The premiumisation trend isn’t just hitting alcoholic beverages. Whether you’re interested in making your own mixers or buying in, it’s important to have the right mixers to match with your spirits or serve on their own as a soft drink. By Madeline Woolway.

Making your own

For Charlie Casben, owner of Redfern bar, Moyas Juniper Lounge, making his own mixers started out of interested.

“We just wanted to try to do as much from scratch as possible. I think the main driving force, years back, came from working in restaurants. Chefs are always trying to do everything themselves and it was always way cooler when they’d made things house. For years in bars you’d always just buy things from the wholesaler because it was easy. It seemed like there was a big disconnect between where food was heading and where drinks where heading. I guess I wanted to emulate a bit more what was happening in kitchens. You know, keep it local, keep it fresh, not everything has to be mass produced,” said Casben.

“Specifically for Moya’s, we wanted to make a neutral tonic. A lot of the artisan tonics that are popping up are really great, but they’re all vying to be unique, so they have a lot of their own herbs and spices, which can sometimes detract from the gin. At Moya’s we want people to try a lot of different gins and we want the gins to stand out on their own.  The one we make here is quite neutral aromatically and a lot less sweet.”

Besides tonic, Casben also makes a number of mixers, including syrups and a shrub.

“Syrup is the simplest form of mixer. It’s pretty much just a flavoured sugar syrup made by either steeping or cooking ingredients in a sugar syrup sometimes with acid added (citric or malic) to stabilise and balance the sweetness. Our lime cordial, mustard mandarin and masala grenadine are just fancy syrups,” said Casben.

Shrubs are traditional, old style mixers that are essentially a preservation technique.

“Fresh fruit is preserved in vinegar and after a few weeks pressed out and sugar is added to sweeten,” Casben said. “Our raspberry and blueberry shrubs are made with apple cider vinegar and sweetened with organic dehydrated (unrefined) cane sugar.”

Tonics on the other hand are usually a herbal tincture designed to have medicinal properties, said Casben.

“Not that we’re really pretending our tonic water wards off malaria or anything else, but back in the day that was the idea. Most 'tonic' waters will contain a bittering agent, the most common being cinchona bark (the natural source of quinine) among other flavouring agents such as citrus, herbs, spices and flowers. Ours is cinchona bark, cassia bark, grapefruit zest, agave and lemon juice. It's quite a simple version designed to be relatively neutral against the different gins.”

According to Casben, it took some experimenting to get these mixers right, but once you’ve got a recipe it’s not difficult and it doesn’t require much investment in terms of equipment.

“The soda part is straightforward. We just use a soda stream. Originally the drawback trying to make them was working out how to mix them. There’s a couple of different ways, like with the old soda syphons, but they often end up being quite inconsistent. With soda stream you gas the bottle, add the syrup, and shake it up,” said Casben.

“At the end of the day they’re really just sugar syrups. From a commercial point of view one of the things that can get in the way is preservation; once you get to that scale you need to think about controlling the acid level. But because we’re using them on a small scale we can just make them fresh at the drop of a hat or freeze them in smaller amounts.

“We go through a reasonable amount of the tonic, and we go through loads of the raspberry shrub because it’s in the Clover Club, which is probably the fastest moving drink,” said Casben. “The tonic we make each week. With the syrups and shrubs, we’ll batch up a few litres and freeze it. So we’ll make a month’s worth and then take a bottle out as we need.”

So, is it worth it?

“I hate to say it, but it’s not a whole bunch of your sales. Financially it’s not a great idea, but it’s more fun and I think it adds value for the customer.”

Moya-s-back-bar.jpgThe Moya's Juniper Lounge backbar 

An Australian twist

Milla Cordials, based in the region of Orange, NSW, was established in 2013 by Camilla Strang and Melanie Ashton. Strang and Ashton set out to experiment and explore the possibility of homemade cordials that showcase the unique qualities of Australian bush fruits. 

“We started about 3 years ago, when we saw the elderflower cordials starting to be imported to Australia from England. My business partner Mel and I are from the UK originally. We grew up on those farm gate handmade cordials in England. And we started to think why was everything being shipped from the UK, why wasn’t anything being made from the bush plants around us. So we started looking at the idea of starting this business, we did some market research, looked at what was available and really thought there was a niche,” said Strang.

“In Orange there’s a lot of fruit growing happening, so we started with an apple base, from local apples down the road, and we mixed that with rosella and Australian ginger to make our first cordial.”

“We then went on to experiment with other native Australian ingredients; we’re very committed to only using Australian ingredients. Now there are four flavours in our cordial range, using lemon myrtle, Kakadu plum and rainforest lime and bush ingredients like that.”

While Strang and Ashton didn’t set to out to create mixers for cocktails, the cordials do lend themselves to the task of cocktail making.

“We’ve got a few bars that have been using our syrups. Top end bar people are always looking for something different and Milla fits in with that. We had one bar mixing with our syrups and calling them bush cocktails. We’re also at Bennelong. We supply them with three of flavours and they use them as a mocktail. With it being a tourist destination, people are really interested to come here and taste our indigenous ingredients,” said Strang.


