The Porter’s Tonic Test (with Liberty Endeavour Gin)
You like gin and tonic? You are not alone. One could argue that it is the most popular high-ball on Earth.
Craft cocktails with fun ingredients abound. Many have scoured history books and are reviving every cocktail fit to taste, and even some that died for a reason. Gin was a common spirit during Bartending’s first Golden Era. This resulted in many classic cocktails calling for gin.
People are ever more adventurous and willing to trust guidance from a knowledgable barkeep. This is a relief to everyone that fought so hard to pull Bartending out of its Dark Era.
Recent years have seen an onslaught of new gins from every country that distils spirits enter the market. Styles vary with Old Tom Gin making a return and London Dry Gin regaining traction. New Western Gin styles have emerged with every botanical and maceration you can name.
This is a wonderful thing. But sometimes you want something fun and easy. Like a G&T.
For today’s review we’re mixing Porter’s Tonic Original recipe with the first batch of Endeavour Gin from Liberty Distillery on Granville Island, in Vancouver. This is a London Dry Style gin made from a grain spirit base and 12 botanicals. Our experiments with different gins for the history of Tonic (Tonic – The drug that aided Colonialism) had us conclude that we preferred the taste of London Dry Gin with the Porter’s Tonic.
Fun Fact: Liberty started out as a humble wine merchant shop but grew over the years always tackling new challenges. In 2010 they established their distillery operation. It took a few years to get their products to market so the Endeavour Gin is a new release.
In the Dark Ages of Bartending the levels of quality slipped and cheaply made products dominated. Tonic was no exception. Popular processed brands such as Schweppes and Canada Dry contain heavy doses of high fructose corn syrup, sodium benzoate and contain less than 83 ppm of actual quinine (not enough to have any medical benefit).
Porter’s Tonic is different.
Made from distilled water, organic agave nectar, citric acid, cinchona bark, lemon, lime and lemongrass. That’s it. Hotel Georgia Bartender (and justcocktails.org contributor) Robyn Gray notes that lemongrass is a key ingredient to balance out the flavor of tonic. Most tonic recipes he’s looked up call for it.
NF - “I was given a gift of tonic from a friend and I really liked it”. Looking around she realized a gap, “I started looking for a Canadian version and realized there was a market for it”.
JC – How many differing recipes did you test before you found one that you wanted to bottle?
NF – “I tried at least 6 iterations before landing where I did with the original. During the testing phase I gave it to many friends, food writers and restaurant owners.”
So the result? To our testing panel:
At first glance people notice the rusty color of the Porter’s Tonic. This is the cinchona bark, agave and other ingredients showing through with only solids filtered out. It is interesting that they chose to do a syrup format instead of diluting their base and carbonating it in a bottle. That may come, in the meantime we will enjoy the challenge of finding the right ratio of Porter’s Tonic, Endeavour Gin and soda.
Nose: Citrus, with faintly sweet overtones of ginger ale mixed with antiseptic.
Taste on its own: Bracing bright citrus surrendering to grapefruit pithiness. Subtle minerality. Bitter with a pleasantly astringent mouthfeel and a lingering sweetness. It’s good!
Next we make three different Gin & Tonics using varying measures of the Porter’s Tonic Original syrup (7.5 ml, 15 ml and 30 ml). We use a constant measure of 30 ml Liberty Endeavour Gin. 60 ml Soda water and 3 cubes of identical ice. Lightly stirred.
The 7.5 ml is pleasant. It’s really a great way to have a gin and soda and really explore the flavors of the gin. The 15 ml one absolutely bangs, a perfect harmony of tonic and gin and soda. The 30ml is too sweet and needs fresh lime juice to balance it out. We quickly return to the 15 ml. Adding lime juice to the 15 ml knocks off its balance. So if you’re adding 15 ml lime juice, we say go up to 30 ml Porter’s Tonic.
The only barrier we see to more extensive use is that you’ll need about 750 ml of Porter’s Tonic to throw a decent house party.