Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bitter Lemon Taste Tests

I don't know about you, but I love bitter lemon. Ever since I bought my first 6-pack of Schweppes Bitter Lemon, I've been hooked. For a long time, it was really hard to find, but in the last couple of years, we've seen it quite often. Sometimes I drink it alone, and sometimes I substitute it for tonic water in a G&T. I often describe it as a blend of tonic water and lemonade, and its refreshing.

This summer, a new bitter lemon came to Chicago (Fever Tree), so I had to try it. And then this fall, I found another one (Stirrings) when I was visiting downstate Illinois. So it seemed to be high time for a review & tasting of bitter lemon (I can't tell you how excited I am to have mor
e than one to try!).

With our 4-person tasting panel (my father-in-law is still here), we tasted these today. We tried them on their own, over ice, with vodka and with gin. As with our tonic tasting, we had a variety of opinions. Here's a general summary:

Fever Tree - three of us liked this one best on its own, with ice and with vodka. Its a bit lighter on quinine and overall flavor than the other two. It has a very fresh, genuine lemon flavor along with some nice herbal notes and a touch of quinine. With gin, only one of us liked it best (that was me). Others felt it was too light for gin.

Schweppes - one of us liked this one best on its own, with ice, and with vodka. It has a nice balance of lemon flavor and quinine, and like the tonic water, the quinine is actually accentuated by ice. The lemon is less fresh and natural compared to the other two. It worked well with the gin too, but only one us picked it as the favorite.

Stirrings - As with the tonic, this seemed to be a love it or hate it for our little tasting group. Two of us picked this as best with the gin, while the other two of us picked it as worst. On its own, with ice and with vodka, it was never chosen first, and sometimes chosen last. It has more flavor than the others, perhaps more quinine than Schweppes, and stronger herbal notes. To me, it tasted a bit like Sprite with some ginger & anise thrown in. Others tasted the ginger and earthy spices.

Anyone seen any other bitter lemon sodas out there? I just got my hands on some of the Dry Sodas, so I'm looking forward to trying those.


mark said...

There is a Schweppes Bitter Lemon imported from Macedonia that is more bitter lemon than the recipe normally sold in the US. I highly suggest seeking it out. I get my fix from Andy's Fruit Ranch in Chicago. It's also available online at and at

~Sonja~ said...

Thanks Mark! I'll definitely look for that and give it a try.

jro said...

Can I ask where you found Fever-Tree in Chicago? I've had my eye out for it, but haven't found it yet. Thanks!

~Sonja~ said...

Hi JRO, I found the Fever Tree at West Lakeview Liquors in Chicago (Addison & Leavitt) and at Schaefer's in Skokie. It is my understanding that The Wine Cellar in Palatine may have some as well. I would call ahead and see if they still have it, its been a few weeks since I've bought any.

I heard through the grapevine that they have signed on with Union Beverage in Chicago, so I expected to see it in a lot more places, but it hasn't happened. Others reported that they were having some supply/distribution challenges keeping up with the markets they are already in. Not sure when we'll see it more, but hopefully soon!

Anonymous said...

i had schweppes bitter lemon in germany cant seem to find it here ohio