Tonic Water

by Mark Marowitz

[Mark Marowitz, special correspondent for "The Museum of the American Cocktail" recently talked with Brian Van Flandern regarding the custom Tonic Water that he serves at Bemmelman’s Bar at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City]

Brian Van Flandern has long been a fixture in the New York City bar scene. He is an intense young man blessed with an ice melting smile.

Brian has always stressed fresh juices and first class ingredients as essential before a cocktail is presented to one of his patrons. He is the founder of "Creative Cocktail Consultants". The firm’s raison d’être is to educate corporate bartenders in how to create consistently well balanced and great tasting cocktails.

In an effort to recreate the classic cocktail "Gin and Tonic", Brian asked himself, "what the heck is tonic anyway?” The tonic waters available in the US market were simply unacceptable to Brian so he set out to make his own. After much effort he found a suitable quinine powder to suit his palate, Cinchona Succirubra from Raintree, a Brazilian quinine supplier.

Brian now set about the task of making a first class G & T. He explains that the glycerin in the spirit helps the quinine powder to dissolve. Acid and sugar and gin, three sharp flavors, compete for attention and the bubbles of the charged water bring the whole thing into focus. At Bemmelman’s Bar San Pellegrino is the bottled water of choice. The Gin he chose to mix with this specific water is Tanqueray 10. Brian explains that, for him, Tanqueray 10’s aromatic intense juniper profile and fresh botanicals are complemented by San Pellegrino. With TyNant’s sparkling water Brian chose Junipero to create the proper G & T.

He began by adding fresh squeezed lime juice, simple syrup and quinine powder into a mixing glass. These ingredients were shaken sans spirit or ice to emulsify them completely. The Gin and then the ice were added and the mixture was shaken again. The cocktail was then strained into an ice cube filled Collins glass and topped off with San Pellegrino. A lime wedge served as garnish.

The aroma of gin and quinine are striking as the glass was lifted, for the first sip. Upon tasting, the robust quinine and Tanqueray 10 were a memorable, lip smacking and refreshing treat. The finish is dry and stimulating. The last question I posed to Brian was, "why wait for summer?”

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