How much thought goes into the mixers that goes into your mixed drink? For many in the trade, it's a quintessential piece of the drinks puzzle with more choice than ever. In this Kaddy exclusive piece, Samantha Payne has surveyed the nation's bar high flyers to work out what's hot in the world of mixers, with a few tasty mixed drinks and tips thrown in for good measure.
We’ve come a long way from super sugary, pre-mixed sodas out of a gun behind bars.
Don't get me wrong, an icy cold Maccas's Sprite on a morning when you woke up ‘less than fresh’ is a lifesaver. But for balancing out a locally-made spirit in a highball for a refreshing G&T, I'm looking towards beautifully crafted, lower-in-sugar alternatives that highlight and enhance what they’re mixed with.
So, where do we start? What’s the mixer of choice for drink perfection?
For answers, I asked three of the most influential people in the Australian bar scene today; literally, these three have all ranked in this year’s Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People.
If anyone is well equipped to tell us what makes a perfect mixer, it would be Nick Tesar of Bar Liberty, crowned the 2022 Australian Bartender of the Year. Bar Liberty keeps it local by supporting fellow Melbourne brand StrangeLove, particularly the StrangeLove Ginger Ale and Coastal Tonic.
‘I'm personally a massive fan of local production. And then quality ingredients captured in a lower sugar means, allowing for more versatility in mixing’ Tesar explains.
‘I think the industry has come such a long way, globally the quality of the mixer market has been led by the likes of Fever Tree, and then here in Australia, the likes of Capi and StrangeLove have really carried this on.’
Jane Ryan, the content creator for Difford’s Guide & Liquid Ideas, agrees with Tesar’s love for local brands StrangeLove & Capi and looks for ‘things with elevated flavours that’s not going to overpower the spirit.’ Ryan also mentions the appeal of these smaller handcrafted brands is the smaller format the mixers come in (usually 180-250mL). ‘I’m very particular about the size I use, especially when I’m creating content at home – it seems such a waste to open a big 750mL bottle for one drink, so a smaller format is key for minimising wastage at home.’
One of the first smaller format premium mixers to come onto the scene was UK brand Fever Tree, which still holds a considerable market share in Australia as an excellent quality mixer for cocktails at home and in bars. Trish Brew, brand ambassador for Fever Tree, explains the must-haves for any superior mixer.
‘Quality ingredients are of the utmost importance when creating a mixer, so I detest anything artificially flavoured or cloyingly sweet. Additionally, I don't enjoy mixers that are lower in carbonation as there is nothing more unsatisfying than a flat highball.’
So you’ve picked your favourite flavour of Strange Love, Capi, Fever Tree or even a small-batch PS40 soda - what do you do with them?
We asked our three experts for some tips and flavour combos.
Reed and Co Remedy Gin & StrangeLove Coastal Tonic
Marionette Bitter Curacao w/ Maidenii Classic & StrangeLove Mandarin
Melbourne Gin Company & Capi Dry Tonic
Brogan's Way Evening Light & Fever Tree Raspberry Tonic
Gospel Rye & Capi Dry Ginger Ale
StrangeLove Dirty Tonic with the Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin for a twist on a dirty martini
Currently, I am really enjoying whisky highballs with the Fever-Tree Premium Ginger Ale. The clean ginger flavour works so well with whiskies of all types, garnished with a big twist of lemon peel to brighten it up.
Photos from Instagram/Capi website.