Something & Tonic
In the Northern Andes, among the western Amazon rainforests of South America grew a tree that stood out among the lush vegetation. Towering above its surroundings, its lilac-esque clusters of crimson flowers, and red-veined waxy leaves separated it from the pale, green backdrop. In the early seventeenth century, this tree known to natives as “quina quina” (bark of barks) would be uprooted from its home and subsequently change the course of history.
What follows is the tale of cinchona (sing-Koh-nuh) bark. The cornerstone of what we know today as tonic. Much of its history is steeped in centuries of religious prejudice, corporate greed, denial of science, and extreme nationalism during the imperial colonization of the world. The story of cinchona quickly became the story of the development of modern civilization. Without the bark, fever and death would have continued to devastate an astronomical number of explorers, their crews, and the natives who they came in contact with. It’s a sobering history for a happy hour highball.
Something & Tonic is a historical cocktail book that explores the captivating history of how cinchona bark has saved generations of people from malaria, found its way into the ultimate highball, and emerged as an indispensable ingredient in modern cocktails. Following a spirited account of tonic’s origins and its journey from bark to bottle, there are 60 unique cocktail recipes that incorporate tonic in numerous ways above and beyond the simple G&T.
Tonic drinkers are a devout bunch. If it is not you, certainly you have a drinking partner who is. This book aims to quench the thirst of history buffs, casual drinkers, and professional bartenders around the globe. The ultimate goal being to look beyond convention, push the envelope, and never let a friend drink just a vodka tonic.
Photo Credit Neil Burger
Nick Kokonas is an award winning bartender who lives and works in Chicago, IL. Over the course of his career he has played an integral role behind some of the most prestigious bars in the city; from the formerly Michelin-starred gastropub Longman & Eagle to working on the opening bar team at Danny Meyer/The Dead Rabbit collaboration Green River. He has participated in a number of the most prominent international cocktail competitions, finding success in Diageo World Class, Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender, and Bacardi Legacy, to name a few.
In June of 2016, Nicolas became the opening beverage director for The Heritage, a restaurant just outside Chicago's city limits. While developing the menu he created a weekly rotating cocktail simply titled “Something & Tonic”, an ever-changing drink with a foundation of tonic water, tonic syrup, or liqueur bittered with cinchona.
The challenge of using tonic in innovative ways provoked his interest into tonic’s origins and its growing presence in modern day drinking culture. After the restaurant’s opening Nicolas’ cocktails began garnering attention. In the Chicago Tribune the “Something & Tonic” was given special mention in veteran food writer Phil Vettel’s favorable two star review of the restaurant where he writes:
"Kokonas offers a tidy list of five or six cocktails, of which the most interesting is the Something and Tonic, which changes week to week. I don't know if Kokonas can sustain this for a year, but I've managed to have three versions of this drink, and so far, so good."
Moving on from The Heritage, Nick recently spent two years running a beverage program in Charleston, SC at the Southern food icon The Grocery. He has since returned to Chicago, and is working diligently to complete and publish Something & Tonic with your help.