Espresso Tonic Recipe: Your New Favorite Coffee Drink

Kirkland Gee
July 26, 2023

Over the last few years, the espresso tonic (or espresso and tonic at some cafes) has taken the specialty world by storm. The bright, sweet, citrusy beverage with just enough bitterness to keep things interesting is one of our personal favorites at Perfect Extraction, and if you haven’t had one you have to try it for yourself.

What is an Espresso Tonic? 

The espresso tonic is a simple but genius beverage that highlights and elevates the things we love most about specialty coffees. It’s sweet, it’s fruity, it’s floral, and it tastes unlike anything else you can order in a specialty cafe. 

The drink is made, in many cases, with only two ingredients—a shot of espresso and tonic water. We’ll talk about some variations in this article (including adding specific syrups, herbs, and even some bitters) but that’s the basic idea. 

Espresso Tonic Origins

The espresso tonic is unsurprisingly Scandinavian by origin, acting as a beautiful representation of minimalism at its best. The drink was likely first mixed in Oslo in 2007 by a barista working with Anne Lunell and Charles Nystrand, who would go on to found Koppy Roasters later the same year. 

It appears that the recipe made its way through the United States through barista competitions, helping competitors come up with more unique, interesting signature drinks that went beyond the traditional pairing of coffee and milk.

Today, it’s hard to find a specialty shop without some variation of the espresso tonic on their menu. 

Espresso Tonic Flavor Profile

If you’ve ever had a Gin & Tonic, you have an idea of what this drink tastes like. It’s an elegant, bittersweet drink that most people either love or despise, depending on how they feel about quinine—the bitter compound that gives tonic it’s intense bitterness.

That bitterness, when paired with all the sugar added to tonic and the intense, fruity flavors of a great specialty espresso, creates a refreshing, citrusy, sweet-but-not-too-sweet flavor that’s perfect for a summer afternoon or a spring morning. 

Recommended Coffees for an Espresso Tonic

Given the bittersweet, bright flavors of an espresso tonic, you typically want to avoid darker roasts. Something light, acidic, and fruity is going to pair best here. Look for brighter coffees, like the Agaro from Passenger, or The Original from Black & White. Generally, try to go for African coffees, as they’re going to have those floral, citrusy notes that you want.

How to Make an Espresso Tonic


The ingredients you’ll need to make this delicious beverage are

  • 1 shot of espresso (around 30 ml or 1 oz)
  • 150 ml (5 oz) tonic water (preferably high-quality, such as Fever-Tree or Q Tonic)
  • Ice
  • Optional: Citrus garnish (lemon, lime, grapefruit, or orange)


  1. Prepare your espresso: Pull a fresh shot of espresso using your preferred method, or our favorite espresso recipe
  2. Chill your glass: To keep your espresso tonic cold and refreshing, chill a tall glass by filling it with ice and swirling it around for a few seconds. Discard the ice.
  3. Add ice and tonic water: Fill the chilled glass with fresh ice cubes, leaving enough room for the espresso. Slowly pour the tonic water into the glass, filling it about three-quarters of the way.
  4. Pour the espresso: Allow the espresso to cool slightly for a moment. Then, carefully pour it over the tonic water and ice. Pouring the espresso slowly and close to the surface of the tonic water will help it float on top, creating a visually appealing layered effect. If possible, pour from a vessel with a spout. We promise it’ll make things easier.
  5. Stir and garnish: Gently stir the espresso and tonic water with a long spoon to mix the flavors. Optionally, garnish your drink with a citrus wedge or twist to add a touch of zest.

This simple espresso tonic recipe is perfect for hot summer days or whenever you're craving a refreshing and invigorating coffee beverage.

Variations of the Espresso Tonic

Although the classic espresso tonic recipe simply blends a shot of espresso with tonic water and ice, lots of other variations have gained popularity, making this drink adaptable to a wide range of taste preferences. Every cafe has its own take on this drink, but here are 5 of the most common types of espresso tonics you might find.

Citrus Espresso Tonic

The addition of citrus enhances the natural acidity of the espresso tonic, creating a vibrant and zesty flavor. For this variation add a splash of fresh lemon, lime, or grapefruit juice. Or, if you want it a little sweeter, try something like an orange simple syrup. Garnish with a citrus wedge for a burst of color and an extra zing.

Spiced Espresso Tonic 

To add a touch of sweetness and a spicy kick, consider incorporating simple syrup infused with spices like cinnamon, cloves, or cardamom. To make the syrup, dissolve equal parts sugar and water over low heat, add your desired spices, and let the mixture simmer for a few minutes. Strain the syrup, allow it to cool, and then add a few grams to your espresso tonic for a warming, indulgent twist.

Herbal-Infused Espresso Tonic 

For a more delicate and aromatic version of the espresso tonic, try adding fresh herbs. Mint, basil, or rosemary can lend a subtle yet enticing fragrance and flavor to your drink. Simply muddle your chosen herb at the bottom of the glass before adding the tonic water, ice, and espresso, or use it as a garnish. You can also use a rose or elderflower-infused tonic, as well, if you don’t have any fresh herbs.

Fruit-Forward Espresso Tonic

A personal favorite of ours at Perfect Extraction—adding some sweet fruit to this bittersweet beverage can lighten up the drink, perfect for a summer afternoon pick-me-up. 

To create a fruity espresso tonic, incorporate fruit purees or syrups, such as raspberry, blueberry, or peach. Mix your puree or syrup with the hot espresso and then pour that mixture over your tonic. This variation adds a touch of sweetness and fruity notes that complement the coffee's complexity.

Boozy Espresso Tonic

For a more “spirited” take on the espresso tonic, consider adding a shot of your favorite liqueur or spirit. Amaretto, coffee liqueur, or even a splash of bourbon can elevate the drink. Experiment with different combinations to find the perfect balance of flavors.

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