How to make DIY tonic less bitter?
December 16, 2017 3:43 AM   Subscribe

For Xmas presents, I made a batch of tonic syrup from this website, but it has turned out unbearably bitter. How best to save it?

I multiplied the recipe by six, and converted to metric measurements, so may have messed up there. I also used a dark, powdered bark, and may have got a bit of pith in my zest. Now it might be meant to be this bitter/medicinal – I have a sweet tooth and a dull palate; but all the foodies I would normally ask are the intended recipients. The recipe comments suggest more agave (I definitely added the specified amount, no less), stevia, honey or salt to counter the bitterness. I really don’t want to ditch the batch, and while I’m all for 18th century naval authenticity I don’t want to present my mates with a “gag” gift either. Can anyone recommend the surest strategy? Heaps of thanks in advance.
posted by runincircles to Food & Drink (12 answers total)
Surest strategy I can think of would be to make up another batch the same size but with no bark in it at all, then experiment with mixing small amounts of the too-bitter batch with small amounts of the bark-free batch until you find a mixing ratio that gets the bitterness to where you want it, then mix your final gift batch with that same ratio.

Then, if you've got some of the too-bitter batch left over at the end of that, you can make up another bark-free dilution batch just big enough to use it all up; after that, just adjusting the quantity of bark you use in your recipe according to the same mixing ratio should get you a product you're happy with straight away.
posted by flabdablet at 4:56 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Flabdablet's suggestion is good. If you don't have enough bark left over to do a full second batch, then I'd try sweetening it a bit more --- take a cup (240ml) of the syrup and add a half-cup (120ml) of agave or simple syrup, combine, and see if that helps. I might go simple syrup over agave, actually, it's more intensely sweet.

Also, have you only tasted it as syrup or have you tried it mixed with seltzer and/or in a G&T? Tonic water should be bitter to a degree --- it's possible that a flavor that's far too intense in concentrate mellows out in an actual cocktail.
posted by Diablevert at 5:15 AM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Do you know you like stevia in other things? I find it ruins everything it touches, with a long horrible bitter aftertaste that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. So if you're like me, that might be a factor.
posted by spindrifter at 5:43 AM on December 16, 2017 [12 favorites]

You didn't already add stevia, did you? Don't do that! Madness.

Do like flabdab said, but even simpler: Make a second batch with no bark. Then add in the first batch in small increments, tasting as you go, until you get a flavor profile that you like.

Don't Read The Comments.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:44 AM on December 16, 2017

Dilute with simple syrup and water until you've reached the desired bitterness. Make sure you test it in soda/seltzer as you go.
posted by quince at 9:02 AM on December 16, 2017

First try it with seltzer water as suggested above to see if that mellows it out.
If not, dilute it with simple syrup (1:1 mixture of hot water and sugar or agave nectar, stirred until fully dissolved, then cooled) until it's palatable.
posted by ourobouros at 9:03 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Make a second batch with no bark. Then add in the first batch in small increments, tasting as you go, until you get a flavor profile that you like.

That process assumes that the desired flavour profile will be achieved with at most half the bark that's in the first batch. Doing test mixes with small samples from both batches does not.

In fact what you really should be tasting is G&Ts made with those test mixes, so the total volume of a test mix should be whatever amount you'd normally put in a G&T.
posted by flabdablet at 9:44 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

A note of warning on homemade tonic.
posted by sciencegeek at 10:35 AM on December 16, 2017 [7 favorites]

Maybe I wasn't clear.

1. make a new batch without bark. volume = almost same as prior batch.
2. use the former batch as a flavoring agent for the new batch, adding it incrementally. volume = volume of second, unflavored batch plus whatever amount you put in of old, bitter batch.

This assumes that you like all the citrus (which ratio will stay the same, new and old batch being equal) and just want to adjust the bark situation. And agree with others you want to taste it mixed to see if it really is too bitter, anyway.

how many times can you say "the bigger batch better not be bitter"
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:51 AM on December 16, 2017

I think that flabdablet's point is that mixing the bitter batch into the new can give you, at most, a 1:1 ratio of bitter:new, but it's possible that might not be bitter enough, e.g. you might need twice as much of the bitter batch as new batch in an ideal tonic.
posted by howfar at 11:59 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks very much to everyone who answered. I marked as best answer the ideas that I was able to apply, but much appreciate everyone's considered response.

I couldn't order any more bark powder in time else I would have done the batch dilution thing. Bearing the warnings about stevia, and about the bark in general in mind, I just made a huge pan of syrup (cheaper than more agave) and stirred in my mix till I had a flavoursome but not offensive Xmas pressie about as sweet-sour as pomegranate molasses. Problem solved. Marvellous.
posted by runincircles at 4:02 AM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I couldn't order any more bark powder in time else I would have done the batch dilution thing

Given that the basis of the batch dilution thing was another batch made up without any bark in it whatsoever, I don't really understand how lack of ready access to bark powder would have been an impediment. But I'm glad you got a result you're happy with.
posted by flabdablet at 7:24 AM on December 18, 2017

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