We heard rumors about a new secret drink in Midtown. Making phone calls to our local connections, using favors and flattery, we finally got to the source. After trying it ourselves we realized this could be the next big step in establishing Oklahoma City as a player in the handcrafted cocktail movement. It’s made in Midtown’s backyard and soon you’ll be sipping it at your favorite local bar.
[quote]Like a particle physicist exploring the frontiers of the subatomic world he put tonics under a microscope in order to recreate them from the ground up.[/quote]
If you ask a Midtowner about their drink of choice chances are they will name an obscure cocktail or beer that you’ve never heard of. With Ludivine, Packards, and Stella in walking distance we have become a district with a penchant for creative top shelf drinks. A new area resident, Glenn Forester, broke down the drinks we love best into their essential components. He focused on the mixers. Bitters, tonics, grenadine, vermouth, and rare extracts were put under a microscope.
Glenn moved to Oklahoma from Washington D.C. 14 months ago. He was attracted by the contagious energy Downtown and wanted to be closer to the action, so he moved from Edmond after a short stay. While still in D.C. he began learning from East Coast culinary cocktail experts from New York and Philadelphia where the new handcrafted cocktail movement began. The move to Oklahoma City gave him a chance to take all that he learned and begin seriously experimenting. After 20 batches of trial and error in his kitchen he perfected a tonic syrup. It would later become know as STRONG tonic.
(A bottle containing Glenn’s final batch made in his kitchen)
Glenn mixed up a drink with these exact ingredients:
- Handful of ice
- 1 1/2 oz of Miller’s Gin
- 3/4 Ounce of STRONG Tonic
- 3 Ounces of Soda Stream Water
- Stir, Strain and add Citrus
After my first sip I knew that this was no ordinary Gin & Tonic. Fresh. Light. That bite of bitter you might expect yet smooth-tempered. Hints of exquisite flavors that I could not explain lingered on my taste buds. It was darker colored than most Gin & Tonic’s I’ve had before. “The syrup is more complex. It uses different fruits.”, Glenn explained, “And I use high grade Peruvian Cinchona Bark in my process instead of pre-extracted quinine syrup.” I blinked a few times, got silent, and took another sip. He had Cinchona Barks shipped to him from faraway lands and then steeped them like teabags into the syrups during the creation process. I held out my glass for another pour as he explained even more complicated tonic alchemy.
Glenn doesn’t consider himself a mixologist. He’s not a professional bartender. “The trade of mixing drinks takes years of practice and my goal is to provide these craftsmen with best tools”, Glenn said. The right comparison for Glenn would be to a chemist or mad scientist hellbent on exploring the frontiers of molecular mixology. He decided to test his new syrup and find out how versatile it was. Award winning bar chef Adam Seger of Chicago helped him create recipes using the tonic as proofs of concept. Once he realized his new syrup was marketable, he sent the recipe and samples to a professional mix formulator who recreated the syrup using advanced food science processing technology approved by the FDA. He created a logo, a label, had it bottled, and prepared his distribution plans.
For Fourth of July we had a Midtown resident mixologist, Clay Condry, use STRONG Tonic to make several different drinks to test things out. Clay heard of the new syrup before and told us he had no doubt that it would catch on fast among bartenders that stay on top of their game. “You can use this in a lot of different drinks”, Clay told a kitchen full of onlookers as he prepared the first round of Gin & STRONG Tonic’s. After a round of cheers Clay went back to work with the tonic, saying “I won’t even use Gin in the next drink. I’ll probably use Bourbon and Beer. The drink after that I’m going do something with egg whites.” We went through an entire bottle of STRONG tonic that afternoon.
Bars in Oklahoma City are all generally using the same ingredients and are constantly adjusting recipes to differentiate themselves. Using a new, local, and atypical tonic syrup is an opportunity for bartenders to put their own creative spin on something different for a change. It’s also chance for local bartenders to keep it local with their ingredients. Be on the lookout for new cocktails options using STRONG tonic from your favorite bars. As for what Glenn has planned next we can’t say yet, however, you can count on seeing new creative mixers coming from the STRONG brand in the future. As of this writing STRONG Tonic can only be purchased at Native Roots, Forward Foods, and online.