Quinine is a compound found in the cinchona tree’s bark, and cinchona bark is a key ingredient in tonic water. In large amounts, cinchona is unsafe and can be deadly. Although not illegal, quinine can be dangerous unless professionally sourced and produced, so we are opting to do a tonic without cinchona to err on the side of caution for our readers. We will use other ingredients to create the bitterness that this traditional bark adds.

No-Quinine Tonic Water

Servings: 2 cups


  • 3 cups filtered water divided
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 3 lemongrass stalks chopped (use the bottom 2/3 of the stalks)
  • 1/4 teaspoon citric acid this acts as a preservative
  • 1/4 cup dandelion root
  • 2 cloves star anise
  • 1 cardamom pod cracked
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 4 juniper berries
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar


  • Pour 2 cups of water into a medium-size, nonreactive saucepan. Using a vegetable peeler, add zest from the grapefruit, orange, lemon, and lime. Halve and juice the citrus fruits; add juice to saucepan. Add lemongrass, citric acid, dandelion root, all spices, and salt to the saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover, leaving lid slightly askew, and simmer for 30 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
  • Pour into a large, nonreactive container, such as a Mason jar, and chill for 2 days in the refrigerator, shaking it gently a couple of times a day.
  • Strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer and discard peel and spices. While mixture is straining, make a simple syrup. Combine sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan; heat and stir until sugar completely dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Add simple syrup to strained tonic. Store in the refrigerator.

For tonic mocktail: Add tonic concentrate to sparkling water at a ratio of 1 part tonic to 3 parts water.

Spike it: Stir 2 ounces of gin or vodka with 4 ounces of tonic water in a glass with ice.

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