In the 1990s, pre-made mixers flooded liquor store shelves. The sticky-sweet, neon-hued bottles were the go-tos for impatient party hosts and bars looking to push cheap, sugary cocktails on young, neophyte drinkers. Eventually, though, people grew weary of them, and the craft cocktail movement inspired pros and home bartenders alike to start using fresh fruits again and preparing homemade syrups.
And we couldn’t be happier about that. We’re all for people getting crafty with their cocktails and when it comes to making the best-tasting cocktail, fresh citrus is the only way to go. But we also enjoy the occasional happy hour shortcut. Luckily, there are now actually good mixers on the market made with real fruits, spices and herbs. They don’t come with speed pours. They don’t come laden with sugar. And they don’t come in DayGlo green. Here, the best pre-made cocktail mixers to help make your cocktail hour a whole lot easier.
This Bubble Tea Is Set on Fire
When even measuring out a shot of rum for a Daiquiri is too much for you to bear, turn to this new line of bottled cocktail mixers. Made with fresh juices and all-natural syrups, these mixers come in bottles that are a jigger and a shaker in one. All you, the drinker, need to do is fill the bottle to the marked line with booze (follow the bottle’s suggestion or choose your own boozy adventure), shake and pour over ice. No measuring, no bar tools, no thinking necessary. The line includes mixes like Margarita, Mojito and Sour, but our favorites by far were the wonderfully tart Cosmopolitan and the sinus-clearingly spicy Moscow Mule.
This company’s line of mixers is entirely tea-based. Made in Vermont, these cocktail-friendly teas come in flavors like Pink and Black (Darjeeling with a touch of hibiscus), White and Vine (white tea with watermelon and pomegranate) and Wicked Green (green tea, lemon, lime and habanero). The Classic, though, is our go-to. Made with English Breakfast tea, lemon and lime, it’s tart, dry and extremely versatile. All of the mixers are designed to be shaken or stirred with two parts brew and one part booze, which can be anything from tequila to gin to beer. Even if you aren’t a tea fan, you’ll find a flavor for you. One Supercall staff member is an avowed iced tea hater but commented that the mixers were “actually really good.”
This Brooklyn-based company is all about the fizz. Intended to be mixed into spritzes made with one part spirit, one part mixer and two parts soda water, the bottled elixirs are available in four flavors: Agave Lime, Grapefruit Hibiscus, Ginger Spice and Pineapple Lime. While we liked all of the offerings, Pineapple Lime was the staff favorite. Fresh, original and undeniably tropical, it’s delicious with either rum or tequila.
Created by husband and wife team MariElena and Joe Raya, Bittermilk is based on balance. Every one of their bottled mixers is made with a bittering agent, sweetener and an acid, so that every cocktail comes out perfectly harmonious. Each bottle comes with a ratio on the back, dictating how much spirit to use with how much mixer, whether that be the Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour, the Tom Collins with Elderflower & Hops, or any of the other creative flavors. One of our favorites was the Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Fashioned, which one staff member described simply as “bomb.”
If you love Old Fashioneds—and are too lazy to make simple syrup or stir a sugar cube until it dissolves—then you need this line of pre-made syrups. Available in Maple Bacon, Traditional and Pecan, the Old Fashioned syrups were created by the bartenders at The Pinewood in Decatur, GA. Made with a base of aromatic bitters and oleo saccharum, they make Old Fashioneds a breeze. The Traditional includes fruity notes of cherry (though no cherries actually go into the making of the syrup), reminiscent of the classic Old Fashioned garnish, and adds delightful complexity to what is often a one-dimensional drink.
A serious grassroots company, Cocktail Crate is the brainchild of Alex Abbott Boyd, who funded his obsession with an ultra-successful Kickstarter back in 2012. Though still a small production (the mixers are available online but only in New York and New Jersey stores), the mixers are worth seeking out. The line currently includes twists on classics like the cozy Maple Whiskey Sour, lightly spicy Ginger Bee and zesty, tangy Sriracha Margarita.
Made with real juice and real sugar, this widely available line of mixers is perfect for classic cocktail lovers looking to make their favorite standbys at home with ease. The standard Margarita mix is twinged with orange, while the Peach Bellini is mellow and floral. The true standouts, though, are the Bloody Mary mixes. The classic mix is hearty and savory with a noticeable kick of spice on the finish, and the Sriracha Bloody Mary packs a serious punch with a fiery zest that lasts and lasts. You can try to make your own mix at home, but with pre-made bottlings like these available at the grocery store, why bother?