Mixers and Syrups

A bartender preparing a cocktail, a bottle of gin beside him

Mixers and syrups may seem like an afterthought when it comes to making the perfect cocktail, but in reality, they are the unsung heroes of the mixology world. A great mixer can elevate the flavor profile of a drink, while an interesting syrup can add depth and complexity to even the most basic cocktail. This is because mixers and syrups serve as a foundation for cocktails, helping to balance the distinct flavors of spirits and juices, and adding the necessary sweetness, tartness, or bitterness that make a drink truly unique.

Mixers, in particular, are essential components in many popular cocktails. They are used to dilute the high alcohol content of certain spirits, while also adding carbonation, acidity, or flavor. Think of classic drinks like the Gin and Tonic or the Margarita, both of which rely heavily on mixers to achieve the perfect balance of flavors.

Syrups, on the other hand, are used to sweeten cocktails, but they can also add complex flavors and aromas. From the vanilla-infused sweetness of a simple syrup to the tart and tangy citrus notes of a sour mix, syrups bring depth and nuance to any cocktail. They allow mixologists to experiment with unique flavor combinations and to create new takes on old classics.

Types of Mixers

Mixers are essential ingredients in creating the perfect cocktail. They provide balance and depth to the drink, and without them, the cocktail would be unexciting. Here are five types of mixers commonly used in cocktails:

Carbonated Mixers

Carbonated mixers are a staple in many classic cocktails. They add fizz, acidity, and a refreshing taste to the drink. Here are some of the most popular carbonated mixers:

A glass filled with a greenish looking beverage, with ice cubes, and leaves of mint

Soda Water: A versatile mixer that works well with almost any spirit. It has a neutral flavor that won’t overpower other ingredients, making it perfect for adding fizz and dilution.

Tonic Water: The bitter flavor of tonic water is perfect for balancing out sweet ingredients like gin. It also adds a distinct dryness and quinine flavor to the cocktail.

Ginger Beer: A spicy mixer that pairs well with dark spirits like rum or whiskey. It adds a warming kick and a sweetness that complements the richness of the spirit.

Fruit Juices and Nectars

Fruit juices and nectars are a great way to add sweetness and flavor to cocktails. They come in a wide range of flavors, from tangy citrus to sweet berries. Here are some popular fruit mixers:

Orange Juice: A classic citrus juice that pairs well with light spirits like vodka. It adds a sweet and tangy flavor to the cocktail.

Pineapple Juice: A tropical fruit juice that adds a juicy sweetness to any cocktail. It pairs well with rum and tequila and can also be used to add complexity to non-alcoholic drinks.

Cranberry Juice: A tart juice that works well with dry spirits like gin. It adds a fruity flavor and a bright red color to the drink.

Bitters and Tinctures

Bitters and tinctures are used to add depth and complexity to cocktails. They come in a wide range of flavors, from herbal to spicy to floral. Here are some popular bitter mixers:

Angostura Bitters: A classic bitter that adds a spicy and aromatic flavor to cocktails. It is often used in Old Fashioned cocktails to add complexity.

Campari: A bright red bitter that adds a citrusy and floral bitterness to cocktails. It pairs well with sweet ingredients and is often used in Negroni cocktails.

Peychaud’s Bitters: A sweet and spicy bitter that adds a unique flavor to cocktails. It is often used in Sazerac cocktails to add a distinct aroma.

Dairy and Non-Dairy Mixers

Dairy and non-dairy mixers are used to add creaminess and texture to cocktails. They can also balance out the acidity of other ingredients. Here are some popular dairy and non-dairy mixers:

Cream: A rich and creamy mixer that works well with sweet ingredients like chocolate and coffee. It can also be used to add texture and richness to alcoholic milkshakes.

Coconut Milk: A dairy-free alternative to cream that adds a tropical flavor to cocktails. It is often used in tiki drinks and can also be used to make vegan cocktails.

Egg Whites: A classic mixer that adds a frothy texture to cocktails. It is often used in sour cocktails like the Whiskey Sour and Pisco Sour.

A clear glass containing a coconut milk-based drink

Sweet and Sour Mixers

Sweet and sour mixers are used to balance out the flavor of a cocktail. They add sweetness and acidity to the drink, and can also be used to add complexity. Here are some popular sweet and sour mixers:

Simple Syrup: A basic syrup made from water and sugar. It adds sweetness to the cocktail without overpowering other ingredients. It can also be infused with flavors like vanilla, cinnamon, or ginger.

Sour Mix: A blend of lemon and lime juice with sugar. It adds a tart and tangy flavor to cocktails, and can also be used as a substitute for fresh citrus juice.

Grenadine: A sweet and fruity syrup made from pomegranate juice and sugar. It is often used in cocktails like the Tequila Sunrise and the Shirley Temple.

Types of Syrups

Syrups are not just about adding sweet flavorings to cocktails. They can bring an entire new dimension of taste and texture. They are also great for creating a wide array of drinks from tonic and soda to smoothies and teas. Here are some popular types of syrups used in cocktails:

Simple Syrup Variations

Simple syrup is a liquid sweetener made by dissolving granulated sugar in water. It is one of the most versatile mixers and can be infused with a variety of flavors. Here are some popular simple syrup variations:

A glass of honey syrups, with slices of lemon on the side

Honey Syrup: Honey is a popular sweetener in many drinks, but it can be difficult to dissolve in cold liquids. Honey syrup solves this problem by diluting honey with water. This adds honey’s sweetness and complexity to cocktails. It’s perfect for drinks with bourbon or rum.

