View from behind the bar: mixers | Scottish Licensed Trade News

Scottish Licensed Trade News

View from behind the bar: mixers

Just how important are premium mixers to Scottish bars? SLTN asked three bartenders for their views

David Bryce, bar training manager, Buzzworks Holdings

• How important is it to match a premium or small-batch spirit to a premium mixer/soft drink?

Using craft products really opens up a world of flavour combinations in a spirit and mixer. Bartenders continue to experiment with techniques and ingredients that complement and enhance the base spirit. What we have found is that smart people have done a lot of the hard work for us when it comes to soft drinks. Ten years ago, flavoured spirits were being used to fight through heavy soft drinks. Today there are beautifully nuanced and delicate mixers which play perfectly with equally diverse craft spirits.

• How much difference can a premium mixer make to the quality of a drink?

There are near endless flavour possibilities when combining craft spirits and mixers. As bartenders and consumers we now have the opportunity to enhance delicate flavours in spirits with lighter mixers using quality ingredients. Equally, the opportunity to combine ‘yin and yang’ flavour combinations to make contrasting drinks that work is very exciting.

• Which premium mixers do you currently stock?

Fever-Tree’s range of tonics, ginger beer and ginger ale. We also stock BTW tonic syrup to mix with soda water to create a tonic with natural quinine.

• What’s your favourite mixer/soft drink?

Rapscallion’s limited edition Ayrshire Beetroot and Ghost Pepper soda from Glasgow. A triumphant combination of bitter, spice and umami in a carbonated drink that gives an almost floral flavour, with light heat from the peppers. If you find it, please do yourself a favour and try it.

• What’s your favourite spirit/mixer pairing? 

Eden Mill Hop and Fever-Tree Ginger Ale. The fire and zest from the hops infused in the Eden Mill gin play perfectly with high quality ginger beer.

• Do you expect to see more premium mixers and soft drinks launched in the on-trade in the coming years?

As long as the gin boom keeps going, there will continue to be development of interesting new tonic water, lemonade and other more arcane mixers. Hopefully, we will then see more interest in craft colas, which do exist but don’t have the same profile. The most interesting area of growth to watch may be non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ and cordials, like Seedlip, to see how these effect the craft mixer category.


Barry Chalmers, area manager, Signature Pub Group

• How important is it to match a premium or small-batch spirit with a premium mixer/soft drink?

It all plays a significant part. If the premium mixer’s quality is in the bottle and not just the packaging then it can enhance the drinking experience dramatically. That said there are several additional components that can make or break the drink: the ice, ratio of mixer to spirit, freshness of garnish and the glassware are all important in creating the perfect serve. What’s great from an industry perspective is that a larger proportion of guests are more discerning and appreciate a premium spirit mixer offer.

• Which premium mixers do you currently stock?

It varies slightly across the group as each GM has a certain level of autonomy, however as a standard we offer Fever-Tree as our preferred tonic up-sell. Outwith tonic we have just brought in some of the Franklin & Sons range and hold a few Fentimans products along with other single lines.

• What’s your favourite mixer/soft drink?

I take a different tool for different job approach.

Tonic for a simple spirit mixer be it gin, Tequila, Cognac or vodka, they all pair well; ginger beer is also great. If we are talking delicious, well-made, thirst-quenching soft drinks then I love the San Pellegrino range for flavour and packaging. With regards to cocktails I would have to go with the most versatile of soft drinks: soda water.

• What’s your favourite spirit/mixer pairing?

America’s best-selling whiskey and best-selling soft drink: Jack and Coke. Very rarely would you walk into a bar and get one that is undrinkable and that says a lot about the pairing.

• Do you expect to see more premium mixers and soft drinks launched in the on-trade in the coming years?

Yes. There is a definite growing trend towards quality over quantity. Consumers are making more educated choices. That said it is quite tough for a new flavour to break into the market because they can lack versatility or, more to the point, answer a very small niche such as a chocolate mint tonic I recently tried – quite tasty but potentially limited in its appeal and uses.


Linzay Bradford, general manager, 7 Saints, Prestwick

• How important is it to match a premium or small-batch spirit to a premium mixer/soft drink?

Mixers are no longer seen as an afterthought – customers want a premium product with superior taste to complement their spirit choice. The recent boom of premium and craft spirits, particularly gin, has influenced the mixer market.

• Which premium mixers do you currently stock?

Over 30 premium mixers, from tonics like Fever-Tree, Franklin & Sons and Fentimans to soft drinks like Bottlegreen and Belvoir Fruit Farms.

• What’s your favourite mixer/soft drink?

My favourite is Belvoir Pink Lemonade – it’s delicious, 100% natural ingredients and no flavourings; lots of real pressed juice for a fruity taste blended with sparkling water.

• What’s your favourite spirit/mixer pairing? 

My favourite spirit/mixer pairing is Ableforth’s Bathtub Gin with Fever-Tree tonic. The smell of the gin is amazing.

• Do you expect to see more premium mixers and soft drinks launched in the on-trade in the coming years?

I think the popularity of premium mixers and soft drinks will soar in the coming years as they provide customers with a different experience to what they would normally enjoy at home.

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