No matter how velvety smooth, perfectly blended or deeply complex a spirit is, sometimes you need a mixer. As sophisticated as the world of martinis and neat pours is, there are times you want a Manhattan, Gin and Tonic, Cuba Libre or Bloody Mary.
Thanks to your careful study of the gin, vodka and rum posts, you have found a new delightful, perhaps even craft-made, American spirit to enjoy. When it is time to add a mixer to your new love, you certainly want to make sure that you are adding a product of the same high quality and pedigree.
The US-made mixers below are just the ticket. They will enhance your all American cocktail experience. Better still, many of these mixers can be enjoyed on their own, by thirsty people of all ages.
Dry Soda Co. – Made in Pacific Northwest
In fact in this case, dry refers to less sugar.
Neither will your waistline. Dry Soda is made using only 4 ingredients and keeps the pure cane sugar to an absolute minimum. The result is a beverage line packed full of taste that ranges (depending on flavor) from 45-70 calories and 11-19 grams of sugar per 12 oz bottle.
Dry Soda Co. was started by Sharelle Klaus, a food and wine lover, who during her pregnancy was frustrated by the limited and often uninspired beverage options — water, overly-sweet juices or sodas, etc. She missed pairing wine with her food — the way one played off the other and made both more delicious, interesting and complex.
Determined (as only a mother can be) to find a healthy, flavorful alternative beverage for herself and her family, Sharelle began experimenting with flavors in her own kitchen in 2005. Before long, Dry Soda Co. was born and soon was being offered in some of the country’s finest restaurants. Lucky for you (and me), Dry Soda Co. has expanded into retail distribution. And with their handy app, you can now find out who sells Dry Soda in your hometown. (Find the app here.) If by chance, Dry Soda has not made it to your neighborhood, you can buy it online. (You should also request it from your favorite grocer!)
Don’t worry, Dry Soda Co. did not go to all the trouble of writing an app just to tell you where to buy its product. The app (as well as their awesome website!) shares each flavor’s characteristics (Wild Lime is refreshing, tart, fragrant, high acidity); pairing ideas (Rhubarb goes with veal, lamb, prime rib, comfort foods, hamburgers, winter vegetables) and cocktail suggestions (Juniper Berry combines well with gin, light rum, peach liqueur, citron vodka) and recipes (check them out here).
So get the app, pick your flavor(s) and drink to better health.
Fat and Juicy Bloody Mary Mix - Made in Charleston, South Carolina
Well, those days are over thanks to Fat and Juicy.
First of all, Fat and Juicy comes in glass bottle so no icky (that is a technical term, in case you were wondering) metal or even plastic flavors will leach out into the yummy mix.
Second, Fat and Juicy is not just tomato juice. Though it starts with fat and juicy tomatoes (come on, you know you saw that coming!), it is enhanced with a signature blend of smoky heat and fresh horseradish, roasted vegetables purees, and a hit of garlic and hot pepper.
So whether you prefer a Bloody Mary (vodka), a Red Snapper (gin), a Bloody Mariachi (tequila), a Michelada (beer), or just enjoy the refreshing taste of a delicious spicy tomato mocktail, Fat and Juicy has you covered.
Fat and Juicy Blood Mary Mix was concocted by childhood friends and Fatter Then Albert bandmates, John Glenn (not the astronaut) and Joe Good, in the back of a 15-passenger van one morning (after a long night) on the way home from a gig.
True to its mobile origins, Fat and Juicy is available in a single serving size (8 oz/$2.49 bottle) that is perfect for picnics, tailgates or anytime you prefer not to be encumbered with the company’s more traditional 32 oz bottle ($5.99 ea). Just open the 8 oz bottle, add ice, a libation (if you wish) and mix. (Use a celery stick, spoon or stirrer, if possible. Your fingers are dirty!)
Finally a delicious way to drink your vegetables!
Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. – Made in Charleston, South Carolina
With a bottle this cool does it matter what is inside?
(Come on. I know that I am not the only one who is a sucker for great packaging!)
