On a related note: We found 9.3-ounce bottles of Fentimans at The Party Source in Covington, KY, for the same $1.69 price as the 5-ounce bottles that we’d previously found there.

  3. Fever tree is amazing in a gin or vodka tonic……..much enhanced with the use of an out of the freezer stainless straw. Serves as a swizzle stick and adds an icy sip! Too darn cool!