A new tonic business is slowly breaking into the Chicago market, showing up at some of our better bars and restaurants.
At the The Allis in Chicago's West Loop -- the portion of the Soho House that's open to the public -- the bar offers an extensive assortment of hand-crafted cocktails, but now some of them are using an all-natural line of tonics made in Milwaukee.
"A tonic is actually an old school beverage; it used to mean tone the body and it was great for digestion," said Top Note Tonic founder Mary Pellettieri.
And Pellettieri now produces these tonics using natural botanicals.
"Today's soft drinks seem to have diverged a little bit too far from that origination, so we're now going back to where soft drinks used to be," she said.
There's a bitter lemon, made with lemon peels, some sugar syrup and tea; Indian tonic is a bit lighter, with grapefruit peel and bitters, plus a ginger beer made with ginger oils, galangal - which is a young ginger root - plus date sugar for color.
The Bitter Lemon is used at The Allis for their Japanese highball, a combination of Japanese whiskey, syrup, ice and the tonic. Pellettieri shows me how to make a classic Spanish gin and tonic using the Indian tonic - combining juniper berries and lemon peel with fresh slices of cucumber, bitters and gin, then finally, the tonic. Their versatility is a plus, especially if you like to experiment at home.
Pellettieri says her previous jobs, at places like Goose Island Brewing and Miller Coors, helped prepare her for the job, but she didn't expect to fall in love with both the city and her product line so easily.
"Loved Milwaukee so much, decided to stay, but also still had the desire to create my own products and got into soft drinks," she said.
So the Japanese highball is available only here in The Allis on the first floor; they also make a Dark & Stormy upstairs in the Chicken Shop, but you're gonna find Top Note pretty much all over Chicago right now.
EXTRA COURSE: Bar manager at The Allis shows how to make a dark & stormy, using some of Top Tonic's ginger beer.
Top Note Tonics
113 N. Green St., Chicago