After a rough day, I decided to stop into the store and pick up some more of Fever-Tree’s bitter lemon, and while there happened upon a bottle of Tomr’s Tonic, a concentrated tonic syrup of sorts. You simply mix it with soda water (1 part tonic to 3 parts soda water), and you suddenly have a delicious, artisanal tonic water!
I used to be quite the gin or vodka tonic drinker once upon a time, though I enjoy those simple drinks on rare occasions now. This isn’t because I don’t enjoy them (well, truth be told I can’t see the point in vodka tonics anymore, unless you have tragically run out of gin), but rather because I just can’t be bothered to keep tonic water on hand. What inevitably happens is I buy a bottle because I’m craving a G&T, have one or two, then the bottle promptly takes up space in the fridge, not so slowly going flat until the next time I decide I’d like a G&T, and find the decidedly not effervescent tonic taunting me. So, a concentrated tonic syrup that I can mix into the ubiquitous soda water (of which I keep a few bottles stocked at any given time, and very rarely let go flat) seemed like a great idea. Add to that a more “rich, earthy, and exotic” flavor as their website promises, and there you go; sale made. So, bottle of Tomr’s in hand, I already had decided to forgo the simple gin and bitter lemon I had planned for this hot summer’s evening, in favor of a G&T. But then I started looking at the cloudy, sediment laden elixir, and thought, well, there’s nothing saying I have to mix this with soda water…
On the long drive through traffic home, I started thinking more and more about this, and tonic water in general. Images of colonial India, transplanted Brits in stifling Victorian ceremonial uniforms, spices, and increasingly as the drive went on, hot, humid days. From those thoughts came the idea of this cocktail, whose name came along just as easily as the proportions, which are unaltered from my first thoughts. Ladies and gents, I present the Eastern Empire martini:
- 2 parts Plymouth Gin
- 0.5 parts Lillet Blanc
- 1+ bar spoon of Tomr’s Tonic
- 1 bar spoon of Stirrings ginger liqueur
I combined all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and a generous lemon peel, and stirred until well chilled. I opted to stir this rather than shake it, because I didn’t want the drink to be so cold that you lost some of the more subtle flavors of all ingredients involved. Plymouth Gin is without a doubt my favorite all around gin. While not as dry as the ubiquitous London Dry style gins, it’s dryer than many of the botanical heavy gins that I love and often keep on hand. The juniper note isn’t incredibly pronounced, but I find it more present in Plymouth than New Amsterdam, which I always keep on hand as an inexpensive, inoffensive mixing gin.
Lillet, aside from being a key ingredient in James Bond’s Vesper martini, is a French apéritif wine. While the Kina Lillet called for in the Vesper is no longer produced, Lillet Blanc is its modern, less bitter incarnation. It’s made of a blend of wines, fortified with macerated liqueurs, largely citrus in nature, as well as Cinchona bark, which contains quinine, the key ingredient in tonic water. It’s for this reason, as well as a general preference for its taste, that I chose it for the Eastern Empire.
The ginger is very faint in this, and largely serves to sweeten the drink. I’m not certain the drink could do without it, though I think you’d be hard pressed to identify it as an ingredient without being told. I used Stirrings for the spice and bite, though if I had a bottle of The King’s Ginger, I think I would have used it, as it has a similar bite, but also has a wonderful citrus note. If I had, I probably would have foregone stirring the drink with the lemon peel in the mix, and may have even dropped the citrus as a garnish.
The Tomr’s Tonic holds up well in this, and is really what makes it more than a simple martini. The bitter quinine taste lingers on the tongue and lips, and there is definitely a distinctly earthy taste that warms the drink. Additionally, it gives the drink a lovely golden color, though if you don’t drink it fast enough, you’ll find a bit of the sediment from the concentrated tonic separating out.
All said and done, I’m quite a fan of this one, and can see it becoming a regular drink for me. If you’re a fan of G&T’s, but haven’t made the leap to gulping down martinis like Dino, this might be just the drink to bridge the gap into the world of the martini. While it is refreshing on a hot day, I think it’d be equally enjoyable any time of year.