Sarsaparilla Syrup // Pink House Alchemy // Bentonville, AR
Wonder no more whence comes the “root” in your favorite soda. Root beer was, once, made with real-deal tubers; namely sarsaparilla, an earthy plant running wild through the Ozark hills. These days, though, the chemical concoctions likely come from a lab — and are best left for the kids. This syrup was born, instead, through old-school alchemy, in small, house-made batches (and yes, the house *is* pink). It’s all grown up, and so are the drinks it makes, like a sweet-and-spicy rye cocktail with an ounce of syrup, an ounce of whiskey, and a splash of seltzer. Pre-batch it to fill your own adults-only soda fountain.
Bloody Mary Elixir // Pacific Pickle Works // Santa Barbara, CA
Let us add to the list of non-salads in Errol Morris’s epic game-day beer ad, the Bloody Mary. Morris liked his mayo, we prefer our veggies spiced and boozy. And so do Pacific Pickle Works. They’re smart: They know you can easily — and cheaply — get your own tomato juice at the corner store, so their mixer gets right to the good stuff. Spicy, salty, briny, and all made from scratch, right down to the homemade Worcestershire mixed in. They’re smart so you don’t have to be. Just add booze, juice, and toppings of your choice. We prefer, well, all of them, including a healthy slab of sausage. Otherwise, no salad.
Old Fashioned Cocktail Mixer // Proof // Decatur, GA
The mixologists at the Decatur, Georgia cocktail lounge Pinewood whip up a mean Old Fashioned, if you’re willing to wait. Drinks made the right way — the old way — take time. And when you’re out on the town, the bar-side song and dance is part of the fun. But back at home, leave the mixing to the masters and get straight to drinking with this premade blend of bitters, sugar, and oleosaccharum — a 19th-century citrus-infused cocktail syrup. Using about a half ounce for each two-finger pour of bourbon, one bottle is good for 30 drinks or so.
Ethiopian Sidamo Coffee // Dave’s Coffee // Charlestown, RI
From little ol’ Rhody comes a little ol’ roaster coaxing huge flavor out of familiar beans. Straight from coffee’s ancestral seat — the plant was born in Ethiopia — this coffee is big and bright with bass notes of cocoa and a high-hat shimmer of citrus, like a chocolate-covered candied orange. It’s a bracing way to greet the day, or to say goodnight, especially when mixed with an ounce and a half of good Irish whiskey (try Red Breast), a bit of sugar, and a dollop of whipped cream.
Mint Julep Cocktail Mixer // Eli Mason // Nashville, TN
A creaking porch swing, the twang of an acoustic guitar, the only blinking lights are fireflies, the only tweets from nesting birds. Cell phone’s long forgotten, the digital world’s at bay — in your hand instead, a frosty glass of ice, mint, and bourbon. The easy life just got easier. No muddler? No mint? No problem. One part mixer; two parts bourbon. Most commercial mixers just over-sweeten your booze, but this Nashville-made syrup highlights, not hides. Made from pounds of fresh mint, cane sugar, and real gomme syrup — that’s the old-school granddaddy of simple syrup, made with gum Arabic to make your drink as silky smooth as a southern breeze.
White Sage & Wild Mint Tea // Juniper Ridge // Oakland, CA
Delicious on its own, sure, but hot tea in the desert? Whoa, cowboy. Instead, concoct a frozen treat from this forest-foraged elixir: the Julep paleta. Steep a few teabags in a pot of hot water and mix in enough sugar to satisfy. Wait until cool, add a nip (or two) of grandpa’s liquid courage, pour the now fortified tea into popsicle molds, cover with foil, stab with sticks, and toss in the chill chest.
Bourbon Barrel Old Fashioned // Bittermilk // Charleston, SC
Cocktail bars, those dim-lit basement dens, are no place to be when summer’s sun beckons you out back. Instead of trundling your bar cart out to the patio, all you need is a bottle of Bittermilk. This mixer has everything but the booze: a classic blend of real-deal herbs and spices like gentian root and cinchona bark, sultry sweet with burnt sugar and a dash of orange, and aged in Willett bourbon barrels. Mix four parts bourbon to one part Bittermilk, fill a couple swing-top bottles, and chuck ’em in the igloo to sip while you grill.
Pineapple Gum Syrup // Liber & Co. // Austin, CA
Corner-store colas and over-sweetened juices won’t cut it in quality cocktails. That’s why most bars worth their rim salt make their own mixers, like this old-school gum syrup. Where canned juice is tongue-numbing sharp, this syrup is a smooth island breeze of tropical flavor, thanks to real-deal gum arabic, a natural tree resin and the secret to a true Barbados rum punch’s creamy feel, no matter how many limes you add.
Habanero Sauce // Yellowbird // Austin, TX
Some hot sauces are pure white heat, nothing but burn. Save those scoville-spiked scorchers for bar bets and paint stripping. This is a salsa worth savoring. Instead of high-octane peppers like the infamous ghost chile, this Austin-made hot sauce uses the humbler habanero, amping up its bright fruity undertones with an additional spritz of tangerine and lime juice — and its color with a blend of carrots. It’s perfect on tacos, but mellow enough for a michelada.
The Classic // Owl’s Brew // New York, NY
We’re talking summertime sweet tea. The weather outside might be frightful, but click-clacking ice cubes and spinning suns of sliced lemon will soothe even the bitterest chill — or defeat. And it couldn’t be easier to whip up a pitcher: icy vodka, a bottle of lemonade, and a healthy pour of Owl’s Brew. New York–mixed but classically southern, Owl’s is the first tea made specifically for cocktails. Their Classic is a traditional English black with a hint of citrus, sweetened with all-natural agave.
