Tonic is most often associated as a mixer for gin and vodka, but you don’t have to let those classic choices have all the fun. Rum, tequila and even brandy can all be combined with tonic for a quick infusion of effervescence and flavor.
Elana Abt, a wine director and sommelier, created the Summer Tonic while working at the now-closed Otto in New York. She wanted to add a rum-based cocktail to the menu but keep the refreshing Gin & Tonic in mind. “Rum just feels like summer, and my guests typically order more rum cocktails this time of year,” she says. “I thought, ‘Why not create a cool rum version of the classic G&T.’”
And that’s exactly what she did, beginning with richly flavored Mount Gay rum from Barbados. She paired that with Borgia Bitter Rosso, a bright-red aperitif flavored with gentian flower and gentian root. This unique liqueur acts like Campari and other bitter red liqueurs when mixed into drinks, so if you can’t find Borgia, you can try a substitute for similar results. Fresh lemon juice adds bright citrusy balance, and Fever-Tree aromatic tonic water brings a vivid little extra to the cocktail. Its pink color is courtesy of South American angostura bark, and its aromatic botanicals include cardamom, pimento berry and ginger, lending spiced notes that differentiate it from the typical citrus-forward profile of most tonics.
Add a rosemary sprig garnish for an extra dose of fragrance with each sip, and the Summer Tonic provides everything you love about the G&T—minus the gin.
- 1 1/2 ounces Mount Gay rum
- 1 ounce Bordiga Bitter Rosso amaro
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 4 ounces Fever-Tree aromatic tonic water, chilled, to top
- Garnish: rosemary sprig
Fill a large snifter with ice, then add the rum, amaro and lemon juice.
Top with the tonic water and stir briefly and gently to combine.
Garnish with a rosemary sprig.