Step aside, gin: craft tonic is becoming the trend to watch in Mzansi. Think fine ingredients, low-sugar content, and beautiful, interesting flavours. We count down five local tonics that will pair especially well with some local gin this summer.
This Paarl-based premium tonic producer creates two different tonics using all-natural ingredients. Their Finest Indian tonic water is made using natural quinine from the Democratic Republic of Congo, with citrus fruit extracts and Indian spices like cardamom and star anise. The flavours are then mixed with spring water from the Breede River Valley to create a classic clear mixer free of artificial sweeteners and flavourants. Keeping with the trend of low-sugar drinks, Barker and Quin have also released the Light at Heart tonic, which is lower in sugar and calories, for a guilt-free refresher. You’ll find Barker and Quin at spots like Distillery 031 in Durban, Wilderer Distillery at Spice Route, and Proof Wine Bar in Somerset West.
This Durban-based distillery, bar and restaurant produces some award-winning spirits, including their Durban Dry Gin with African botanicals. In the search for preservative-free mixers, the team set out to add some traditional non-alcoholic tonics to the mix. The 031 Tonic Cordial is hand-crafted using a traditional Victorian recipe. Their small-batch process uses natural quinine bark, citrus and botanicals to create a preservative-free tonic in cordial form. Simply add to your favourite gin with some soda water to create the perfect G&T.
The Cape Dry Tonic from Little Wolf Brewery offers a bit of hipster charm with its packaging. The Brewery is located in Kommetijie and, while they’re known for their craft beer and cider, their classy tonic and sodas are not to be missed. The tonic is made using quinine from the bark of a cinchona tree, which gives it its crisp, bitter flavour and golden colour. To add a little something extra, some citrus zest, lemongrass, lime leaves and allspice are added. You can find the Little Wolf brand at places like The Gin Bar, Bacon on Bree, The Mash Tun, and Mulberry & Prince.
This pretty little bottle comes from the team behind Swartland’s AA Badenhorst Family Wines, who were inspired by the need they saw for a quality hand-crafted tonic. The spring water-based mixer has much less added sugar, a gentle fizz and is packed with botanicals of quinine, lime, cardamom and mint. While they recommend pairing it with Caperitif, it works equally beautifully with any great local gin. You can sip on Swaan at eateries and bars such as Craft in Parkhurst, The Gin Bar in Cape Town, and Mama Cucina in Riebeek Kasteel.
Jean-Baptiste Cristini – the brain behind the brand Geometric Drinks – has been making waves with his beautiful new grape-based gin and equally stunning tonics. Jean-Baptiste has created a range of tonic concentrates under the Symmetry label, which include three variants: a buchu-based Citrus Tonic; spice- and kapokbos-based Spice Tonic; and a lavender, chamomile and rose pelargonium-based Floral Tonic. The concentrates, when diluted in sparkling water, contain a quarter of the sugar of regular tonics, leaving you with a beautifully balanced drink. You’ll find these tonics at spots like Urbanologi in Joburg and The Test Kitchen in Cape Town.