Make a Wisconsin Gin and Tonic with Rehorst Gin and Sprecher Tonic

Make a Wisconsin Gin and Tonic with Rehorst Gin and Sprecher Tonic

The Wisconsin Old Fashioned is a famous spin on a classic drink. It takes the tried and true formula of bourbon, sugar, bitters, and an orange twist and amps it up by trading bourbon for brandy, then adding soda and cherries.

Given that the Wisconsin Old Fashioned worked out so well, I propose adding a new mixed drink to the list of local libations: The Wisconsin Gin and Tonic.

The recipe for a Wisconsin Gin and Tonic is simple, but having the right ingredients matters:


2oz Rehorst Gin from Great Lakes Distillery 

6oz of Craft Tonic Water from Sprecher Brewery

Lime wedges and ice

At a glance, it's just a gin and tonic, right? The ingredients are gin, tonic water, lime wedges, and ice. So what? The magic--and the Wisconsin goodness--is in the recipe.

A wisconsin gin and tonic

1. Pour 2oz of Rehorst Gin over Ice in a Highball Glass

To appreciate this step, you need to know two other recipes: the recipe for Rehorst Gin, and the recipe for Great Lakes Distillery.

The Recipe for Rehorst Gin

Rehorst Gin is produced exclusively at Great Lakes Distillery in Milwaukee, WI. It is distilled in small batches and flavored with a unique blend of botanicals.

What does this mean, and what ties Rehorst Gin so deeply to Wisconsin?

Well, gin is made from liquor flavored with botanicals, and liquor is distilled from a fermented mash of malted grain, yeast, and water. Rehorst Gin involves ingredients sourced from Wisconsin in every step of the process.

Like all gin, Rehorst Gin begins life as a sort of boozy mash. Great Lakes makes their mash using malted grain sourced from Briess Malting in Chilton, WI.

Then, Great Lakes distills that mash into liquor on-site and flavors it with a mix of traditional botanicals like Juniper berries. However, they also include completely unique botanicals like sweet basil and Wisconsin Ginseng.

Rehorst Gin

Ginseng is a slightly bitter, earthy-tasting root that is traditionally used for its energizing and memory-enhancing properties. Wisconsin grows 95% of the Ginseng in the U.S., so the good people at Great Lakes couldn't pass up the chance to use the stuff in a new way. 

Rehorst Gin is Wisconsin through-and-through. I can think of no better spirit to go into the Wisconsin Gin and Tonic.   

The Recipe for Great Lakes Distillery 

Rehorst Gin is made under the supervision of Guy Rehorst, founder of Great Lakes Distillery. As Rehorst recounted to OnMilwaukee's Molly Snyder, the recipe for Great Lakes Distillery was a challenging one. 

Why? Due to a long history of legal barriers, it has not been easy to run a distillery in Milwaukee for hundreds of years.

Prior to the Civil War, Milwaukee was home to a thriving community of distilleries. According to Great Lakes' history of distilling in Milwaukee, these distilleries produced mostly whisky, and they sold it at 15 cents a gallon. 

However, during the Civil War, the cash-strapped federal government slapped a $1 tax on gallons of whiskey. Finding Uncle Sam's wallet even emptier after the war, president Ulysses S. Grant doubled the tax to $2. 

This was a devastating price increase that put Milwaukee distillers on the ropes--especially because crooked Chicago distilleries paid off federal law enforcement to sell whiskey at $1.15 a gallon and undercut Milwaukee prices. 

By 1916 there were only two distilleries left in Milwaukee, and they were wiped off the map as soon as prohibition hit. As a result of restrictive laws, no new distilleries had lasting success in Milwaukee until Guy Rehorst founded Great Lakes in 2004.

In the early 2000s, Rehorst left a career in the waning VCR/CD/DVD duplication business and made the inspired choice to turn his homebrewing hobby into a distilling business. 

Against all odds, Rehorst cleared numerous legal and financial hurdles to open Great Lakes Distillery, expand his business, and loosen restrictions on the sale of small-batch liquors.

That's great, but what were we doing again?

Oh, yeah. We were making a Wisconsin Gin and Tonic.

