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Cocktail Recipe – The Sanitarium

Submitted by on March 21, 2011 – 11:13 pmNo Comment

I have been having some fun riffing off of Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe for homemade tonic water.  In an upcoming piece, I will detail our forays into this recipe and some of the discoveries that came from it.

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The Sanitarium (view from space)

However, in our quinine quest, I discovered something I thoroughly enjoyed.  So much so, I decided to rush this one out there before finishing the longer article on the tonic syrup itself.  I also am aware that there are many professional and amateur mixologists out there who have some of this stuff lying around and might be interested in giving this recipe a go.


This cocktail, which I have dubbed The Sanitarium, evolved first from having mixed up a batch of Morgenthaler’s tonic water recipe, changing it up a bit and then playing with it in various cocktails.  At first, this was mostly Gin and Tonics featuring different gins and different citrus peels or wedges wiped around the rim and/or dumped in the glass as garnish.  We tried altering certain herb and citrus proportions in the syrup, adding fresh ginger and even grated carrot.  Some of these were exceptional, some not so much.


The version used in this cocktail had only one change from the master recipe in that I added one teaspoon of juniper berries to the list of other ingredients.  For our G&T, I followed the master recipe placing 1.5 ounces of gin, 2 ounces of club soda and .75 ounce of our homemade tonic syrup in an ice filled cocktail shaker, shook well and poured the contents into a heavy bottomed rocks glass.  It was very good, especially with Hendricks Gin.  It seems to me a more adult G&T.


The second influence came from my recent talks with Brent and Regina Butler, extremely creative bartenders from Blackbird in San Francisco.  Specifically, their approach to crafting cocktails by knocking ideas around a theme until they land on something unexpected and special.  Their upcoming new addition to their menu, called the Chieftan, is a remarkable concoction built upon Laphroig Scotch whisky.  It is a remarkable drink and very thought provoking for me.


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The Sanitarium (view from porch)

With all of that in my head, I woke up a couple of days ago with a simple idea to try a simple cocktail with our new homemade tonic syrup.  With my first sip I knew this was something unexpected and special.  After tinkering a bit to get the proportions and the garnish just right, voila!, I had it.


The Sanitarium is  simple enough.  It is simply a gin martini variation with just enough of the tonic syrup added.  The syrup adds just a bit of pleasant herbal bitterness to the agave nectar sweetness while still being carried along by the gin.  Made with No. 209 gin, it has a golden color which contrasts nicely with the lime twist peel that wipes the rim and floats in the drink.  It’s flavor hints at Chartreuse, bits of whisky, wood and citrus bite.  Even with the syrup added, it is not too sweet with a nice lingering aftertaste of lemongrass, juniper and lime.


The name was inspired by a fantastic bed and breakfast/spa in San Luis Obispo, California.  Also called The Sanitarium, I once spent a memorable three days at this place with an amazing women.  It was the most relaxing weekend I ever had.  After a couple of these drinks, you will feel much the same, I’m sure.


Months later, in full disclosure, that amazing woman agreed to become my amazing wife.  We are very happy.


If you have made a batch of homemade tonic syrup, give this one a try and let me know what you think.


The Sanitarium Cocktail


3 ounces of gin

.5 ounce of dry vermouth

.5 ounce of homemade tonic syrup

1 slice of lime peel


Add all ingredients except lime peel to an ice filled cocktail shaker and stir patiently until very cold (count to twenty if you need to be objective about this).  Wipe the rim of a chilled cocktail glass with the lime peel.  Strain ingredients into the cocktail glass and garnish with the lime peel.



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