A mere 10 years ago, if a customer asked for a gin and tonic, the only question they’d likely be faced with is whether they’d like a double or a single. With the rise in artisan gins, this transaction has become less straightforward as a myriad different expressions of the spirit are now available.
And if that wasn’t enough, a growing number of tonic waters have entered the fray in recent years, meaning the number of different gin and tonic variations now possible are seemingly infinite.
Take the new range of premium Devon tonic waters from Luscombe Drinks, which recently entered the increasingly crowded tonic category and which have been created to complement the many craft gins, and other premium white spirits, that continue to emerge on the market.
Three have been launched in 20cl bottles – Devon Tonic Water, Elderflower Tonic Water and Grapefruit Tonic Water – with the drinks having high carbonation that helps to maximise the flavours of the spirit, according to Luscombe Drinks chairman and founder Gabriel David.
The tonic waters also tap into customer demand for more interesting ingredients to mix with their spirits. The Devon Tonic Water is enhanced with the citrus taste of Japanese yuzu instead of lemon, for example.
“Given the phenomenal rise in craft spirits, we have had a number of requests from our trade customers for a range of super-premium tonics that will enhance – rather than compete with – the complex flavours of artisan spirits,” says David.
Mixers beyond gin
It’s not just gin that tonic waters are being created to be mixed with. Drinks producer Double Dutch’s range of premium mixers are designed to intensify the flavour of a spirit, whether it be gin, whisky or something else.
“While the world’s choice of spirits has continued to grow, mixers and sodas have remained bland, less of a twin, more of a shadow,” says the company, which was founded by Dutch twins Joyce and Raissa De Haas.
There are five mixers in its portfolio – Pomegranate & Basil, Cucumber & Watermelon, Indian Tonic Water, Slimline Indian Tonic Water and Cranberry Tonic Water – each created with a specific set of spirits in mind. The cranberry variant, which also contains ginger, was created in collaboration with Cognac house Hennessy and is a suitable accompaniment for all dark spirits, says the company. Its cucumber and watermelon variant, meanwhile, works well with gin but is also suited to light rums and other base spirits that require a little warmth to come to life.
Relatively new kid on the block
Sekforde has also created mixers with dark spirits in mind. In fact, the company’s two-strong range of mixers eschews gin altogether and instead were developed to blend with American whiskey and rum, the first of their kind to specifically do so, it says.
The brand was created by husband and wife Tom Pitcaithly and Talula White, bourbon and rum drinkers who for years were frustrated that there were no refreshing long serves for their favourite spirits that didn’t drown them in a sugary liquid.
The idea was to make something ‘like a tonic water but for whisky’. It took the pair nearly three years and dozens of combinations until they perfected their drinks.
The result is its mixer for rum, made with aromatic lime and Mistral botanicals, and one for whiskey that contains orange and Istrian botanicals.
“Aged rums exhibit a broad flavour spectrum, and with Sekforde, the mixed drink is reflective of the character of the spirit,” the company says. “Lime is a classic partner to rum, but Sekforde offers a great deal more.
The initial rum taste is always sweet, with hints of tropical fruits, vanilla, caramel, through to molasses in the darkest and stickiest of rums. We complement these flavours with aromatic herbs such as thyme and sage, lightened with rose. This combination lends a sophisticated depth to the sweetness of the rum. The rum’s finish, typically spicebox or tobacco, is lifted with a refreshing hint of mint.”
The whiskey mixer, by contrast, has dried fruit and spice flavour notes and a gentle herbal flavour that Sekforde says is the perfect foil for the sweetness of the caramel and toasted grain flavours.
“Creating a bespoke mixer for each spirit, as well as developing new flavour combinations, is a genuine innovation and reflects people’s increasing desire to enjoy the flavour of craft spirits in new ways,” says White. “Unlike tonic waters, there is no quinine in our recipes.
Without the need to balance this strong flavour, we use less than half the sugar found in a conventional mixer.”
The company plans to launch a gin mixer this summer and says it is also working on new ideas for other spirits.
