Five legendary Japanese bartenders have teamed up to create a new tonic essence called "Bombay Sapphire The Tonic Essence." It's a waterless tonic that you can add to soda water for making a gin & tonic.
What is tonic essence?
Yes, I did just write waterless tonic. Tonic essence is similar to tonic syrups that have recently popped up outside of Japan. Tonic water itself is usually made from cinchona bark, some citrus, sugar, and soda. Therefore, if you leave the soda out of the recipe, you're left with a syrup that you just add soda to later when you make the drink. That's the idea with this new tonic essence.
Or! Go rogue and don't add soda, ever. One of the cocktails suggested for this new essence is named the "Prime Short Gin & Tonic," calling for 45ml Bombay Sapphire, 10ml tonic essence, and 15ml of lime juice. And yeah, it's shaken, not built. Gives James Bond a good excuse to finally order the quintessential English cocktail.
That bitter dryness in tonic comes from quinine, which is in the cinchona bark. For this new Bombay Sapphire The Tonic Essence they're using quina extract, itself made from cinchona bark. While Japan does have its own tonic -- called n.e.o. premium -- that doesn't have any quinine in it. Instead Fever Tree has been the preferred premium tonic by bartenders in Japan. Indeed, Fever Tree was absolutely everywhere at last year's Ginposium Japan.
Enter Bombay Sapphire The Tonic Essence
For whatever reason, Bacardi decided they had enough of that. They called upon the below Japanese bartenders to see what could be done:
- Hisashi Kishi, Chairman of the Nippon Bartender Association and owner of Ginza's Star Bar
- Hidetsugu Ueno, vice Chair of the Nippon Bartender Association and owner of Bar High Five
- Michihiko Matsuba, of Osaka Bar K fame
- Tomoyuki Kitazoe, Bacardi Japan Brand Ambassador and owner of Ginza's Bar RAGE
- Atsushi Asakura, owner of Ginza's Bar Anthem
Kishi-san became a Gin Guild Rectifier in 2014. Besides being one of Japan's most famous bartenders, he knows gin especially well.
After a lot of discussion and tastings they eventually decided to go with using quina extract in the new tonic essence. I suppose the whole development process was sponsored by Bacardi, so of course it supposedly goes well with Bombay Sapphire.
Where to get Bombay Sapphire The Tonic Essence
Bacardi will be serving Prime Gin & Tonic cocktails made with tonic essence at the upcoming Tokyo BarShow 2018. In fact, one of the masterclasses on May 13 is dedicated to this new product too.
Samples will also be sent to bars participating in National Cocktail Week from May 9. In September, the tonic essence is set to debut nationwide as a promotion for Bombay Sapphire. To me, that indicates they won't be peddling this to consumers.
Outside Japan? Unlikely. Three things lead me to believe it's Japan-only: 1) it was developed entirely within Japan, 2) it's being made in Japan, 3) its name contains "The."