Julia Bainbridge's article about mocktails and the quest for excellent, non-alcoholic drinks at restaurants, it struck a chord with me and many of our readers. It's the veritable elephant in the room when it comes to drink menus, and it's become something I peek around for any time I'm somewhere new.
Because in general, no matter what I'm doing and at what time of day, I like to have a beverage along for the ride. Coffee, tea with honey, sparkling water and juice, wine, beer—anything more than a little still from the tap.
When I see restaurants and cafés populating their menus with drinks like tonics, elixirs, and kombucha, I'm often compelled to order them, especially on the afternoons when coffee-driven caffeine isn't what I'm looking for and the evenings when something boozy isn't calling my name.
But a regular $4 to $8 bottle or cup may drain your budget. As one of our editors points out, do you know how much corn that could buy?
Which brings things back here, to Louisa Shafia's genius (and homemade) Watermelon, Mint, and Cider Vinegar Tonic. Tonics like this, however "hip" they might seem today, are really age-old. "The watermelon tonic is based on a very old Persian recipe, possibly more than 2000 years old," Louisa says. She adds that in Iranian cooking, acidic tonics like this one are thought to help with digestion (they're also a great use for seasonal fruit or any random pieces that went a little too soft before you got to them).
Louisa's version is also insanely easy to make and since it's rounded out by not much more than pantry ingredients (good-quality honey like manuka honey, vinegar, and sea salt), there's no reason to stop when watermelon season ends.
Louisa shared a few fruits she'd switch things up with throughout the year, then we added a few more and paired them with other herbs so you can make sour-sweet, flavorful tonic all year round, and for much less than it would cost to buy something from the trendy place across from your office.
Just swap any of these in for the same amount as the watermelon and herbs in the recipe, and adjust from there to taste. (If you're springing for citrus as the star, reduce the amount of fruit to 2 to 3 cups.)
- Cantaloupe + Basil
- Plums + Ginger + Mint
- Tomato + Basil
- Peaches + Rosemary
- Apples + Thyme
- Figs + Mint
- Grapes + Hibiscus + Lavender
- Concord Grapes + Ginger
- Pomegranate + Cilantro
- Meyer Lemon + Rosemary
- Grapefruit + Sage
- Rhubarb + Orange Zest
- Strawberry + Sorrel
- Blackberry + Sage
- Cherry + Lime Zest + Thyme
What fruit do you—or would you—make into tonic? Tell us below, so we can too!
Honey's a pantry staple, so we partnered with Wedderspoon, known for its high-quality manuka honey (it's raw and non-GMO), to share a few ways to use it beyond tea and baking.