Big Hibiscus // Steven Smith Teamaker // Portland, OR
For pepper-heads, the best part of truck-stop tacos is sometimes the styrofoam big gulp of sweet-tart jamaica you chug to extinguish a hubris-induced chili burn. Steven Smith balances that refreshing hibiscus zing with a pinch of ginger, sweet rose, and exotic Indian sarsaparilla. Cold, with a squirt of honey, handful of summer fruit, and shot (or two) of your booze of choice, it’s a perfect sangria; piping hot, a morning-after soother.
The Filthy Liar // White Whale Cocktails // Durham, NC
When it comes to being on the water you want something light — but that doesn’t mean your average, sugary, supermarket cocktail mixer. Instead, a botanist, and a home brewer help you craft a whale of a cocktail using fresh lychee and the herbal tag team of rosemary and clove. Just add equal parts gin, shake over ice and serve. Perfect pre-game for one of life’s great pleasures, the afternoon snooze.
Thai Basil Som // Pok Pok // Portland, OR
Andy Ricker has done for American Thai Food what mall food courts haven’t. His Portland joint Pok Pok, which recently set up outposts in NYC is helping properly introducing America to Northern Thai Cuisine. People flock for his fiery, fragrant dishes armed with authentic flavors foreign to the ubiquitous take-out variety, washing it all down with refreshing gulps of Pok Pok Som which is served in all of Ricker’s restaurants. Ricker suggests 4:1 soda to Som or nab our unauthentic Thai Basil Margarita recipe at Mantry.com.
Morris Kitchen // Ginger Syrup // Brooklyn, NY
Enjoying a well crafted cocktail doesn’t have to mean paying 15$ in a pretentious bar. Morris Kitchen’s handcrafted ginger syrup reminds us quality cocktails at home can be cheaper than coors light. Go for the Dark & Stormy, just fill a glass with ice, add 3 oz seltzer, ½ oz Ginger Syrup and lime. Slowly pour 2oz rum on top to keep color separate, garnish with a lime. Make a round of these and we promise nobody will care you may not have the proper glassware…
Juniper Ridge // Douglas Fir Spring Tip Tea // Sierra Nevada, California
Typically, if you discover a bearded guy distilling in a van in the woods, you’re probably going to go blind if you sip whatever he’s drinking, the exception is Juniper Ridge. Next to crafting award winning wild fragrances year round, Juniper also harvests Douglas Fir Tips once a year, every Spring. When steeped for ten minutes, the precise timing results in a drink with a subtle citrusy, forest aroma that was historically the primary source of vitamin C for local Native Americans. Need a go-to holiday cocktail? We got you covered with our Dougas Fir Gin & Soda (Visit Mantry.com/recipe).
Liber & Co. // Texas Grapefruit Shrub // Austin, TX
It can be tough to remember that tequila expands beyond the cuervo soaked college kids of Cancun and neon green blended slushies, but the “Paloma” is worth its salt. Traditionally, a combo of tequila, grapefruit soda and lime in a rimmed glass and more popular than margaritas in many areas of Mexico, we sub in Liber & Co’s Grapefruit Shrub. A shrub is an infusion of fruit, vinegar and sugar that traces back to American colonial days and a couple Texan boys pay tribute to their hometown grown Rio Star grapefruit with this one. Mix with soda for a fresh-off-the-tree brightness that’s fit to wash down any plate of chorizo and eggs (Paloma Recipe: Mantry.com/recipes)
P&H Soda Co. // Sarsaparilla Syrup // Brooklyn, NY
Sarsaparilla is small, deciduous woody vine, historically used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes which eventually stocked the shelves of Wild West saloons in the form of a soda in the 19th century. Commonly referred to as the “original” Root Beer, P&H’s take boasts a lighter, cleaner flavor extracted from the real thing with no chemical crap. We recommend introducing the float to adulthood by filling a frosted mug with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, Sarsaparilla and an ounce of Bourbon.
Som Drinking Vinegar // Pok Pok // Portland, OR
Andy Ricker has done for American Thai Food what mall food courts haven’t. His Portland joint Pok Pok, which recently set up outposts in NYC is an institution that’s properly introducing America to Northern Thai Cuisine. People flock for his fiery and fragrant dishes armed with authentic flavors foreign to the ubiquitous take-out variety, washing it all down with refreshing gulps of Pok Pok Som which is served in all of Ricker’s restaurants. Drinking vinegars actually date back to the colonial era in the US when they were commonly referred to as “shrubs”. Ricker suggests 4:1 soda to Som or nab a Pok Pok cocktail recipe at Mantry.com.
Jack Rudy Tonic // Charleston, SC
If 2 L plastic bottles of Tonic are the bottom shelf, you’re surely going to need a step ladder to reach Jack Rudy Small Batch. This concentrate features the traditional ingredient of quinine paired with lemongrass and orange peel to create a concoction that dates back to the early 19th century. British officers sought the malaria fighting benefits of quinine but often mixed it’s extract with gin in order to make the drink more palatable. Look no further than Hendrick’s Gin and the recipe on the side of the bottle to re-discover the Gin & Tonic.
Stu’s Bloody Mary // Chicago, IL
Like most truly revolutionary ideas, Stus Bloody Mary Mix was conceived over a booze-infused brunch, where two college buddies decided to take a stand after yet another flavourless Bloody Mary. Luckily, Stu was a Cordon Bleu-trained chef who sweated in the kitchen of Alinea (the 7th best restaurant in the world) and Rudi had sweated out enough Bloody Mary’s to spot a good one.
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