Mixed drinks are one of the most common imbibes when socializing, whether in a bar, restaurant or at home. There are literally thousands of them out there. Just check out any drink list in a licensed establishment. Many places have their own signature drink.
While they all contain alcohol of one form or another, they are mainly made up of other ingredients. I’m talking about non-alcoholic products that can take any form. All these additions in mixed drinks are included for various reasons. Most importantly they alter the flavour of a drink, making them sweeter, more sour, more savory, more exotic, spicier or just more interesting.
They can also change the consistency or texture, sometimes making the drink creamier, thicker or more watery. The appearance of a drink can certainly be changed by a mixer, adding colour or opacity. Some mixers are added strictly for decoration. On a more positive note, many liquid mixers dilute drinks, reducing the alcohol. Whatever the reason mixers are used, they are an essential part of bar tending.
Without a doubt, the most common and widely used mixers are liquid. Among these, carbonated drinks such as soda and sparkling water tend to dominate. When it comes to soda, cola and ginger ale seem to be the most widely used. If you’re a fan of gin and tonics, then you know the significance of tonic water. Other than the spirit, it’s the key ingredient. Straight up soda water or “seltzer” is also widely used, as are carbonated water and plain, old-fashioned still water.
The next most popular liquid mixers would have to be fruit juice. Apple, orange, cranberry, pineapple, tomato, grapefruit and many more are essential ingredients in so many cocktails, adding tang, zest, sweetness and tartness to the finished concoction. These are extremely popular in tropical drinks such as pina coladas.
Caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and energy drinks like Redbull often make the scene. Where would delightful swills like Irish coffee, the Tea Tini and the Headless Barman be without their respective mixers? Sports drinks such as Gatorade are also used.
Then there are liquid dairy products. Cream, milk and chocolate milk, half and half, and eggnog all play a huge part in many delicious liquid sippers. Aside from drastically altering the appearance and texture of the drink, they often act as a soothing agent on the palate, reducing the burn or aggression of the alcohol. Even ice cream is used.
Sauces like Worcestershire and Tobasco are often used for flavouring in drinks, adding unusual characteristics. Syrups like grenadine and sweetened lime juice are added for their sweetening effect. Honey can also play a part and food colouring is sometimes added simply to beef up the tint or hue of an imbibe.
Many other types of mixers are used in today’s fancy palate-ticklers. They include foods such as raw eggs that can thicken and increase the foaminess of a drink. Herbs and spices can be added to mixed drinks for enhanced flavouring and pizazz.
Don’t have all the ingredients or the time to gather all of them and hand mix, but really want that cocktail? Well don’t fret. There are numerous prepared mixes in supermarkets everywhere for your convenience. They contain all the ingredients required – the only thing you need to add is alcohol. Bloody Mary, margarita, mojito, strawberry daiquiri and countless other mixes are available.
They may not exactly showcase your bar tending savoir fare, but will certainly make your job a lot easier.
Edward Finstein is a wine writer, award-winning author, TV and radio host, educator and judge
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