10 Refreshing Tonic Water Cocktails

Vermouth Cassis

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Tonic water cocktails are generally straightforward. Many follow the gin and tonic's formula: a shot of liquor topped with tonic water accented with citrus. And yet, they are anything but boring. Tonic mixed drinks are light, refreshing, invigorating, and the flavor possibilities are surprisingly diverse.

True to its name, tonic water was originally a medicinal tonic. Quinine is the key ingredient that gives the soda water its dry, bitter taste, and it's long been used to prevent malaria. To make the medicine more palatable, 19th-century British soldiers were given tonic water (often spiked with gin). Today, tonic water is not used for its healing properties but is instead enjoyed as a drink mixer.

That signature flavor profile is what makes tonic water an excellent pairing for a variety of distilled spirits. It's effervescent but not too sweet and the flavor is relatively transparent, so it gently intensifies the spirit's natural taste. While gin and vodka are the most famous options, tonic works equally well with cognac, tequila, whiskey, liqueurs, and amaros. A variety of fruits, herbs, and spices can enhance these mixed drinks. Even some cocktails that don't call for it do very well with a dose of tonic.

These recipes will help anyone discover their own love for tonic water and offer inspiration for experiments.

  • 01 of 10

    Gin and Tonic

    Gin and tonic

    The Spruce / Claire Cohen

    The wonders of the gin and tonic are not to be underestimated. It's a simple drink, but the combination of its two ingredients accented with fresh lime juice is utterly fantastic. It is loved worldwide and has emerged as one of Spain's most popular summertime beverages.

    Explore how tonic works with the myriad of today's gin selection. The soda will enhance the botanicals of each style and brand differently, so each drink is a new experience. Use this recipe for blanco tequila and light rum, too.

  • 02 of 10

    Vodka Tonic

    Vodka tonic served with lime

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Many people prefer vodka over gin, making the vodka tonic an equally popular choice for dinner, happy hour, and sunny days. Vodka's more neutral flavor allows the drink to show off a really great tonic water. There are several well-crafted tonics produced today, and each will give the drink new life. For a quick boost of flavor, try it with citrus or berry vodkas.

  • 03 of 10

    Whiskey Tonic

    Whiskey Tonic

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

    Are dark spirits more your style? The whiskey tonic has you covered. This recipe prefers Irish whiskey's smoothness and switches to a lemon garnish because it's a better match than lime. If you'd like to explore other whiskey styles, stick to blended whiskeys, bourbons, or pour less tonic with a blended scotch. This is also the best mix when you want to swap in cognac or aged rums and tequilas.

  • 04 of 10

    Strawberry Gin and Tonic

    Strawberry Gin & Tonic Cocktail Recipe

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

    The ultimate summer tonic recipe, few drinks are as satisfying as a strawberry gin and tonic. The recipe features homemade strawberry syrup, an excellent way to preserve the fruit's sweet taste when the berries are plentiful. It also adds a dash of orange bitters for a subtle lift; it's a simple addition that won't hurt any tonic drink.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Cherry Gin and Tonic

    Cherry gin and tonic with lime


    Charles Wollertz / Getty Images

    Rather than a syrup, use your trusted muddler to build a fruit-kissed tonic drink. It's a great alternative that relies on the fruit's natural sweetness to build a balanced cocktail. Sweet cherries are employed in the cherry gin and tonic to offset the other ingredients' dry bitterness. It's equally pleasant with vodka and other spirits, and the technique works for other fruits, too.

  • 06 of 10

    Autumn Spiced Tonic

    Autumn Spiced Tonic Cocktail Recipe

    Brian Macdonald / Getty Images

    Homemade liquor infusions are an easy way to give soda drinks extra flavor. In the autumn spiced tonic recipe, you'll start by infusing vodka with apple, pear, and cinnamon. It takes just a few days for the flavor to develop, then it's ready for some syrup and tonic water.

  • 07 of 10

    White Port and Tonic

    White Port and Tonic
    StockFood / Getty Images

    Liquor is not the only option for spiked tonic drinks. Fortified wines are an excellent pairing as well, and a great place to begin exploring their potential is with the white port and tonic. A favorite apéritif in Portugal, it's often made with equal parts of white port and tonic water and should be adjusted to taste. The preferred citrus for this mix is a simple orange slice.

  • 08 of 10

    Vermouth Cassis

    Vermouth Cassis

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Many drinks that use another type of soda are perfect venues for a tonic substitution. Building on the fortified wine pairing, the vermouth cassis is one of the best options. The recipe uses dry vermouth and gets a hint of sweet fruit with crème de cassis. The switch from club soda to tonic water is not a big stretch and creates an equally refreshing beverage.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10


    Royal-Tea With Beefeater Gin

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

    The royal-tea recipe is a still drink that could use a bit of sparkle. Made with London dry gin, Earl Grey tea, lemon, and sugar, it's an iced alternative for afternoon tea. Adding the dry carbonation of tonic water to the mix gives it a new life and continues the British theme.

  • 10 of 10

    Campari and Soda

    Campari and Soda in a highball glass

    The Spruce / Haley Hazell

    It may be too much for some people, but drinkers with a bitter-loving palate will find this option fascinating. The Campari and soda is a simple mixed drink that pairs the Italian bitter with soda water. When you switch to tonic water, the bitterness reaches a new level, and it works very well. This is a charming before-dinner drink worth trying.

Nonalcoholic Tonic Water Drinks

Tonic water shouldn't be reserved for cocktails alone. When you want to skip the liquor, there are several ways to enjoy tonic in nonalcoholic drinks.

  • One of the most popular is lime and tonic—quite simply, squeeze fresh lime juice into a glass of tonic water to taste. It's refreshing and a great palate-cleansing dinner drink. You can even order it at bars and restaurants; if someone gives you a puzzled look, say, "gin and tonic, hold the gin, extra lime."
  • For an afternoon pick-me-up, try coffee and tonic. It's best with cold brew coffee or chilled espresso. Mix equal parts of cold coffee and tonic water, or try a little more of either ingredient to find your ideal mix. A long shot of espresso is often poured over the tonic for a layered drink in coffee houses.
  • Use tonic water to give fruit juices sparkle and offset their sweetness. It even works with lemonade.
  • Herb-infused syrups are excellent with tonic water when you want a sweeter, floral drink. Try 1 or 2 ounces of homemade lavender syrup topped with tonic, adding a squeeze of lemon juice for brightness. Elderflower and rosemary are excellent options as well.