The reason Milla cordials work so well as a mixer is because native Australian ingredients have the weight to stand up to spirits.

“A lot of these bush products are quite tart, they can balance alcohol that needs strong flavours.”

Along with the Milla cordials, Strang and Ashton have just released a range of tonics, which currently features two flavours: Ruby grapefruit and lemon aspen; and sparkling apple, ginger and rosella.

“They’re carbonated versions of our cordials. The ones we’ve chosen to be carbonated lend themselves to be mixed with vodka. All you have to do is thrown in the vodka. It’s very simple.  We’re hoping lots of bars, restaurants and cafes will take them on,” said Strang.

Milla Bush Tonic Grapefruit & Lemon Aspen Sundowner

• 30ml Vodka

• 1 Ruby Grapefruit

• 200ml Ruby Grapefruit & Lemon Aspen Milla Bush Tonic

• Mint for garnish

• Lashings of ice

Add 30ml of Vodka to a long glass.  Slice the ruby grapefruit into four segments.Squeeze a segment into the glass, and drop the rest of the whole squashed segment into the glass. Pour in 200ml Grapefruit & Lemon Aspen Milla Bush Tonic. Add a sprig of mint for garnish and ice to serve.

Milla-Bush-Tonic-Ruby-Grapefruit-Lemon-Aspen-Sundowner.jpgMilla Bush Tonic Grapefruit & Lemon Aspen Sundowner

Cool down with Fever-Tree

Founded by Charles Rolls – the man who turned around the fortunes of Plymouth gin – and Tim Warrilow, Fever-Tree produced its first bottle of Indian Tonic Water in 2005. Despite growing to a catalogue of eleven mixers, which includes multiple variations of tonic and other sodas, the ethos of Fever-Tree has remained focussed on providing products that enhance the spirits they’re paired with.

“Bars and trade have realised the trend in mixer premiumisation and this is evident in the growth of both the Indian Tonic Water and Mediterranean Tonic Water SKUs in bars and trade,” Andy Gaunt, acting Asia-Pacific Fever-Tree brand director, told Hospitality.

“We’re seeing a premiumisation and the rise of the craft spirit industry, especially the gin sector, and this has created a great opportunity for mixers.  People are becoming aware of the fact that if up to three quarters of your drink is mixer, it is important to choose the best quality mixer that you can find.”

However, until recently, Gaunt said, there hasn’t been enough focus on developing premium mixers to match the increasing interest in quality spirits. 

“We are seeing significant growth in premium mixers in every single market globally and Australia is no exception. Last year we grew by over 70 percent. But when compared to spirit categories the share of premium mixers is still generally much lower. So there is an opportunity for bars, pubs and restaurants to capitalise by offering a premium choice of mixer,” he said.

“We will continue to target on-premise through our ‘perfect serve’ and staff education, and are introducing programmes such as our ‘gin and tonic’ menu programme.”


Part of Fever-Tree’s aim is to combat the mismatch between the number of gins available and the number of tonics that can be paired with them.

“Gin is now an incredibly diverse range of styles and flavours, and we feel that different gins pair better with different styles of tonics. We have two new products entering the market towards the end of the year, Elderflower Tonic and Lemon Tonic, to compliment the wide range of gins on the market.”

What separates Fever-Tree from the ever-increasing number of competing premium mixers? Gaunt said it comes down to sourcing the right ingredients.

“The quinine, a key ingredient for tonic, is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, from the original Cinchona trees, known as fever-trees. Lemon extracts are sourced from the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily and ensure the Lemonade has a unique, citrus tang. Bitter orange oils are traced from Zygoma, Tanzania and lemon thyme and rosemary are sourced from La Drme, Provence. Three types of gingers are sourced from three different locations: Fresh Green Ginger from the Ivory Coast, as well as Nigeria and Cochin to help create the exotic flavours in the Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer,” said Gaunt.

“Replacing cloying saccharin sweeteners and artificial preservatives with natural botanicals and flavours, ensures the mixers will complement and enhance spirits.”

The same attention to detail has been applied to the development of carbonation practices, which help those ingredients impart their flavour. 

“The drinks are highly carbonated to deliver the botanical aromas and ensure premium freshness. We have a unique approach to that allows a very high level of carbonation, great for that effervescent effect, but with small and soft bubbles that are important for carrying the flavour of the spirit.”

Ultimate Gin & Tonic

  • 1 Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water
  • 1 measure (50ml) of your favourite gin
  • At least four big cube of fresh ice
  • Lime – a curl of the rind of a lime, it’s the oils you want not the flesh

Using a large wine glass or a tall, slim glass, add the ice first, then pour over the gin of your choice followed by Fever-Tree Indian tonic water, from a fresh bottle. Finally, add the curl of lime, running it around the rim of the glass before dropping it into the drink. Make sure you are quick when adding your garnish as you want that fizz to tickle your nose as you smell the aromas of G&T. Drink and enjoy.

Gin-Tonic.jpgFever-Tree's Ultimate Gin & Tonic

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