Drinks for discerning tastes
Low calorie fizz: The London Essence Company's range of mixers
The London Essence Company is another such brand that has been developed to better complement spirits and which is also low in calories.
Launched by WiseHead Productions, an incubator company set up by Britvic designed to develop innovative drinks for discerning adults, the four-strong brand is available in Delicate Ginger Ale and three tonic water variants; Classic London, Grapefruit & Rosemary and Bitter Orange & Elderflower.
The drinks are described as being ‘distilled mixers’ in that they use techniques used for distillation to bring out their flavours. The company suggests its classic tonic water is paired with London dry gins, grain-based vodkas and even aged rums while its bitter orange & elderflower offering complements the ever-expanding range of juniper-heavy gins on the market as well as grape or rye-based vodkas and even reposado tequilas.
The brand has partnered with bar and restaurant operator Drake & Morgan to create a bespoke summer alfresco drinks menu that it says allows consumers to explore a variety of long drinks across a broad range of liquor categories. Drinks in the range include Pieces of Eight, made with Ocho Blanco tequila and London Essence’s bitter orange & elderflower; Brave New Dawn with QuiQuiRiQui mezcal, cherry liqueur and ginger ale; and Gin Y Tonica with Gin Mare and its grapefruit & rosemary tonic.
“With a growing number of alfresco spaces in our bars and restaurants, we are confident the Taste of Summer menu will be a big hit with our customers looking for on-trend drinks that deliver on quality and taste,” says Drake & Morgan MD Jillian MacLean.
The more traditional mixer brands are also involved in new product development to tap into drinkers’ more discerning tastes. Premium drinks brand Franklin & Sons recently launched its 150ml tonics and mixers in cans to complement its existing bottled offer and also recently launched a Scottish soda water and an artesian water. The latter is designed, in particular, to be added to Scotch whisky.
“Add a few drops of Franklin & Sons Scottish Artesian Water to whisky to unlock the subtle flavours and aromas,” it says.
“Particularly with high cask strength whiskies, adding Artesian Water takes the edge off the heat sensation and allows the flavours to shine.”
Last year mixer brand Schweppes revamped its pack design to showcase its premium credentials to adult consumers and better shout about the brand’s heritage.
“Many people are not aware that it was the founder of Schweppes who first created the art of bottling the bubble, and the brand has been perfecting the product ever since then,” says Simon Harrison, commercial director at Schweppes.
Quest for the best: Turner Hardy & Co's top tomato juice
It’s not just with clear mixers where development lies. Premium tomato juice brand Turner Hardy & Co has just been launched, made using tomatoes from the Isle of Wight, to breathe new life into the Bloody Mary. Launched by Ed Turner, previously MD at Geromino Inns, and Hugo Hardman, founder of Chalkstream Foods, the company has created three tomato-based mixers, called Pure, Lively and Feisty.
As the name suggests, Pure has no additions, while Lively is lightly spiced and Feisty is for those who enjoy the burn, says the company. The drinks come in two sizes – a 250ml bottle made with up to eight tomatoes and a 750ml bottle made with up to 24.
“We realised that something very important was missing from bars and the home – a range of versatile, premium quality tomato juices that offers different flavours to suit every occasion,” says Turner. “We went on a quest for the very best tomatoes in the UK and found them on the Isle of Wight, which are properly packed with flavour. We wanted to encapsulate this in a bottle, and that’s how Turner Hardy & Co was born.”
For bars and restaurants looking for something a little feistier still, there’s mixer brand Pedrino. Launched by Sam Showering, who previously worked for Fever-Tree, Pedrino is an alcoholic mixer drawn from two traditional British classics: sherry and tonic water. The 5.5% drink is a blend of Pedro Ximinez, citrus botanicals, quinine and spring water. As well as being a stand-alone drink, it can be used as a mixer, working well with both light and dark spirits.
Pedrino might not ever become the tonic of choice in a G&T, but then stranger things have happened.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Restaurant magazine, and was adapted for the web by Hannah Thompson. Subscribe to Restaurant magazine from just £63 here!