Sep 6

Bitter Lemon Elixir and Berry Almond Tea Cakes

in Dessert, Drinks, Oyatsu/Snack, Recipes by Type

On my first visit to England years ago I stumbled across a drink that instantly grabbed at my taste buds and left me wanting more, Schweppes Bitter Lemon. Mouth puckering lemon and bitter quinine work together to create a symphony of flavor that is altogether addictive. I have since found Schweppes Bitter Lemon on occasion here in the US, but every time I buy one and take a sip I am always disappointed as the formula seems to be a bit different than the one I pounce on every time I’m in Europe. It just doesn’t seem as zingy. I did find a Bitter Lemon earlier this year on a trip to Singapore that was deliciously perfect, but that has been the only exception. Still, I would probably still settle for the tamer US Bitter Lemon anytime rather than go without. But even that seems to be a difficult order to fill, as it is hard to find in these parts.

A couple of days ago I woke up with an intense craving for my favorite lemony drink, so I decided to get online to do some research and figure out what makes Bitter Lemon tick. Schweppes explains that Bitter Lemon has quinine in it, which interestingly was first used in British India as a preventive measure against malaria, though the amount of quinine in Bitter Lemon today is too small to have any medicinal effect. They also mention that their Tonic Water also has quinine in it, which got me wondering what the differences were between Schweppes Tonic Water and Schweppes Bitter Lemon? Never fear, Wikipedia always seems to come through for me in these moments. Wikipedia explains that “the sole difference between tonic water and bitter lemon is the addition of the lemon flavor.”

Hmmmm…time to turn the Fuji Kitchen into a Bitter Lemon lab. I got myself to the nearest grocery store and picked up a bottle of Schweppes Tonic Water and a bag of fresh lemons and went back to the “lab” to get to work.

After multiple failed formulas, I finally settled on one that satisfied my taste buds. No, it doesn’t taste exactly like my beloved UK version of Bitter Lemon, but it was good enough to satisfy my craving.

FM’s Bitter Lemon Elixir
1 serving

3/4 c. Tonic Water
2-3 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice (depending on how much of a mouth pucker you’re after)
2 tsp. confectioners’ sugar

1. Pour Tonic Water into a glass. Add lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar. Stir gently.

2. Drink and enjoy.

By the time I had my oh-so-top-secret Bitter Lemon formula all worked out in the Fuji lab, it was tea time and I was in need of a snack to go along with my drink. But what to eat with a snappy sour drink? How about a moist slightly nutty and lemony tea cake topped with berries? Just the ticket!

I modified Tartelette’s recipe for Apricot and Wattleseeds Tea Cakes, and voila!

Berry Almond Tea Cakes
adapted from recipe by Tartelette
Makes about 12 (can be made in any dish/mold you have like regular muffin tins)

– 1 cup assorted berries
– 2 large eggs
– 6 0z (on standard US container) (about 180 gr) whole milk plain unsweetened yogurt
– 1/2 cup sugar (100g)
– zest of one lemon
– 1/3 cup (80ml) vegetable or olive oil
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup (115gr) almond flour/meal
– 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 1/4 Tb lemon juice

1. Preheat your oven to 350° F, spray a muffin pan or 12 molds of your preference with cooking spray and set aside while you prepare the cake batter.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the eggs and sugar until pale. Add the yogurt, oil, vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Whip to combine and add the flour, almond flour and baking powder. Whip on medium speed for 30 seconds to make sure all the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth. Scrape the bottom of your bowl if necessary and give the batter another 10 seconds whirl. Do not overwork the batter or your cake will turn out gummy.

3. Divide the batter into the prepared tins, arrange the berries on top and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester (skewer or tip of your knife) inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for ten minutes, and transfer onto a rack to cool.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Phoe September 6, 2008 at 4:54 pm

I know that bitter lemon stuff mainly as an ingredient in UV reactive cocktails at night clubs. :)

Looks like you’re having a lovely time baking up a storm!


Tartelette September 6, 2008 at 9:01 pm

Quinine is great for muscle cramps too! The little cakes look wonderful!


Teresa September 6, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Do you think “lemon extract” as opposed to the real deal would make it more authentic?
I first had Bitter Lemon in the Caribbean. It’s definitely a taste you don’t forget easily.


Fuji Mama September 6, 2008 at 9:50 pm

That’s a good thought Teresa! I’ll have to try it out. :-)


Misha September 7, 2008 at 12:56 pm

My mouth is watering after reading your post! It doesn’t help that I’m especially hungry and thirsty being fast Sunday… :-) If I have yogurt, I’m going to try those tea cakes for dessert!

Oh–The same phenomenon of switching the ingredients for us here in the states verse England, happens with chocolate too! What I wouldn’t give for a REAL English Cadbury milk chocolate bar.


dianeinjapan September 7, 2008 at 11:46 pm

Tonic water plus lemon? Who knew?? I love bitter lemon drinks, too, so thanks for your research!


Damaris September 8, 2008 at 3:40 am

this looks so good. Gosh i wish you lived close to me.


Michelle September 8, 2008 at 6:05 am

I love bitter lemon too – but we can get it easily here at the supermarkets.

I would try lemon cordial with the tonic water, rather than straight lemons. The sugar in the cordial will make the difference.


emma ::emmas designblogg:: September 17, 2008 at 3:17 pm

I had a huge craving for Tonic Water during both of my pregnancies! At the most intense periods I probably drank around 2 litres of the stuff every day… Wonder what it is about that quinine?


Amy September 22, 2008 at 9:28 am

i want… this… NOW!!


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