The good news is what is in this hip little apothecary bottle is at least as cool as the bottle itself. And what is inside is liquid gold. (Ok, not really but if any of your favorite cocktails call for tonic, you will probably agree the actual contents are more precious!)
Mixologist Brooks Reitz, not content to serve the mass-produced tonic typically available at a bar in his expertly crafted cocktails, set out to make a better tonic by taking his time and using better ingredients. This personal project quickly grew legs and became the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.
His Jack Rudy Artisan Tonic ($32/2 bottles) is a concentrated syrup of the raw ingredients quinine, sugar, lemongrass and orange zest. This formulation offers you more control over dilution than typical tonic and the use of raw ingredients ensures a superior flavor.
Try it out in your gin and tonic or in one of Brooks’ approved recipes. (Remember, Kids, he does this for a living.)
Brooks named his tonic and his company for his great-grandfather, a man he describes as “a pilot, inventor, and engineer who lived a life of unconventional success by constantly being a daredevil.” (Looks like most of those traits are hereditary!)
So far, Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.’s only product offering is its Artisan Tonic. Buy it. Not just because you’ll love it, but as a way to encourage Brooks to revamp more bar staples!
Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Mix - Made in New Orléans, Louisiana
The Hurricane was developed in New Orléans during World War II. At that time, scotch, bourbon and whiskey were all in short supply. In order to buy just one case of these sought after dark spirits, a bar would have to buy 50 cases of rum, which was in ready supply. Needless to say, that left many a barkeep with an abundance of rum.
Through trial and error and the help of an eager rum salesman, a fruity elixir was developed. It was so successful that the rum began flowing off the shelves. (It still does today!)
Garnished with orange slice and a cherry and served in a tall, hurricane lantern-shaped glass, the now famous drink was born. It is this distinctive glass shape that lends its name to the beverage, not the weather phenomena.
Officially, however the Hurricane should be served in a 26 oz. Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Glass. So you have two choices, head to New Orléans (not a bad option!) or you can buy one online. (And when you finish your drink, you can use the glass as a savings account. It turns out the official glass holds $10 in pennies.)
Whether you have some rum to move, are preparing for Mardi Gras or are just longing for the French Quarter, you need a bottle of Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Mix ($4.75/1 liter).
Q Ginger – Made in United States
Many local bottlers made their own versions using a variety of spices (often secret) to make their ginger ale distinct. In 1893 WB Keller, the editor of the National Bottlers Gazette wrote: “it should be the aim of every bottler to bring its brand of ginger ale to the highest possible perfection, since a bottler’s products are judged for better or worst by the merit or lack of merit possessed by its ginger ale.”
Over 115 years later, Q Ginger has adopted Keller’s dictum as its own standard.
Q Ginger is so old-fashioned it is modern. By returning to the traditional way of making ginger ale, long before the introduction of artificial flavors and corn syrup, Q is part of a modern trend toward a greater interest in and awareness of the taste, quality and health implications of the world’s foods and beverages.
Packaged in a glass bottle to preserve both the taste and the carbonation, Q Ginger is clean, crisp with a ginger bite and real depth. It is not too hot, nor too sweet. (In fact, Q Ginger has only has 60 calories a bottle.)
To achieve such balance Q starts with real ginger root, then adds organic agave and touches of coriander, cardamon, rose oil and orange peel. Q Ginger’s ingredients are not the most expected, cheapest or easiest to use. But none of that matters to Founder Jordan Silbert, because the result is worth the hassle. (They do ask that you shake gently before opening your bottle of Q Ginger because their real ingredients sometimes settle.)
And as if Jordan had not done enough for the world by revamping ginger ale, he also makes Q Tonic and Q Club Soda. Both products are all natural and are made to the same high standards of quality as Q Ginger. (Did I mention Q Tonic has 60% fewer calories than regular tonic?)
Restock your bar now!
Scrappy’s Bitters – Made in Seattle, Washington
Tongue-twisting and patience-trying.
