Most people have heard about craft beers and craft spirits, but have you ever thought about craft mixers? Do they really make a difference? We caught up with Gerry Calabrese, owner of the Wringer + Mangle, where use of craft mixers is one of the bar’s most unique selling points.
WHY DO IT?
As the renaissance of craft spirits has gathered speed, so too has the demand and supply of craft mixers. For the first time ever, small companies are outselling the big brands when it comes to tonics, lemonade and all sorts of variants on your traditional mixers and this change has helped improve the quality and service of the bar industry. We’re now seeing more and more bespoke spirits, paired with equally beautiful crafted mixers rather than off-the-shelf, “one-size-fits-all” commercial brand mixers.
When you create your own unique mixers, you can tailor them to set off all the flavors of your small-batch Vodka, enhance the spices in your micro-distilled Rum or better yet, highlight the botanicals in your high-end Gin. Even better, you can choose which botanicals you want to pick up and tone down with your in-house made mixers because you have complete control over how they taste.
Another benefit of developing your own mixers is that they can really help you upsell tailor-made spirit mixers and cocktails. If you have a guest who really loves a cucumber-heavy Gin but also wants a little citrus in there, you can suggest perhaps a sherbet and elderflower spritz, which complements the cucumber but also adds a zesty kick without overpowering the drink. Having this extra dimension to upsell increases the likelihood of higher drinks sales, making a much more profitable bar and driving higher tips for staff.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Much of the time taken to create a range of mixers is really in the research and development stage. I find the best way to research what homemade mixers to create is to listen to what people want, then work closely together to deliver them. It was quite a learning curve and it took a lot of time to dream up so many carbonated flavors and find the ones that worked. In the end, we scaled down our current mixers to just nine varieties, including some carbonated foams, which really add another depth to tall drinks.
The easiest way to have your mixers ready for service is to prepare a large number of popular flavors and ensure that they can be quickly refilled. When we have a busy night and a siphon is running low, we know we have a spare and keep swapping them all night. It's really not more of a hassle than using a bottled mixer if you are well prepared.
THE FUTURE OF CRAFT MIXERS
I believe that craft mixers will become commonplace in the coming years, much as homemade syrups are found in every good cocktail bar these days. The benefits for guests is that they can have something new that they've never tried before, they are encouraged to experiment with new tastes and feel part of a revolutionary drinking experience. Often you have a broad variety of concoctions to draw from when it's time to create a new cocktail list and CO 2 canisters are a lot cheaper than a case of tonics so it keeps the costs down too!
Want to make your own craft mixer? Take a look at Gerry’s recipe…
BEETROOT AND VANILLA SODA
One example we've created at Wringer + Mangle is a beetroot and vanilla soda, which you definitely can't grab off the shelf. The natural sweetness of the vanilla pairs wonderfully with the crisp, unmistakable flavor of beetroot. We have used it in some of last season’s cocktails. It's very simple to make:
2–3 Large raw beetroots
4–5 Vanilla pods
24 oz. Water
Peel and dice beetroot.
Slice vanilla pods lengthways to open them up.
Simmer in a wide pan with 24 oz. of water for 15 minutes.
Allow to cool and strain the beetroot and vanilla before decanting into a soda siphon.
We charge with 2 CO2 canisters, which is perfect for what we use it for but you can also use just one.
Store in a cool place such as a fridge or an ice well for best results.
This, like most sodas, will keep for a week or so, depending on what ingredients we've used. Soda made from an infusion with nuts and herbs will last longer than one containing fresh juices, however I suggest changing them every three days to keep everything as fresh as possible and to ensure the best flavor.
(*One standard drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol)