At a recent trek to the Specialty Food Show at the Javits in NYC, I had the task—and pleasure—of tasting all sort of goodies. On hand were a bevy of crafted sodas, juices, waters, and cocktail syrups, and I made a point to get a sip of them all. I’ve collected the best of the best for those who love to experiment with cocktails and flavors. (If you prefer already mixed cocktail versions, see the post on INSTANT COCKTAILS, which features mixers that give you a perfectly mixed cocktail with just a pour.)
I was attracted to the stylish packaging which housed the splendid mixers, many of which you would be proud to put on display. I especially adore the attractive look of the petite bottles and cans, which allows guest to get a fresh, personalized pour.
Navy Hill Tonics
In between a tonic and sparkling water Navy Hill’s blend is crafted to complement your favorite booze and provide something more with every sip: electrolytes. Potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium ions get depleted when drinking alcohol, so in essence you replenish as you go. Handsome packaging really shows off your good taste in choosing to line the bar with these adorable single serving bottles. Only 35 calories per 8.45 fl oz bottle.
The three varieties: Original blends triple purified water and the finest quinine with bright grapefruit notes and a hint of floral and cardamom. Best mixed with gin, vodka, tequila, scotch and rum. The Ginger flavor adds lemon, some fresh pressed ginger mixed with lemongrass to the tonic. This flavor profile highlights the notes of darker spirits like rum, whiskey, bourbon. See cocktail recipes with the tonics at: At Home Mixology.
Juniper houses a botanical blend which includes juniper berries, a touch of citrus and rosemary, with tonic. Great with botanically-based spirits like gin and vodka. $29.99 for a 12 bottle case. drinknavyhill.com
Working with some of the Pacific Northwest’s leading chefs, founder Sharelle Klaus incorporated unique flavor notes into a sparkling beverage that really captures your attention. The flavor profiles are simple, yet extremely pleasing. DRY Sparkling sodas come in a great assortment of fun flavors that allow you to go really crazy with mixology, or just pair them simply with a spirit. They were all so good, but I list my three favorites here.
Watermelon (cool-refreshing-juicy) works well with gin, tequila, rum, rosé, champagne. Food-wise: grilled shrimp, prosciutto, kebabs, grilled veggie sandwich, potato salad. This is definitely a summer cocktail pleaser. 50 calories per 12 oz serving.
Ginger (bold-spicy-full) enhances bourbon, vodka, light rum. Pairing Ideas: garlic prawns, winter squash, sushi, bratwurst. This is a good flavor for those who like a spiciness in their sipping. 65 calories per 12 oz serving.
Vanilla (smooth-earthy-aromatic) is a nice match with spiced rum, vanilla vodka, coffee liqueur, Irish cream. Food pairing: roasted chicken, summer salad, fish & chips, pizza, brownies. Nice to serve as a nightcap, with desserts. 60 calories per 12 oz serving.
The packaging is absolutely stellar—true works of art—whether you choose the bottles or the cans. 4 pack of 12 oz bottles, around $6. See cocktail recipes with the sodas at: At Home Mixology. drysoda.com
Sap! Maple Water
Now here’s a novel idea. Sap sustainably harvests maple trees in Vermont to create a nutrient-rich, antioxidant-packed soda. Each can contains naturally occurring electrolytes (magnesium, manganese, potassium), antioxidants, 46 vitamins & minerals and trace nutrients. They also offer a birch-derived beverage with loads of benefits, like antioxidants, an anti-inflammatory effect (from natural salicylates, from the same family of compounds as aspirin), and protects teeth with naturally occurring Xylitol.
Both varieties supply a lightly sweet, bubbly mixer, that stands in a category all its own. Sap recommends drinking their sodas as a post workout recovery and hangover cure. 25 calories in 12 fl oz. Case of 24 cans (12 fl oz) on sale for $38.99. See a cocktail recipe with the some of Vermont’s finest ingredients at: At Home Mixology. sapvt.com
Makomas Baobab Guava Juice
This juice is made from one of Africa’s superfoods. The baobab grows in the hot, dry savannas of Africa, and produces a fruit that is rich in antioxidants and potassium, with additional calcium, magnesium, and protein. In this flavor profile, baobab’s slightly sweet fruit gets mixed with guava, which offers its own set of fantastic nutrients. This would work nicely in tropical or tiki-style cocktails.
Makomas contributes to the sustainability of the local farmers in West Africa by sourcing all of the fruits directly from them, then donates a portion of their profits to the larger community. They’ve got an entire line based on the blending of exotic African juices (Baobab and Moringa) with ginger, pineapple, honey and beets. 12 fl oz 100 calories. (For sports enthusiasts, baobab powder is great for energy in a smoothie) $41.99 for a pack of 12. Shipping included. makomas.com
Fever-Tree’s latest flavor Aromatic Tonic is inspired by a historic recipe used by the British Royal Navy in the 19th century. The gentle bitterness of angostura bark is balanced by the sweet, spicy flavors vanilla, pimento berry, ginger, and cardamom. All this gets mixed with their signature quinine and soft spring water.
For the perfect serve and a modern twist on the classic Gin & Tonic, pair Aromatic Tonic with Tanqueray or Plymouth Gin, over ice and garnish with a lemon zest. It boasts a gorgeous pink color, that will make your regular Gin and Tonic all the more attractive.
Q Ginger Beer
From the company that makes extraordinary tonic, enter Q Ginger Beer. This soda is designed to be a mixer, and in doing so it’s formula is spicier, more carbonated and less sweet. It uses lots of real ginger so has a strong punch and spiciness. A dash of organic agave, chili peppers, add to the mix, while coriander and cardamom do their best to deliver warm, nutty, and spicy notes. Limes give Q Ginger Beer its final subtle top note. Think Moscow Mules and Dark and Stormy cocktails with this baby. qdrinks.com
Kimino Sparkling Yuzu
All the way from Japan, a sparkling yuzu is making a splash at some of the best restaurants in the US. Mixologists love playing with the notes of this distinctly sour and aromatic citrus fruit, which happens to be very high in antioxidants. The taste of yuzu has been described as a cross between a lime and a grapefruit. Kimino uses the whole fruit in creating the juice, which captures the fragrance and flavors of the zest as well as the juice. Kimino in Japanese means “for you.”
Farms are disappearing from Japan at an alarming rate which is why Kimino creates direct relationships to support farmers. You can think of that with every delicious sip you take. Order online. $12.00 for 3 pack, $24 for 6 pack, 8.45 oz bottles. kiminodrinks.com
From a Brooklyn kitchen come lovingly prepared sophisticated syrups that you can employ to create cocktails like a pro. Two of the flavors that caught my attention at the show were the Grapefruit Honey and Citrus Agave. I could see both these syrups working with a wide range of spirits and garnishes.
The Grapefruit Honey is complex and bright, with its sweetness from organic honey, and a slight tartness from hibiscus. Recommended pairings: Tequila, Mezcal, Gin, Vodka, Bourbon. Citrus Agave balances tart lime with organic agave nectar and a hint of orange. Wonderful paired with: Tequila, Mezcal, Vodka, Gin. Both are great as mocktails with some sparkling water. (See three Morris Kitchen cocktail recipes in the post: At Home Mixology. )
Shake well before using. Once opened, the syrups should be refrigerated and will last two weeks. $9.99 morriskitchen.com