Summer Preview
By Brandon Chuang
on 5.8.13
Photo by C CLloyd

A decent drink can be hard to find, especially when you’re at home. You could go the long route — squeeze some fruit juice, pickle your own vegetables and make your own bitters — but at that point you might as well be bottling your own brand and making the obsession worth the time. For the do-it-yourselfers who would rather the “do” simply be mixing the strong stuff with the not-so-strong stuff, we’ve compiled a list of the top five mixers you can find in your friendly neighborhood high-end liquor store. All you have to do is add booze, ice and maybe a wry wink as you drop in the cocktail straw. Or will it be a fancy umbrella? Wry wink.

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Fever Tree Club Soda

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Pair it with: Monkey Shoulder Scotch
You’d think that all soda waters were the same, but then again, not all soda waters are made from soft spring water and bicarbonate of soda. London-based Fever Tree is a specialty mixing company that got its start when co-founder Charles Rolls — he of Plymouth Gin fame — set out to create a top-shelf mixer to go with his top-shelf spirit. The result, alongside the company’s expanded portfolio of tonics, is a clean, clear, highly carbonated club soda that will take nothing away from that 12-year-old scotch you’ve been hiding away.

Q Tonic

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Pair it with: Oxley Classic English Dry Gin
A gin and tonic, mixed properly, is roughly 25% gin and 75% tonic. The point being that unless you start going gin gung-ho, no matter how many G & Ts you drink, you’re going to be consuming far more T than G. Q Tonic understands this, which is why they’ve created a “healthier” tonic water, using organic agave nectar as a sweetener (instead of high fructose corn syrup) and hand-picked quinine from the Andes mountain range in Peru — the same Peruvian quinine used by herbalists for everything from improved circulation to increased energy. Compared to regular tonic waters, Q Tonic boasts 60% fewer calories and a glycemic rating that’s 85% lower than what you’d find on most store shelves. To put that in layman’s terms: drink up.

Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer

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Pair it with: The Kraken Black Rum
To make a dark ‘n stormy you need two things: black rum and ginger beer. Thus, it only makes sense that Gosling’s, the maker of Gosling’s Black Seal Bermuda Black Rum (the rum of choice for many a dark ‘n stormy, and another obvious choice of pairing here) would create a ginger beer complement. Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer has a crispness to it, a snap that is often lacking in many ginger beers, but that works in unison with the smooth, sweet roundness of a black rum to create a delicious cocktail that, at least in our experience, can lead to nights both bleak and inclement.

Fee Brothers Bitters

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Pair it with: Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon
Fee Brothers was originally formed in 1835 by Owen Fee, an Irish immigrant who opened a butcher shop in Rochester, New York. As the years passed, the shop evolved into a saloon and then a liquor store, where Owen Fee’s sons developed a winery and import business. Later, during Prohibition, the Fee brothers took to making altar wine, as well as several at-home wine- and beer-making kits that were able to skirt the law with directions like “Do not add yeast to this product as it is likely to ferment”.

Today, the company still stands as a bastion of mixology, and its portfolio of 15 bitters — from Aztec Chocolate to Rhubarb — is used in top bars across the country. Though using these will be a bit more involved than the other “mixers” on our list (they can’t really stand alone), they are often the make-or-break piece of a cocktail. Our thought is, if it’s good enough for a place that’s going to charge you $20 for a Manhattan, it’s good enough for that $20 bottle of bourbon you got at the office Christmas party.

Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix

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Pair it with: Russian Standard Gold Vodka
Everyone has their staple drink. You call it out by name when you go to a bar: Jack and Coke; Bulleit Rye Manhattan; Bombay Sapphire martini. That’s all well and good, because those are spirits; spirits are what drive your drink. At least, mostly. Lately we’ve become used to hearing “do you have Zing Zang?” The Bloody Mary mix has reached an almost cult status in the day-drinking set. Its tomatoey saccharinity and pepper-fueled bite lends the perfect balance between sweet and spicy. Zing Zang even goes so far as to say that it’s good without alcohol. To us, that’s like saying a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is good even without gasoline. But we digress.