Agave Syrup: Another natural sweetener that’s popular in cocktails, Agave syrup is made from the agave plant (the same plant used to make tequila). It has a mild flavor and lower glycemic index than other sugars making it a healthier alternative to other sweeteners. It’s a perfect match for drinks that use tequila.

Maple Syrup: Maple syrup is a delicious alternative to simple syrup. It has a caramel-like flavor that works well with dark rum, whiskey, and bourbon. This syrup is perfect for fall-inspired drinks.

Herbal and Floral Syrups

Herbal and floral syrups add a whole new dimension of taste and aroma to cocktails. They are perfect for creating unique flavor combinations. Here are some herbal and floral syrups:

Lavender Syrup: Lavender syrup has a floral and fragrant flavor that’s perfect for adding complexity to cocktails. It pairs well with gin and adds a light floral aroma to a drink.

Elderflower Syrup: Elderflower syrup has a sweet and mild flavor that’s perfect for adding a unique taste to cocktails. It pairs well with vodka, gin, and champagne.

Rosemary Syrup: Rosemary syrup has a woody, piney flavor that’s perfect for adding depth to cocktails. It pairs well with gin, whiskey, and vodka cocktails.

Fruit and Berry Syrups

Fruit syrups are a great way to fortify cocktails with fresh, fruity flavor. They are also a great way to add color to drinks. Here are some of the most popular fruit and berry syrups:

Raspberry Syrup: Raspberry syrup has a sweet, tangy flavor that’s perfect for cocktails. It pairs well with vodka, gin, and tequila. Raspberry syrup is also great for making summer-inspired drinks.

A clear glass mug containing a concoction of drink drizzled with strawberry syrup

Strawberry Syrup: Strawberry syrup is a classic mixer that’s used in a variety of cocktails. It’s sweet, slightly tart, and perfect for adding a bright red color to drinks. Strawberry syrup is perfect for whiskey, gin, and vodka cocktails.

Peach Syrup: Peach syrup has a sweet, juicy flavor that’s perfect for summertime cocktails. This syrup pairs well with gin, vodka, and rum cocktails. Peach syrup is also a great alternative for making non-alcoholic drinks.

Specialty Syrups

Specialty Syrups are unique and creative. They often combine flavors that one wouldn’t expect to work well together. Here are some of the most unique specialty syrups:

Bacon Syrup: Bacon syrup is a delicious and unexpected addition to cocktails. It has a smoky, salty flavor that’s perfect for adding depth to drinks that use whiskey or bourbon.

Spicy Syrup: Spicy syrup is made with chili peppers or other hot peppers. It’s perfect for adding a spicy kick to cocktails. It pairs well with tequila and vodka.

Cinnamon Syrup: Cinnamon syrup has a warm, sweet flavor that’s perfect for fall cocktails. It pairs well with whiskey, rum, and apple cider.

Tips for Using Mixers and Syrups

Mixers and syrups can elevate any cocktail, but there are a few things to keep in mind when using them. Here are some tips for using mixers and syrups in cocktails:

Proper Storage and Shelf Life

  1. Store mixers and syrups in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  2. Keep them refrigerated after opening.
  3. Check the expiration date on the bottle/container before use.
  4. Discard any mixers or syrups that have changed color, texture, or smell.

Recommended Serving Proportions and Ratios

  1. Follow the recipes for the cocktail, as it will usually indicate the recommended serving proportions and ratios of the mixer or syrup.
  2. Start by adding a small amount of mixer/syrup and taste as you go, adjusting the proportions as necessary.
  3. Be careful not to add too much, as it can overpower the other flavors in the drink.
Two clear glasses with straws containing blue and red-colored drinks

How to Make Homemade Mixers and Syrups

  1. Making homemade mixers and syrups can be a fun way to experiment with unique flavors.
  2. Use fresh, high-quality ingredients for the best results.
  3. Follow a recipe or experiment with different flavors until you find the right combination.
  4. Store homemade mixers and syrups in a sterilized container and refrigerate after opening.

Pairing Mixers and Syrups with Specific Spirits and Flavors

  • Carbonated mixers like soda water and tonic water pair well with gin, vodka, and tequila.
  • Coconut milk and cream pair well with dark spirits like rum and bourbon.
  • Simple syrups can be infused with different flavors to pair with specific spirits or flavors.
  • Bitters and tinctures can be used to balance out the sweetness of a cocktail or add complexity to the flavor.
  • Fruit syrups like raspberry or strawberry pair well with light spirits like vodka and gin.
  • Herbal syrups like lavender or rosemary pair well with gin and add a unique flavor to a drink.
  • Spicy syrups can add a kick to tequila or vodka cocktails, while cinnamon syrup works well with whiskey or apple cider.

Mixers and syrups are essential ingredients in the art of mixology. They provide the foundation upon which all great cocktails are built, adding complexity, depth, and balance to the drink. Whether you are using a classic mixer like tonic water or experimenting with a new fruit syrup, the possibilities are endless. With a little creativity and ingenuity, anyone can become a cocktail master.