A Proper Tonic


It seems like forever ago when I first wrote about Quina Fina. For Australian drinkers though, there is big news afoot, Quina Fina can be found lurking behind some of the best bars in Sydney (as well as at my house.)

Why should you care? Because you should really be drinking more tonic, and in sugar-obsessed Sydney, this is a much better choice than your stalwart Schweppes.

Most of you will be familiar with the traditional Gin & Tonic but you should also be considering pairing up a selection from the aperitif or vermouth sections of your drinking options. I’m loving Campari Spritzers right now. dress up a wine glass at home with a handful of ice and herbs from the garden, a measure of Campari and a splash of Quina Fina. Serve it up with a bottle so your guests can alleviate your heavy or light handedness as required.
Twitter4a8d810_jpgYou might also like to try the Queena Fina, equal measures gin and Dubonnet, tall over ice, topped with tonic and a lemon slice.

From the cavernous mind of Jacob Briars, the drink references HRH and her mothers preference for the delightfully frolicsome interplay between the two core ingredients. Again, typically for a Briars drink it comes with it’s very own historical conundrum over what sort of gin to use. While Tanqueray holds the Royal Warrant (a purchased peerage, rumour has it) the Queen Mother would have developed her taste for the beverage on Gordons, albeit at a higher ABV than currently ships around the globe.

Trying both seems the only sensible solution.

Talk to Vanguard if you’d like this in your bar in Australia, if you’d like this at home you’ll need a friend in the industry or to be willing to endure some Dad jokes. or go to Camperdown Cellars Parramatta rd, Elizabeth Bay Cellars, Salt meats Cheese in Sydney (thanks James)

Cocktail, Spirit

The third drink of Christmas: Gin

I’m going to go out on a limb and say Gin gets a bad wrap. Seen by many as a depressant, Gin has languished in a heady iniquity since the Industrial Revolution. At the time, Gin was a drink of the poor, consumed by young and old to numb the senses from the horrors of pollution and poverty. The wealthy and the powerful sipped of malt whisky, further condemning the English spirit through regulated taxation.

Despite these obstacles, Gin has maintained a presence in many historical high notes. The most famous dispensing machine, Old Tom, was located in the same lane whence started the Greate Olde Fyre of Londyn. A coincidence? I think not.

On a more personal note, Gin is Christmas to me, from the tickle of delight on my Nana’s face as she enjoyed a prune that had been soaked in gin, or as the fuel for the Grandad to get through the feast day, the juniperous distillate has been ever present.


One of my neighbours growing up started the day with a 8 ounce glass of neat Gin that he distilled in his back shed. I’m guessing that is a little sharp for many these days, so let’s kick things off with a Corpse Reviver Number Two. Equal measures of Gin (I like Beefeater in this drink, but make your own call,) Lillet Blanc (no substitutions here, Cinzano Blanco just won’t do,) freshly squeezed lemon juice and Cointreau (or Triple Sec in a pinch.) Combine the ingredients in a shaker over ice, shake and strain into a coupe that has been rinsed with absinthe. Repeat until you are revived.

The Breakfast Martini is also worth a lash, add a couple of teaspoons of Marmalade to 60mls of Gin, ice, shake and strain up. I like Rose’s Lime Marmalade for this one, but if you have soem made by a relative that is probably much more appropriate at Christmas.

The Earl Grey Martini too, deserves a mention. It does require a little extra effort. Infuse a bottle of gin with 4 tea bags of Earl Grey tea. Try running the bottle under the hot tap first to warm the Gin and speed the process. You need to go by taste here, too long and the Gin will turn and begin to taste chalky, too little and it just won’t be right. The SOUTH Gin by 42Below works amazingly in this role, and at 27 bucks in duty free it is an economical choice too. 60mls of the infused Gin, 20 mls fresh lemon juice and 15-20mls simple syrup will have a supremely tasty drink on deck.


Gins & Tonic are made for a kiwi summer. 60mls of your favourite Gin, three squeezes of fresh, local citrus in a well iced short glass and between 90-150mls of tonic, Qunia Fina if you’re lucky like me.

Tom Collins for those wanting something a touch sweeter and a lot longer. a decent slug of gin, a shot of lemon and a slug of simple syrup or oleo-saccharin, in one of those tall glasses called a Collins glass after this drink. Top with soda and garnish with wedges of lemon.

I’d also recommend the Negroni (really at any time of day,) The Gin & It for a more refined drink,


The 20th Century Cocktail, The Last Word, The Dry Martini, The Monkey Gland. There are simply too many to choose from. Buy a cocktail book and go nuts.

New Zealand

Global Product Exclusive: Quina Fina Tonic Water

I mentioned in my tribute to Prof. Jacob Briars that he was looking to add a little effervescence to the tonic market. On my recent trip across the Tasman, I was lucky enough to try the first production run of this fantastic little product.

Quina Fina refers to the highest grade of Loxa or Crown Bark available to European commerce during the Colonial Period. You can read about all that here in an 1854 manual of natural medicinal extracts, should you wish.

I digress however, from the purpose of this post. The tonic itself is rather grand, my sample was a touch low on the presence of bead, a malady that should find remedy when production runs are the same size as the vat in which they’re mixed.  The taste is less sweet than most, with a conscious choice to cut the level of sugar. Balance is achieved by the addition of more Quinine, the end product nestles into Gin like the Colonies to Mother England’s bosom.

Any of you who’ve ordered  Gins & Tonic in an Asian nightclub or a Stripclub will be aware that Quinine fluoresces in the presence of UV light. It is a mark of the sheer volume of the bark extract that Briars has included that his product has a hefty bluish tinge in the presence of an overcast Auckland evening. The brown bottle, more than a point of visual difference, protects these elevated levels to ensure anyone lucky enough to be sipping one of these beauties outside will experience this angels touch. Golden Dawn at 134 Ponsonby Rd might be a good place to start…

Currently you’ll only find this gem behind the bars of the finest New Zealand watering holes. Jacob’s entrepreneurial flair should see  distribution increase directly, so keep a vigilant watch and ask your trusty bartender. If you do find it, they’ll give you the rest of the bottle alongside your drink as part of the ritual.

Plymouth was delightful in a pairing with my sample, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays with a host of others over the Christmas period.