Espresso & tonic 3 ways – A Coffee & Cocktails with Cindy experiment

The espresso & tonic (or E&T) is quickly becoming a favorite substitute for its less bubbly cousin the iced coffee. The citrus notes in the quinine based tonic bring out the lively citrus found in most espresso blends. Today I present you with 3 differently brewed E&T’s and my thoughts on the finished products.

The classic – espresso & tonic

2 shots of chilled espresso brewed Espresso Joe from*
1.5 oz. of chilled tonic
1 shot of gin (optional)
1 lime wedge


• If you are using alcohol, combine it with the tonic first
• Squeeze a bit of the lime wedge on the mixture
• Layer the espresso on the tonic
• Garnish with the lime wedge

The analysis

Without alcohol: Very concentrated and sweeter than expected. The tonic and coffee are taking turns tap-dancing on my tongue. You could, of course, pour this over ice if that is your preference.

With a shot of gin: The alcohol takes the edge off the sweetness.  The flavor while still citrusy, tastes more balanced. My taste buds say, “Thank you sir may I have another!”

*Finely ground, tightly packed, and brewed in a stovetop espresso maker.

The traditional – iced coffee & tonic

1 extra large coffee ice cube (or 2-3 average sized)
1 oz. Espresso Joe from drip brewed*
3 oz. chilled tonic
1 shot of gin (optional)


• Pour the tonic on the cubes, (if using the gin add it now)
• Add coffee, and stir with a rosemary sprig


The analysis

Without alcohol: Since drip brewed coffee is not as concentrated as espresso brewed, the taste when combined with the tonic seems more balanced, a smoother ride than the previous drink. The coffee ice cube, as it melts, brings the coffee flavor to the top for a more traditional iced coffee taste. The addition of the rosemary brings a slight earthiness to the flavor and an aromatic appeal.

With a shot of gin: The gin flavor really shines through, yet the blend of coffee and tonic keep the sip well balanced (I was pouring Tanqueray, which is juniper focused and rather citrusy in flavor). This is a very nice sipping drink for a hot afternoon.

* While an espresso blend was used, the coffee was ground for a drip machine.  It is important to make sure that your grind matches your brew method!

The new movement – cold brew & tonic


3 oz. chilled tonic
2 oz. chilled cold brew* Espresso Joe from 
1 shot of gin
1 maraschino cherry
1 large coffee ice cube (or 2-3 regular sized)

• Prepare your cold brew coffee: I used a Bodum cold brew press*, but there are many methods for making a great cold brew coffee. Click here for suggestions.
• Pour the tonic into your glass (if adding a shot of gin do it now) over a large coffee ice cube. Layer the coffee on top and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

The analysis

Without alcohol: The smoothness of the cold brew is evident on your first sip, A strong coffee flavor is present and overall it seems more balanced than the E&T, and the tonic flavor is more prevalent than in the drip version.

Adding a shot of gin: The final product is somewhere between the E&T and the traditional. The citrus flavor seems somewhat elevated.

* Preparing a cold brew using the Bodum cold press: Pour the water into your press over coarsely ground beans and stir for at least one minute.  Steep a minimum of 12 hours (I left it overnight) at room temperature. Press down on your press and transfer the now cold brewed coffee into the refrigerator. Leave in the refrigerator until chilled.


While all 3 variations are tasty, my favorite, both with and without the gin, is the cold brew and tonic. It is by far the smoothest and most balanced of the 3. I believe the next time I prepare it I will use the rosemary instead of the cherry as the aroma is truly outstanding. If I were to make another E&T I would definitely serve it over ice and perhaps reduce the volume of tonic. My final thoughts are that this is a delicious alternative to iced coffee, and like many other things, it is worthwhile for the drinker to alter the recipe to their personal taste.

Until next time!


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