How To Mix Drinks

Rebecca Varidel
2nd Feb 2015

Neat. That's how I usually take my whisky. I love the complex smoke of Islay that transports me to Scotland without ice or water. I prefer single malt, but can sip a blended Scotch at times. When younger, I started my digestif journey with Cognac and Armagnac. I like to savour the herbaceous and floral notes of gin as its own. And the boys at Lobo Plantation have now got me exploring rums. Then, there are cocktails. Shaken or stirred. Or muddled. Complex or simple. Fancy concoctions, mixing more than one spirit, with bitters or syrups, liqueurs or wines. Or a simple partnership, just the spirit and its plus one.

More and more, I've been making these simple two part mixed drinks as first choice when at home. Recently, I've started asking for that kind of duopoly in place of my afternoon cocktail, at a restaurant as my drink before dinner or as my drink of choice anytime in a bar. I've been taking it back to basics, and I'm liking it.

There's always been G+T of course. And now, my mixed drink repertoire has extended to Scotch and soda, Rum and ginger beer, Brandy and dry, but not the skinny girls' choice, Vodka and soda. I can however, go a Vodka and tonic when the mixer is premium. Mostly I like the simplicity of 1 part spirit / 3 parts mixer because I select top shelf spirits, so I want the spirit to be the hero in my drink.

As 3/4 of the drink, the mixer is a big influencer in the flavour too. Good small bars now offer choices in the mixer as well as the spirit. At Sydney gin bars Powder Keg and The Barber Shop you can mix and match your choices of both gin and the tonic. Grant Collins at Powder Keg offers his own bespoke mixer, as well as his own sensational blend of G+T on tap.

I went on my own quinine hunt a couple of years back, when premum natural mixers Fever-Tree (MD and co-founder) Tim Warrilow was visiting Sydney and he volunteered me to try the stuff straight. It tasted like you would expect. It tasted like tree bark. It's the stuff that gives tonic its bitter flavour. Like many drinks, tonic was originally a medicinal, the quinine was taken in the colonial tropics to prevent malaria. His brand, Fever-Tree is actually named after the colloquial for the cinchona tree. It's sourced from the Rwanda/Congo border. All of the botanicals in Fever-Tree mixers are carefully sourced. That's why Drinks International reported last month "In 37% of our bars, it [Fever-Tree] is the top selling tonic and more dominant than Tanqueray, Havana Club, Johnnie Walker or Hennessy in their respective categories."

Premium Indian Tonic Water is "Delicious, clean refreshing and natural. Blended to enhance the enjoyment of great spirits." (Yes, that's taken from the bottle.) Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water with more floral notes, is also now available in Australia. And the UK artisan also makes ginger ale, ginger beer, lemonade and soda water. The fresh ginger is sourced from The Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South West India. Both the Fever-Tree ginger beer and the ginger ale get my vote.

For those with more of a leaning towards local, CAPI produces quality Australian mixers. They are a Melbourne based premium mixer, fruit soda and water brand. Their brand ethos is really to create pure, clean and natural refreshments. They source the finest of natural extracts and botanicals worldwide to ensure an authentic product within the drinks market. Though sourcing their ingredients internationally in exotic destinations, all CAPI products are locally blended and manufactured. According to CAPI founder, Pitzy Folk, the time of poor quality mixers, laden with synthetic ingredients, preservatives and artificial sweeteners is over. I concur.

And then, there is ice. Out and about, we see all sorts of ice craft. At home it's a different story. There's not necessarily much room for creativity or craft. By coincidence however, while I was writing this piece, this facebook post by legendary Chef Tony Bilson hit my stream. So I'll let him have the last How To Mix Drinks words.

"Ok enough politics. After 70 years of research I have discovered the answer to civilised domestic ice block production. Use non-stick cake tins. This ice is a proper size, it falls from the mould without any effort and increases production. When I think of the pure banality of the horrible plastic moulds I weep for the time lost."