Splashes Worth the Splurge

At Chef Daniel Boulud’s celebrated Bar Pleiades in New York City, guests covet the stellar tonics and high-end mixers that enhance the distinguished cocktails.
At Chef Daniel Boulud’s celebrated Bar Pleiades in New York City, guests covet the stellar tonics and high-end mixers that enhance the distinguished cocktails. Jimmie Martin

Premium mixers are a priority for maintaining the quality of craft cocktails.

It was nearly a decade ago, coinciding with the ascent of the quality cocktail, when I was invited to get a drink with a dashing British gent by the name of Tim Warrillow. He was in New York because, along with business partner Charles Rolls, he had developed an Indian tonic water that was a far cry from the liquid found in all those bottles of Schweppes crowding supermarket shelves.

The name of their company was Fever-Tree—a reference to the cinchona tree that spawns tonic’s most essential ingredient, quinine—and their goal was to put pure botanical ingredients (like quinine sourced from the Rwanda Congo) in the spotlight, not the synthetic sweeteners that dominated the category. Since then, the company has grown to make a number of other tonic iterations, as well as ginger ale, ginger beer, club soda, and—perhaps my favorite—the sparkling and bitter lemon mixers. Restaurants and bars around the country have embraced Fever-Tree as their tonic of choice, and customers are now just as excited to see a bartender crack open a bottle when they order a classic G&T.

With the advent of superior, well-crafted cocktails, it only makes sense that premium mixers would become just as much of a barkeep’s priority as lovingly made syrups and bitters. What is the point of belaboring over a drink only to muck up a Moscow Mule with a sub-par ginger beer? This is why many a bartender makes his or her own mixers from scratch. When this does not prove a feasible endeavor from an operational stance, they know they can rely on top-notch alternatives like Fever-Tree, Q Tonic, and Jack Rudy Cocktail Co., as well as the organic quinine syrup Tomr’s and John’s Premium Tonic Water, made from a base of organic agave nectar. There is simply no room for a liter of ho-hum Canada Dry tonic in a thoughtful beverage program.

Anna Mitchell, bartender at Capa, the Spanish-inflected steakhouse at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, is a fan of Fever-Tree’s ginger beer “because it’s spicy and authentic.” Fever-Tree’s thyme- and rosemary- accented Mediterranean tonic water also finds its way into Mitchell’s G&Ts.

“There were several dark decades in the cocktail world during which time pre-packaged, preserved mixers flourished. As powdered sour mix becomes a thing of the past, it is inspiring to see bartenders using fresh herbs and seasonal produce to create drinks,” she explains. “This movement opens the door for many smaller companies, which make sodas, tonics, and bitters with integrity product and family recipes, to become known brands in a quality-focused market.”

At Capa, Mitchell makes all the restaurant’s syrups—including mint, orgeat, and green chile—in-house. “Well-made sodas, syrups, and other mixers will use fresh, natural ingredients that translate to a drink’s flavor and texture. They tend to be milder and, when mixed properly, don’t overpower cocktails like artificial flavors, sweeteners, and dyes tend to do,” she adds.


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