Dan Meades has worked most of his life on poverty reduction; ensuring safe and accessible “first and second” places (i.e. “home” and “work”).
Now he and his business partner, Kris Smith, have turned their attentions to “the third place”; a sociological concept referring to a community’s traditional meeting place (cafes, parks, barber shops, pubs). Their newly launched small batch Third Place Tonic is bringing friends, restauranteurs, and bar staff together in consensus wherever it is poured.
A Few Bouts of Malaria, and the Idea Was Born …
Gin and tonic is the iconic drink of Westerners out of their element. It is inoculation against the chaos of disease made palatable: lime to prevent scurvy, quinine “tonic” as anti-malarial, sugar and soda to make the medicine go down, and gin to forget you will have to fight these elements all over again tomorrow. Gin and tonic is about owning your exile; gin and tonic is hardship borne with neat style.
Meades and Smith have been bearing up and “teaching [each other] how to live” since they met at Memorial University’s “third place” drinking cocktail hour gin and tonics at The Breezeway student union bar. Smith was in his first year of a degree in commerce and Meades, in Smith’s words, “was in his 12th or 14th year” of English and Business.
Not long after that, Meades went to live and work in Sub Saharan Africa. During his second bout of malaria while there, he was given cinchona bark to chew along with his prescribed anti-malarial medications. Cinchona, a plant native to the Andean forests of South America, was once upon a time the sole source of quinine extract for tonic water.
“It was not a pleasant taste, [but] that earthy flavour and bitterness stuck with me,” says Meades. The mass market tonics available today use laboratory derived quinine and are far removed from the tonic rationed out to the British in India in the 1800s.
Now that Meades had experienced the astringent pucker of raw cinchona, he knew the sad truth that “quinine extract made in a lab is to traditional quinine what banana flavoured kids’ medicine is to a banana.”
Don’t Dilute Good Gin with Bad Tonic …
No longer willing to dilute good gin with bad tonic, Meades began boiling bark and experimenting with a new version of the old standard at home. Last year he bottled some up for Christmas gifts and the reaction was as strong as the cinchona. Friends in the restaurant industry immediately wanted more and he had inquiries for commercial orders and an offer to buy the recipe.
At this point, Meades decided he needed his old friend as more than just a drinking buddy. He called in Smith who had, by now, years of business and marketing experience within the food industry.
Together they fine-tuned the basic recipe of cinchona, citrus, and lemongrass, with lavender, tea, and, thanks to Smith’s palate, kaffir lime leaves, and then started production using the community commercial kitchen of The Benevolent Irish Society beneath the co-working and start-up spaces of Common Ground. This tonic is “third place” even when in its “second place.”
Where to Find It Now …
Thanks to Stephen Lee of Mallard Cottage and his enthusiasm for the product, Third Place Tonic has been live tested in Mallard’s cocktails all summer. They’ve even developed a G & T ritual for the purists, where you mix the drink yourself at your table from the tonic, soda water, and gin.
The product officially launched in early October and, as of November 1st, is available for retail at O’leva Olive Oils and Rocket Bakery. It is also served at Mallard Cottage, Raymond’s, The Merchant Tavern, and Adelaide Oyster House.
Production will, for now, remain small batch. Smith and Meades sign every bottle and stand by every pour. It can be used in complex cocktails, as a non-alcoholic addition to a soda or as the crux of the divine (and trending) iced coffee tonic. But it was created as the perfect partner to a dry gin.
As Meades says, “there are few flavour complements that are perfect: apples, pastry, and cinnamon is one; gin and [Third Place] tonic is another.”