Best Tonic Water for Gin & Tonics, Vodka & Tonics, and Whatever You Got & Tonics

The best tonic water is not for everyone. It’s bittersweet—emphasis on the bitter. It’s soda with resting b*tch face. And it’s absolutely essential if you want to make good Gin & Tonics, Vodka & Tonics, Rum & Tonics—you get the picture. 

The Sporked staff is made up of a mix of both tonic water enthusiasts and newbies. So we had the full spectrum of reactions to the range of tonic water brands we tried. In our search for the best tonic water (and the best diet tonic water), we were looking for a balance between the bitter flavor of quinine and whatever sweetener the tonic water employed. We were looking for emphatic effervescence (there’s nothing worse than a flat G&T). And we were looking for a flavor profile that complements gin—as well as vodka and the rest. 

Our first taste test resulted in five classic picks for the best tonic water. Our second taste test saw the addition of two more: a surprisingly intriguing lime tonic water from Walmart and a diet tonic water from a craft mixer producer. Here’s the full ranking of the best tonic water for gin, vodka, and simply sipping on its own.


great value lime tonic water

Best Lime Flavored

Great Value Lime Flavored Tonic Water

Back in my college days there was one sure way to make any drink taste better: Add a splash of Rose’s Lime cordial. This lime-flavored tonic water from Walmart’s Great Value brand tastes like someone went ahead and poured the Rose’s into the mixer before you even got a chance to screw up the drink. And I think it’s delicious. It still has that classic tonic water tang, but it’s tamed by the limeade-esque citrus addition. It’s one of the more chuggable tonic waters I’ve ever tasted. If you’re new to tonic water but you like lemon lime soda, this is the best tonic water with which to start your tonic water journey. — Justine Sterling

Credit: Liv Averett / Walmart

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

trader joe's tonic water

Best Budget

Trader Joe’s Tonic Water

Trader Joe’s Tonic Water is a solid choice for mixing up a good cocktail. If your budget is small but your thirst is large, grab a few bottles of this affordable tonic. It would be perfect for a sweet drink because, as one taster noted, it has a distinct “gummy worm flavor.” And to be clear, we love that. A sweet, bubbly compliment to our gin is exactly what we’re looking for! — Jordan Myrick

Credit: Merc

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Q light tonic

Best Diet Tonic

Q Light Tonic Water

We tried to find the best diet tonic water with zero calories but it can’t be done—or, at least, no one’s done it yet. They all fell flat (both literally and figuratively). But Q Light is pretty close to being a real diet tonic water, coming in at just 20 calories per each 7.5 oz can. It’s extremely quinine forward, meaning it’s wonderfully bitter and tart and drying. This is not the best tonic water for people who really love sugary drinks. If you make a G&T with this tonic, it won’t taste like a dive bar G&T. It will taste like a real craft bar cocktail. Use a bright, zesty gin like Bombay Sapphire or Nikka to contrast against the earthy bitterness. — Justine Sterling

Credit: Liv Averett / Walmart

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

Schweppes Tonic Water

Best with Vodka

Schweppes Tonic Water

When it comes to the classic tonic water brands, some people prefer Canada Dry and others prefer Schweppes. Canada Dry is more lemony, while Schweppes is more limey. And Schweppes leaves less of a bitter taste in the back of my throat—which makes it the best tonic for vodka since it won’t overwhelm the spirit too much. It’s also affordable and available just about everywhere.— Jordan Myrick

Credit: Merc / Walmart

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

canada dry tonic water

Best Classic G&T

Canada Dry Tonic Water

This is an old standard for a reason. It’s well known; it’s reliable; it’ll never let you down. There’s no nuance to this tonic, but the super sweet and lemony taste is incredibly refreshing. And you can find it anywhere: the liquor store, Walmart, a gas station. If you’re trying to mix up a cocktail in a hurry with minimal ingredients, Canada Dry is a great option—and it’s certainly the best tonic water for G&T drinkers who want their cocktails to taste like the old school, dive bar ideal of a G&T. — Jordan Myrick

Credit: Merc / Amazon

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

fever tree elderflower tonic water

Best Floral

Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic Water

Fever-Tree says this flavored tonic water is made with “the essential oils from handpicked English elderflowers.” They describe it as “delicious” and “floral” and I completely agree. It has a strong lychee scent and tastes a bit like gummy bears (in a good way). It’s not quite as perfect as our number one pick, but it’s very, very good. Plus, we love Fever-Tree’s teeny-tiny bottles. — Jordan Myrick

Credit: Merc / Fever-Tree

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water

Best of the Best

Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water

This is easily the best tonic water we tried. According to Fever-Tree, it contains “less quinine…which, with the addition of rosemary and lemon thyme, produces a much lighter, more fragrant tonic.” We’re sold! Those complex, herbaceous notes create depth and complement gin perfectly—but they also work well with a neutral spirit like vodka. Mixed into a cocktail or on its own, this is the tonic water to buy. — Jordan Myrick

Credit: Merc / Fever-Tree

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

Other Products We Tried: Kroger Brand Tonic Water, Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water, Q Drinks Tonic Water, Happy Belly Tonic Water, Zevia Tonic Water, Fever-Tree Light Tonic Water, Fever-Tree Cucumber Tonic Water, Fentimans Naturally Light Tonic Water, Buzbee’s Indian Tonic Water, Betty Buzz Tonic Water, Canada Dry Diet Tonic Water, Schweppes Zero Sugar, Kroger Diet Tonic, Great Value Diet Tonic


About the Author

Sporked Staff

The Sporked Staff tastes everything and anything. They are obsessive about groceries and finding the best of any type of food or drink, from frozen fried shrimp to Dijon mustard to gummy candy. And they're always on a hunt for the best new products. When they aren't eating professionally, they're eating recreationally. And often they're browsing grocery store aisles, just for fun.

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  • Didn’t add diet to ica to the test they have no carbs, so that’s what I use at home Meijer brand

    Reply
  • You forgot to mention that the lower priced tonic waters are usually contain high fructose corn syrup.

    Reply