The Espresso Tonic will cool you down and pump you up at the same time. We show you how to craft the versatile coffee drink at home for a fraction of the price of ordering one at a cafe.
Is it just us or is the Espresso Tonic everywhere?
We’ve encountered the carbonated coffee drink at cafes as far away as Shanghai as well as on the block where we live. And, yet, until recently, we never thought of crafting Espresso Tonics at home. Finally, after drinking an excellent Espresso Tonic in Prague, we decided to craft the caffeinated summer sipper ourselves.
As we quickly learned, crafting Espresso Tonics has more than one benefit. For starters, it’s less expensive than buying the trendy drink at a coffee shop or bar. However, a bigger benefit is the simple pleasure we derive when we sip the refreshing drink at home.
What Is The Espresso Tonic?
The Espresso Tonic is essentially a two-ingredient drink crafted with espresso and tonic water. However, the alcohol-free coffee drink isn’t truly complete without garnish.
Typical Espresso Tonic garnishes include wedges of lemon, lime and orange or something herbal like a mint sprig. While we typically prefer an orange wedge, how you garnish your Espresso Tonic is up to you.
History Of The Espresso Tonic
While people have been crafting gin and tonic cocktails for centuries, the concept of combining the carbonated quinine mixer with espresso is a more recent development.
Research reveals that Swedish baristas concocted the first Espresso Tonic in 2007, calling the caffeinated combination a Kaffe & Tonic. Considering Sweden’s affinity for coffee breaks a/k/a fika, this origin is no surprise. The only surprise is that it took over a decade for the Espresso Tonic to conquer America.
Although we like to think of the Espresso Tonic as a two-ingredient drink, you’ll need the following four items to craft this Espresso Tonic recipe at home:
Especially popular in Italy where it was invented, espresso is concentrated coffee with foam called crema on top. Baristas use the intense coffee variation to craft Americanos, Cappuccinos, Flat Whites and Lattes.
The best espresso to use is your favorite espresso, preferably one that’s not overly roasted so that the espresso doesn’t overpower the bitter yet sweet flavor of the tonic water.
Buy a single shot of espresso at a nearby cafe if you don’t have a way to make espresso at home. We use our handy dandy Nespresso system to make our espresso.
Most home mixologists have tonic water on hand since it’s a common ingredient in cocktails like the Porto Tonico. Everybody else can buy a bottle at the grocery store – typically on the aisle where club soda and seltzer are sold. However, unlike club soda and seltzer, tonic water is enhanced with both quinine and sugar.
The choice of tonic water is as important as the espresso in this recipe. Ideally, the tonic water should be fresh and bubbly. We like to use Fever-Tree tonic water but any decent tonic water will suffice.
Peruvian Incas extracted quinine from cinchona trees (a/k/a fever trees) to treat malaria. Brits later added quinine and sugar to fizzy water and called their creation tonic water.
How To Craft An Espresso Tonic
Using freshly brewed espresso is a must in this Espresso Tonic recipe. We use a Nespresso machine to make espresso at home. Another option is to use a Moka Pot.
Chill freshly brewed espresso for 15 minutes before you craft an Espresso Cocktail. Otherwise, the hot espresso will melt the ice which will dilute the drink.
Once your espresso is chilled, fill a glass with ice cubes. We like to use a lowball glass but you could use a highball glass instead.
Pour the tonic water directly into ice-filled glass.
Top the tonic water with the chilled espresso.
Express the glass with an orange wedge and then garnish the glass with the same wedge.
Stirring the Espresso Tonic is an optional step that we choose to skip. However, we go one extra step by finishing the drink with a striped brown straw.
We think of the Espresso Tonic as a launching pad with an almost unlimited number of possible variations. Here are a few ideas to consider as you start your Espresso Tonic journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
An Espresso Tonic is a non-alcoholic beverage crafted with espresso and tonic water.
Swedish baristas invented the Espresso Tonic in 2007.
Espresso, Tonic Water, Orange Wedge and Ice Cubes
The Espresso Tonic is an alcohol-free coffee drink crafted with espresso and tonic water. When combined, these two simple ingredients provide a wonderful mix of sweet and bitter flavors.
An orange wedge is the most popular Espresso Tonic garnish.
Did you make this recipe? If so, please rate it below.
Espresso Tonic Recipe
- 1 shot espresso (chilled)
- 3 ounces tonic water (chilled)
- 1 orange wedge (garnish)
- ice cubes
- Fill a lowball glass with ice cubes.
- Pour tonic into the glass.
- Pour chilled espresso into the same glass.
- Express the rim of the glass with an orange wedge.
- Add the orange wedge as garnish.
- Using hot espresso will cause the ice to melt.
Thirsty For More Coffee Drinks?
About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers their unique taste of the world.
Original Publication Date: August 15, 2023