Tonic Review: Bermondsey Tonic Water

One of the things I hear over and over again when it comes to gin are the words

‘I don’t like gin’.

Then generally a conversation follows, along these lines:

‘Oh dear. What gins have you tried?’

‘Gordon’s, Bombay. Didn’t like gin and tonic’.

It’s then a little lightbulb goes off in my head. Most of the time when someone says they don’t like gin, it’s not the gin they dislike, it’s the tonic. Not always, but if you’ve only ever tried Gordon’s and Schweppes, you’re really missing a trick. 

There are over 500 gins in the world, and like beer, wine and any other spirit, there’ll be one out there that you like, I pretty much guarantee it.

As for tonics… We’re learning. Originally tonic wasn’t anything like the commercial tonics we see today. they were medicinal (as was gin) and drunk as a malaria preventative. Now most commercial tonics contain lots of sugar, corn syrup and sweeteners such as aspartame and bear no relation to the original drink.

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Away from tonic, you can drink gin straight (I do most often), in cocktails, or with ginger beer, cranberry juice, apple juice or in a Gin Rickey (lime and soda). You can even put it in Prosecco. Yes, you heard me right, try it, maybe with a splash of apple juice or elderflower cordial.

But we changing. There are more and more tonics appearing on the market, offering different flavours, styles and tastes. One of those that’s finally made it’s way up north from that there London is  BTW, or Bermondsey Tonic Water

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I have to admit to knowing about Bermondsey around 12 months ago, when I was invited to an event. The downside, was that the event was in London and at short notice, and disappointingly, there was no way I could attend. 

Luckily, fate intervened and at the recent Boutique Bar Show, I bumped into them and (with permission obviously) filled my handbag with tonics to play with. 

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BTW sell the tonic in two forms. Bottled tonic water and tonic syrup. The tonic water itself is tea coloured and similar on the palate, the bitterness you normally expect from a tonic is more like a light black tea. It’s gentle.

There’s a little sweetness, but only a little, and a little citrus. But it’s very easy going and I could happily drink it on it’s own. But what about with gin? I enlisted the help of my own back bar and Atlas Bar in the city centre (given they have over 150 gins, it was always going to be fun).  2015-05-24 20.55.02

We began with a some recommendations from BTW themselves. Martin Millers, Portobello Road and Moonshine Kid. A shot of gin. Now for a little tonic. 

Martin Millers became almost savoury in nature, great for me, but not for everyone. Portobello Road sweetened, but Moonshine Kid became so drinkable you wouldn’t have known you were on alcohol. 

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Danger Will Robinson, danger.

We then pondered our last splash from the bottle and alternatives from the back bar. We leant more towards Bulldog Gin, or Caorunn, as both have an innate floral quality that this tonic wouldn’t kill. We couldn’t choose both. After much deliberating we picked Caorunn.

Oh my. The apple is enhanced, as are the florals. Caorunn and BTW together are fabulous, there’s even a hint of marmalade. 

This seems to me to be a tonic, for those who don’t like tonic.

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Returning to my last bottle at home, I eyed up the bottles on my shelves. I wanted a good range of gins to play with, so went with Langtons (for something light), Larios (for something floral, with good juniper and citrus notes) and Batch (for spiciness). 

I poured and sampled. 

I can’t find a gin this doesn’t go with.

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The juniper in the Larios was gentled slightly, which allowed the orangeflower and citrus to come through.

The Langtons became a little sweeter, but you could still detect the softness and the citrus. It became almost too drinkable.

And the Batch Gin? Wow. It removed the peppery edge, gentle softening it, and letting the quieter flavours dominate. It’s possibly my favourite with this tonic so far. 

But then again… With over 4000 in existence, I could be a while making sure.

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With thanks to BTW for the samples, and Atlas Bar for letting us trial the bottle with them.  

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