The cinchona bark I ordered came in the mail, so I decided to have a taste test between the cinchona and the quassia tonic syrups.
I made two tonic syrups using the standard Morgenthaler recipe with a few adjustments to my taste. I used 1/4 the amount of quassia (1 1/2 teaspoons) than chincona (2 Tablespoons), otherwise, all the other ingredients were identical:
2 1/4 Cup water
zest of one lime
zest of one lemon
one lemongrass stalk (almost 1/4 cup)
2 Tablespoons citric acid
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries (about 10 berries)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Boil for 20 minutes, then strain. This coffee filter/french press combo worked well:
I also let them sit overnight in the fridge to let the particulates settle. Then I carefully decanted the top 8 ounces and dumped the last bit (less than one ounce).
I brought the 1 cup of tea to a boil and added 3/4 Cup agave syrup. When it was cooled, I had about 12 ounces of syrup.
The cinchona wins on the most important factor: It tastes better. It has more character. The quassia is so bitter that I can only use a small amount; any other flavors the bark might have is too dilute to taste.
But quassia does make a perfectly tasty tonic and is an adequate substitute for cinchona. It has a few other factors in it's favor:
- It's easier to obtain.
- It's cheaper. It's half the cost per pound, plus it's available in smaller quantities, plus you use only 1/4 as much per batch. I could only find cinchona by the pound for @ $36. I could buy 4 oz. of quassia for @ $4. I can make the same number of batches for 1/9th the cost.
- It's color is more like standard tonic.