Tonic Water Showdown: Which one is the best?

When I shared my version of the best gin and tonic, I mentioned that I conducted a blind tonic water tasting. Since tonic water is an important cocktail ingredient, I figured it would be good to share with you the results of the blind tasting and tell you again which one was voted the best tonic water for cocktails.

best tonic water for cocktails

The tasters were me, my mom and my husband. My two kids also joined in but only the ten year old was helpful. My four year old was quite the opposite.

The five tonic waters we tasted were Q Superior Tonic Water, Fever Tree’s Premium Indian Tonic Water, Fentimans TraditionalTonic Water, Schweppes (the regular one, not the diet version) and Jefferey Morgenthaler’s homemade tonic syrup with Crystal Geyser Sparkling Mineral Water.

Because the homemade tonic has a dark color, we were blindfolded for the tasting. Here are the results…

Tonic water blind tasting notes

fever tree tonic waterFever Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water: Made from spring water, cane sugar, citric acid, natural flavors and natural quinine. 21.6 grams of sugar and 90 calories per 8 ounces.

This one was found to have be heavy on the quinine with a little bit of citrus flavors and a bitter finish.

q tonic waterQ Superior Tonic Water: Made from carbonated water, organic agave, natural bitters, handpicked quinine and lemon juice extract. 11 grams of sugar and 38 calories per 8 ounces.

This one was found to smell a bit like Sprite, had a weird quinine taste, was a bit sweet at first then bitter. The citrus scent did not carry through to the taste.

fentimans tonic waterFentimans Traditional Tonic Water: Made from carbonated water, cane sugar, citric acid, tonic flavor (water, lemon oil, ethanol, lemongrass oil) and quinine. 29 grams of sugar and 73 calories per 9.3 ounces.

This one was found to have a citrus aromas, almost to the point of being like Pine Sol. It had a chemical aftertaste that was very unappealing.

schweppes tonic waterSchweppes Tonic Water: Made from water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, sodium benzoate, quinine and natural flavors. 32 grams of sugar and 130 calories per 4 ounces.

This one was very bubbly and sweet. The aromas were similar to Sprite and it tasted like an off-brand lemon lime soda.

homemade tonicHomemade tonic syrup with sparkling mineral water: Made from water, lemongrass, fresh lime juice and zest, fresh orange juice and zest, fresh lemon juice and zest, cinchona bark, allspice berries, citric acid, kosher salt and agave nectar. I don’t know the nutritional information for this one but I did use less of the agave nectar than the recipe calls for.

This one was found to have a very unique aroma compared to the rest of them. It was a little citrus and tart but nothing really stood out as overwhelming. The taste was a bit tart and it didn’t have strong quinine notes. It had a heavier mouth-feel than the others.

Best tonic water for cocktails

The homemade tonic water was voted hands down, the best tonic water. It didn’t have any chemical aftertaste or too much sweetness like some of the others.

Overall Rankings:

1st – Homemade
2nd – Fever Tree
3rd – Schweppes
Tied for last – Fentimans and Q Superior

My thoughts on the results

I wasn’t surprised that the homemade version won the tasting for the best tonic water for cocktails. We all already knew that it was good. However, my surprise came from the low ranking of Q Tonic Water. I thought that this one would rank higher as I’d had it before in a vodka and tonic and thought it was tasty. I also like the ingredients of Q better than the other store bought versions.

I was not surprised that Schweppes was found to be very sweet since it’s made with high fructose corn syrup. I had a really hard time even buying this one because I steer clear of everything made from that crap.

If you are a fan of drinks with tonic water, I highly suggest you make your own. Not only does it taste so much better than the store bought versions, you can also tweak the recipe to suit your favorite spirits. However, if you find yourself in need of buying tonic water, I’d have to suggest going with Fever Tree.

Did the results of your favorite brand of tonic water surprise you? 


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Jessica Torres is the chief cocktail creator here at One Martini. Outside of the internet, she works at DEATH & TAXES (a bar) and midtown eats (a restaurant) in Reno, Nevada. When not working, Jessica can be found working out, spending time with her family or attempting to nap. Subscribe to our newsletter to get all of the latest cocktail creations delivered directly to your inbox.
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