The grapefruit tonic hits the spot with a flurry of zesty grapefruit combined with delicate hints of bitterness. Picture:PEXELS
With a plethora of flavours available, it’s perhaps no surprise that mixologists are finding ever-more interesting ways to use the king of quinine: tonic. 

In 2015, we saw a staggering increase in tonic sales, and this elevated tonic’s status to that of a key cocktail ingredient. 

As CEO and co-founder of Fever-Tree Tonic, Tim Warrilow says: “The development of tonic’s flavour profiles, in terms of clarity of taste and the premiumisation of the category, is appealing to consumers beyond just G & T aficionados.”

Tonic is now multifaceted – with a myriad of flavours embracing the science of botanicals, from coriander, elderflower and citrus zests, to smoked varietals, hibiscus, orris root and even chocolate – and now, the new taste of summer, grapefruit. 
The grapefruit tonic hits the spot with a flurry of zesty grapefruit combined with delicate hints of bitterness. Picture: Supplied
From pink wines that go with everything to pink cocktails, it’s all about shades of coral, salmon, rose and blush when it comes to sundowners, afternoon gatherings and late nights out. 

The trend began to play an integral role in mocktails – served simply with ice or a slice of lime or even with cold-pressed juices or cordials. And now it’s evolved at the hands of mixologists.

 “Made with ruby red grapefruit and quinine, grapefruit tonic is refreshingly dry and crisp,” says Owen O’Reilly, South Africa’s Best Bartender – crowned after competing in this year’s Diageo World Class bartending competition. 

“It’s an aesthetically pleasing mixer, and it compliments gin so well because it has a distinctive citrus scent with a sweet and warming hint of orange. The pink grapefruit flavour with the addition of quinine is perfectly rounded to create a refreshingly dry and crisp finish. It is a perfect partner to juniper-heavy or citrus and herbaceous gins,” he says.

One of the new grapefruit tonics on the South African market is Fitch & Leedes. “This new tonic hits the spot with a flurry of zesty grapefruit combined with delicate hints of bitterness, fusing fun and finesse,” says O’Reilly. 

“The new grapefruit tonic is the perfect balance of bitter and sweet and makes for a crisp, refreshing G&T. We love it with our African Botanical Gin, previously known as our Salt River Gin, where it adds a fresh citrus tanginess to balance the fynbos botanicals,” says Lucy Beard of Hope on Hopkins, the craft distillery in Salt River. 

Her perfect serve is one part Hope on Hopkins African Botanical Gin to four parts grapefruit tonic garnished with a slice of grapefruit and a sprig of thyme, or with a few summer berries and mint.
Chinchona premium pink grapefruit tonic water is also a new favourite. O’Reilly says: “It derives its name from the legendary cinchona tree bark, the source of quinine. 

This premium tonic relies on quinine extracts from cinchona bark sourced in the Congo and Peru and a touch of ruby grapefruit to give it the perfect balance between sour and semi-sweet. It’s light in sugar, has an authentic taste and enhances your favourite premium gins. 

There are many ways to enjoy grapefruit tonic. Tavis Kuhn, South Africa’s Best Bartender for Diageo World Class 2018, suggests a tart, citrusy and boozy mix – a grapefruit gin and tonic with a hint of spice. 

“I love infusing cocktails with cosy, aromatic spices,” he says. “You could do this by adding a cardamom-spiced honey syrup to the mix to balance everything out.’’ 

Elderflower grapefruit gin and tonics have taken centre stage. “You can never go wrong with a combination of sweet grapefruit juice, fragrant rosemary, and elderflower liqueur added to a classic gin and tonic, resulting in a fresh, refreshing, and beautiful year-round cocktail,” says Julian Short, mixologist and owner of Sin + Tax Bar in Rosebank, Johannesburg, which recently placed 88th on the 100 World’s Best Bar List.

The grapefruit tonic trend is the perfect accessory to G&Ts and other classic cocktails, and ticks the box as a perfect non-alcoholic alternative – all while offering immune boosting vitamin C and vitamin A.