As it turns out, pouring that 2oz of Rehorst Gin into your highball glass took a lot of work. Fortunately, you hardly had to do any of it, but now you know who to thank.

Wisconsinites grew ginseng and processed malt, Guy Rehorst fought for the right to open a profitable small distillery, and he hired a hardworking team to turn those Wisconsin ingredients into an award-winning small batch Gin.

Cheers to that! Now onto the next step.

2. Pour 6oz (half a bottle) of Sprecher Craft Tonic Water in the Glass and Stir

Just as in step one, this step is best appreciated by folks who know the recipe for Sprecher Tonic Water, and for Sprecher Brewery itself. 

The Recipe for Sprecher Tonic Water

Sprecher Tonic water is a craft mixer. Like all Sprecher beers, sodas, lemonades, and mixers, Sprecher Tonic Water is made exclusively in Glendale Wisconsin using ingredients that are a cut above the rest in terms of quality and taste.

Sprecher Tonic Water

Tonic water is traditionally a sweet mixer flavored with a small amount of an ingredient called quinine, which gives the drink it's unique bittersweet taste.

Many tonic waters on the market today sweeten their tonic water with cheap, unhealthy sugar substitutes like high fructose corn syrup.

Sprecher Tonic Water is a much more traditional tonic water, made with wholesome ingredients such as purified sparkling water, pure cane sugar, natural flavoring and real quinine.

The result is a Wisconsin-made craft tonic water that tastes crisp, clean, sweet, and lightly bitter--the perfect accompaniment to a hefty pour of Rehorst Gin.

The Recipe for Sprecher Brewery

Like Great Lakes Distillery, Sprecher Brewery was the first operation of its kind in Milwaukee after prohibition.  

Sprecher opened its doors in 1985 at 730 W Oregon Street in the Menominee River Valley in Milwaukee. It was founded by an entrepreneurial veteran named Randy Sprecher who had a passion for brewing European-style beers.

The original Sprecher Brewery building at 730 W Oregon St

Randy quickly realized he could apply his skills to make all sorts of craft beverages, and a few years later his fire-brewed craft root beer made its debut.

The Root Beer was so widely beloved that Sprecher Brewery achieved local fame and staying power, and over the years the business expanded to make craft beverages of all kinds.

It wasn't always easy--in the early 90s Sprecher had to re-locate to 701 W. Glendale Avenue in Glendale, WI when a canal retainer wall broke and part of the original brewery's grounds succumbed to the Menominee river.  

However, Sprecher has survived and thrived throughout the years, and is now in the capable hands of a group of local investors. In short, Sprecher is a company with deep Wisconsin roots, just like Great Lakes Distillery. 

As you pour your Sprecher Tonic Water into your Rehorst Gin, it's worth contemplating the craft and dedication that went into making both beverages, and the sublime serendipity of the fact that two different companies dedicated to creating the highest-quality gin and the highest-quality tonic overcame barrier after barrier to exist a mere seven miles apart from each other.

Once you are done contemplating, it's time for step three!

3. Squeeze a lime wedge over the drink, drop it in, and stir. Then, drink up!

Congratulations, you are now enjoying a Wisconsin Gin and Tonic! As you imbibe the years of history, the work of local craftspeople, and the improbable but much appreciated success of two Milwaukee entrepreneurs, don't forget to enjoy the taste. It is a darned good drink, and that's what it's really all about.

If you agree, raise a glass, snap a picture, and if you want to go the extra mile, throw on the hashtag #WIGinandTonic. Wisconsin made the old fashioned better, now it's time to do the same for the G&T.

One last thing--you still have 6oz of tonic left in your bottle. For a twist, make a second Wisconsin Gin and Tonic for your drinking buddy! 

Always stay in the know by joining our mailing list, and get the first access to our new craft sodas, craft beer and deals on apparel and gift shop items. Sign up today. 

Back to blog


Menards in Superior, WI used to carry your premium tonic water which is awesome, they don’t anymore and how can I change

Corwin Doble

Where can I find your tonic water near Green Bay WI? Menards doesn’t carry it anymore. Thanks!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.