Bowman Bottling: Small batch tonic made in Vancouver

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Photo courtesy Bowman Bottling

Cocktail culture is booming in Vancouver, and with it a surge in locally-made artisanal products that bring high-quality ingredients into the drinking mix. Craft spirits, artisanal bitters, and fresh season produce are elevating cocktails around the city, and now a duo of drink enthusiasts are making small batch tonic under the Bowman Bottling label.

We talked to Bowman Bottling founders Andrew Hudec and Nicolas Schneiter about their tonic, and how an animator and a chef got into the tonic-making game.

Vancity Buzz: Why tonic?

Andrew Hudec and Nicolas Schneiter: A few years back we both developed a bit of an obsession with the gin and tonic cocktail and we went out every week to our favourite bars trying different gins. As we honed in on our favourites, it dawned on us that a lot of these cocktails were just mixed with commercial tonics. We millennials have begun a huge resurgence of a classic cocktail culture. We figured what better way to join the renaissance against industrially produced products shipped from afar than to hand make our own locally sourced artisan products.

What makes your tonic stand out?

Unlike the more common tonics, it stands out because of its rich amber colour and the fact it is a concentrated tonic syrup to which you to add soda water. Also, we focus on making it as naturally as possible. We skip all of the artificial flavours and extracts that most other tonics add and use raw cane sugar and steeped cinchona bark. Cinchona bark contains quinine which adds the bitter element to tonic water. By choosing these methods, we are rewarded with a well-balanced flavour.

What are your day jobs? How did making tonic become a part of your lives?

Andrew Hudec: I have been an animator in Vancouver for the past nine years working at many of the different local studios. I have worked on everything from TV to AAA video game titles as well as feature animations like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and most recently Chappie.

Nicolas Schneiter: Being been raised by Swiss parents, [and] where food and dinner were always the hot topic of the day, led me to decide to attend culinary school at Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. It was an environment I thrived in and after graduating in 2011, I quickly found myself working at the original Meat and Bread in Gastown and have been there ever since.

Andrew Hudec: Making tonic became a part of our lives when I was doing some research on it online and found a recipe. I made the first batch using this recipe and invited Nick over to try it. We thought it was the best tonic we had ever tasted. That was three years ago and since then we have been in the kitchen in my apartment fine tuning flavours and ultimately creating our own unique recipe to make Bowman Bottling Tonic what it is today.

What is your Gin of choice for pairing with your tonic? What are some other uses for your tonic?

We recently did what we like to call “testing,” where we tried it with as many gins as we could. We both seem to agree that the floral notes in Hendricks gin pairs really well with our tonic, yet it is still robust enough to stand up with a stronger gin like The Botanist.

With experimentation, Andrew invented a cocktail we have named the “Old Hudec.” You add three quarters of an ounce of Bowman Tonic to an Old Fashioned instead of the sugar cube. We will continue to experiment and there is no telling what other interesting cocktails can be created.

The Old Hudec

.75 Oz Bowman Bottling Co. Tonic
Few Dashes Angostura Bitters
3 Oz Bourbon
Garnish with Orange rind and maraschino cherry

What is the next step for Bowman Bottling?

We have our Kickstarter campaign running right now. We are in the process of incorporating, purchasing ingredients and renting the kitchen space needed to make our tonic. Our next step will be to put on our salesman caps and hit the streets to try to get Bowman Bottling Tonic into some stores and bars. We have been blown away with the positive response we have received since we began this journey. It has really inspired us to push harder to get our tonic ready for everyone to enjoy.

You can support Bowman Bottling through their Kickstarter campaign, which will give Vancouverites their first chance to get a hold of a bottle of Bowman Tonic.

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Lindsay William-Ross Lindsay is a Senior Editor at Vancity Buzz, and currently runs the site's Food section. A fourth generation Vancouverite, she spent the last two decades in Los Angeles, where she was EIC of the city's top blog, earned her MA, attended culinary school, and was an English professor (among other things). Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancitybuzz.com
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