We've already been enlightened to the flavor and cocktail potential of quinine at its best, thanks to the handful of craft tonic waters--such as Fever-Tree and Q Tonic--that spotlight the ancient bark.
And now there's a new frontier for our quinine fix, sans bubbles: Tonic syrup from just-launched Jack Rudy Cocktail Company.
Made in Charleston, South Carolina, by Brooks Reitz and Matt Burt, the syrup is a bright and biting mixture. The base is infused with white pepper, lemongrass, clove, allspice and orange peel. Reitz first started tinkering with the elixir while working at the lauded bar Proof on Main in Louisville, Kentucky, where it became a staple of the drinks program.
Since moving to Charleston, he's perfected the recipe, selling bottles of the stuff ($16 for 16 ounces) to local restaurants Fig and Husk, and across the country, to San Francisco's RN74 and a growing base of cocktail lovers.
The popularity is entirely founded. Its syrup form offers bartenders more control over dilution and carbonation, for starters. In gin cocktails, it is both refreshing and complex, playing off the herbaceous botanicals of the spirit with fragrantly sweet spice. And it's friendly with other hooch, too: At Husk, it is key in the house gin & tonic (see the recipe); it also meets añejo tequila and grapefruit bitters in the Tequila Sunset (see the recipe), which drinks like the Paloma's older sister.