From the perfect Moscow Mule to a Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Fashioned, drinking well at at home has never been easier thanks to these talented makers. This holidays, give the gift of better cocktails.
Strawberry Rhubarb Shrub // Hudson Standard // Hudson, NY
This retox comes, we admit, with a bit of foodie idealism. Be bad, but do good — that is to say, have a drink, but drink local. Hudson Standard’s New-York-grown, seasonal botanicals turn cocktails into landscape paintings, with old-school mixers like this shrub, a Colonial American invention to preserve fruit and — bonus! — flavor rotgut liquor. We like it, of course, with better booze: try an ounce of good gin to two ounces of mix, add a splash of bubbles and top with lemon.
Moscow Mule Mixer // Ficks // San Francisco, CA
When we seek solace in the glass, nothing beats a handmade cocktail — and when the comforts of home trump the trimmings of fancy bars, we reach for premade mixers like this one. Ficks makes the mixing a snap (two part mix to one part liquor), but what about the morning after? No bottled hangover cures just yet, if you discount hairs of the dog, but Ficks thinks a dram of prevention beats a pint of treatment. They make their mixers with low sugar, a dash of electrolytes, extra B vitamins, and real flavors like fresh, NorCal ginger juice and organic lime. Add vodka, and don’t worry about the Advil.
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.
Hibiscus Rose Cocktail Mixer // Yes Cocktail Co. // Paso Robles, CA
Nogs and toddies warm, sure, but like a bed-full of blankets, they satisfy by smothering. Time to lighten up. No beach vacation is complete without a cocktail, and so we offer this one, as easy to make as we could figure, because you have a busy day of lounging to get back to. Pour out a half an ounce of mixer, top with a few fingers of tequila, splash with lime, dash with triple sec, then serve on ice and watch the waves.
Michelada Shrub // Pacific Pickle Works // Santa Barbara, CA
For all the flavor of a top-tier taco, Mexican beer is typically as bland as Baja bathwater, meant to rinse out the spice of a good meal, not compete with it. But when you’d rather drink with a kick of its own, the michelada’s your man. A liquid lunch — a taco in boozy form — the michelada is the Superman to simple suds’ Clark Kent, a beer in a lucha libre mask. They can be simple — a splash of hot sauce, a spritz of lime — or they can be complex as a jungle of pickle spears, peppers, even clam juice. Pacific Pickle Works makes one of the best, and they make it easy: just dump an ounce of shrub into a salt-rimmed pint glass, top with lager, and enjoy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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)
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.
You might like Mantry because it sends you craft cocktail mixers you should try.