Coming Soon: Why You Should NOT Be Making Your Own Tonic

Gin & Tonic

We recently published an article titled "Why You Should Be Making Your Own Tonic," which has since been removed from this page as it condoned a practice which is exceptionally dangerous, and can put bartenders and those they are serving at serious risk. Cinchona, one of the primary ingredients traditionally used to produce tonic water, can be incredibly toxic. For more on that, I suggest reading "Potential Dangers of Homemade Tonic Water," an article published by Camper English and citing Avery Glasser, who experienced first hand the consequences of improperly made tonic water.

As this industry has developed over the last decade, we've seen bartenders hungry for knowledge venture into uncharted territory, creating their own distillates, attempting to recreate bitters from recipes found in 100 year old books, and more. As much as all of this has been intriguing and of interest to us all, we need to be cautious in how we proceed with these practices, and, as I was reminded earlier today, mindful of the fact that bartenders are not scientists, and neither are any of us here at Tales of the Cocktail. When it comes to health and safety, there are trained professionals who've studied for years to ensure that they're able to assume the responsibility of overseeing the production of potentially toxic ingredients, and systematically assessing whether or not it's safe for people to consume said ingredients.

As a publication and as an event, Tales of the Cocktail has always sought to be a platform and an outlet for what's new and what's next in the bar and spirit industries. In pursuit of that goal, I believe we've become too fixated on trend tracking while losing focus on what's most imperative: understanding and espousing the best practices of our industry, especially in regard to matters of health and safety. As Steven Yamada commented to me when discussing the original article on Facebook, "Sometimes techniques and ingredients get the spotlight so quickly, that the health and safety aspects are not fully taken into consideration. This is not only the fault of publications, but also of too many bartenders who want to play mad scientist without having any real knowledge of the effect that their ingredients can have on their customers. It's our duty as service professionals to put our guests' health and safety above anything else."

I'm personally grateful that we have vigilant professionals in our industry capable of identifying and calling out the potentially dangerous practices that were included in the article that previously lived in place of where I'm writing now. The health and safety of our community and the guests we serve should always come first, and I extend my thanks and gratitude to those who've reminded us of this today. Going forward, we will be putting health and safety back where it should be, at the top of our list of priorities. If anyone knows of other dangerous ingredients or practices that our industry should be better educated about, please bring them to our attention. You're welcome to send an email to with any insights or concerns you may have.

Jeremy JF Thompson lives in New Orleans, Louisiana and is Marketing Manager for Tales of the Cocktail.

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