the southern tonic

Named after our favorite Southern small batch tonic, Jack Rudy, this cocktail is great served to a crowd, reduced down to serve one or two, or served without alcohol at all. Lemongrass is a tropical plant that is sold as stalks, with a subtle fragrance of lemon. The finished cocktail is crisp and refreshing, with an orange color that makes for a pretty summertime drink.

Lemongrass Simple Syrup
1 large stalk lemongrass
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

2 oranges
4 ounces Jack Rudy tonic  
8 ounces vodka, or to taste
16 ounces club soda
Ice, for serving

  1. Trim ends of lemongrass and remove its outer layer and discard. Using back of a knife, gently bruise lemongrass in 1-inch intervals (this allows lemongrass to release its flavor). Cut lemongrass into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Place water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add lemongrass and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow syrup to cool to room temperature. Remove lemongrass and chill until ready to serve.
  3. Cut oranges in half, and cut one half into slices. Add slices to a pitcher. Juice remaining halves until you have 4 ounces of orange juice. Add to pitcher along with 4 ounces lemongrass simple syrup, Jack Rudy tonic, and vodka. Give mixture a good stir. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. 
  4. When ready to serve, taste mixture and adjust if desired. Add ice to each glass and fill each 3/4 full with vodka mixture. Top each glass with club soda and serve.

Makes 1 pitcher, serving 4.

cook’s note: It’s important to use fresh squeezed orange juice, otherwise the drink tends to be too sweet.