Mixers Make the Drink
For all the careful thought that goes into choosing what high-end, elite spirits are poured into our drink glasses at esteemed establishments, little effort has gone into the consideration of what those top liquors are being cut with. Until now.
“If you’re picking out a particular detailed spirit, it doesn’t make sense to put something with high-fructose corn syrup with it,” says Toby Maloney, partner in the New York-based Alchemy Consulting, a firm dedicated to helping bars, nightclubs and restaurants bolster their bottom lines. “You need quality mixers, either made in-house, or bought from a trusted source.”
“People never have questioned the quality of mixers being used,” says Tim Warrillow, co-founder of Fever-Tree, which offers a premium range of mixer beverages, pioneering the category. Warrillow echoes Maloney in that mindset: “After all, three quarters of a Vodka and Tonic is tonic, so surely bars should concentrate a fair amount of time on the tonic.”
Both methods of upping the mixing ante — house-made or high-quality purchases are admittedly more costly than the stock standard soda company standbys. “It’s not cheap to make your own mixers,” Maloney says, having implemented in-house systems and recipes for hotels like Hyatt and its Andaz chain. “Mostly you notice the difference in the labor. It costs a lot of money to have three to four bartenders taking half a day to make the setup — cut all the fruit, mix all the syrups, etc. Sure, it’s decidedly easier to put in a gun system and have everything go off of that. However, when you’re producing syrups and tonics yourself, you’re assured of quality.”
The other option is to go with a quality product that’s pre-made, such as Fever-Tree, Q Tonic or Stirrings. Warrillow and his Fever-Tree crew literally hopped on flights around the globe to search for top-notch ingredients. The end result of circumnavigating the world is a full arsenal of all natural, classic mixers: Indian tonic water, bitter lemon, ginger ale, ginger beer, lemonade, soda water and a naturally light — and low calorie — tonic water. “We’re about 1.8 times the price of a regular soda product,” Warrillow explains. “But you can’t compare our tonic water to Schweppes in the ‘like to like’ sense.”
For example, Fever-Tree uses glass because “it keeps the freshness and the fizz of the products compared to plastic bottles, which is well known for leeching flavor and color,” Warrillow says. And the bottles are smaller, about 6.8 ounces, which means packaging raises the price point, but “we believe in the carbonation being an important part of being in your mixed drink. And when you’ve got a big bottle you keep opening, you’re going to lose the fizz faster, so that’s why we advocate smaller bottles.” As a result, Boom Boom Room at the Standard, the bars at The Royalton and Gramercy Tavern and more are all pouring Fever-Tree into their glasses.
“The bottom line is guests can and do notice a difference,” Maloney surmises. “Once a client has realized you’re looking out for their best interests, that you’re trying to do the best for them, you get the loyalty out of them. They won’t mind paying a bit more for a drink if they know it’s going to be a fantastic one.”