Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cinchona vs. Quassia Tonic Syrup

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.

Taste Test:  

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.

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