To make “the best bitters in the world” the Scrappy’s team had to try and try again. Their biggest hurdle? How to create a bold, robust flavor using only natural fruits and herbs – never oils, extracts or dried produce. (Most of Scrappy’s ingredients are also organic and they are well on their way to their goal of being 100% organic.)
After seemingly endless experimentation, they came across an idea – add back-up singers. (Ok that is not really what they called it! But it is the same idea.) They found that by pairing supporting flavors with a central flavor, they were able to create bitters that are able to pack a wallop of flavor in just a couple of drops.
Taking it one step further, and really that is what sets Scrappy’s apart from all other bitters, Team Scrappy makes everything (yes, everything) that goes into their bitters by hand – from the blender to the caramel. When they say Scrappy’s Bitters are handmade, they’re serious. They are also produced in small batches, bottled, inspected and hand-numbered to ensure that each bottle meets their exacting standards.
Impressed with Scrappy’s but intimidated by bitters? Don’t be. Here is what you should know for when you are buying bitters: 1) tasted straight (a couple of drops licked off the back of your hand) bitters should be bitter and very strong in flavor, 2) a couple of drops of bitters rubbed in the palms of your hands should be very aromatic and 3) it should not take more than a few of drops of bitters to add boldness and intensity to a cocktail.
However, you don’t have to remember all that. You can just buy Scrappy’s! And with flavors like Lavender, Grapefruit, Orange, Cardamon, Chocolate, Celery, Lime, Root Beer, and Aromatic, you are sure to find one (or eight) that you will love.
You will also want to check out Scrappy’s website for delicious recipes using each flavor.
Add a little oomph to your cocktail hour.
Sonoma Syrup Co. Simple Syrup – Made in Sonoma, California
Simple syrup is simple enough to make (probably the reason for its name!) given plenty of time. It has to heat and then thoroughly cool. But let’s face it, life is not always that organized or timely. (Or at least mine is not.)
Fortunately, Founder Karin Campion and her team at Sonoma Syrup Co. have come to the rescue. Building on the region’s culinary tradition and emphasis on natural flavors and healthy ingredients, the Company has bottled pure cane sugar, water and a hint of vanilla so that it is ready to go anytime you need it. All you have to do is remove the top and you are ready to add simple syrup to your cocktail, iced coffee or tea, lemonade, sorbet or pastry. If you need more ideas, check out Sonoma Syrup Co.’s own recipes.
They even offer their Simple Syrup in two sizes (375 ml for $10.99 and 750 ml for $15.99), so you can buy just the right amount for your kitchen and/or bar. To make your better, more flavorful and complex, Sonoma Syrup Co. also offers flavors of its delectable syrup which are anything but simple — Meyer Lemon, Mint, Lavender, Vanilla Bean, Cinnamon, Pomegranate, Lime, White Ginger, Hazelnut, Almond, and Acai Black Currant Superfruit.
And speaking of flavor, Sonoma Syrup Co. has crafted some first-rate mixers that will add just the right natural flavors to some of your favorite cocktails. You will definitely want to try Five Citrus Sweet and Sour. 65% of this mixer is made of pure Meyer Lemon, Eureka Lemon, Key Lime, Persian Lime and Cara Cara Orange Juice. Try it instead of your old sour mix in your next margarita, gin fizz or whiskey sour and taste the difference.
They also make Sweetened Lime Juice (made with more than 75% lime juice) for a tasty gimlet or metropolitan; Classic Grenadine (made of more than 45% pomegranate juice) for a healthier Shirley Temple or Tequila Sunrise; Pure Sonoma Olive Juice (made of locally sourced and cured olives) for a perfect dirty martini.
Sonoma Syrup Co. is raising the bar on mixers! Let them elevate yours.
Hope you enjoyed this post. It was nice to be back to my old post style.
I am going to deviate one more time to bring you the last spirits post. It will feature the most American of all spirits – whiskey.
If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
Please do give these mixers a try. Thanksgiving would be a great time!
Enjoy. And as always, thanks for reading.