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Buying Guide for Mixers

Label of bottled mixer

Although many premium products are often enjoyed neat or over ice, cocktails are the most popular way to enjoy distilled spirits. An invention of nineteenth-century America, early cocktails mixed a spirit with sugar and water. Today, the range of ingredients for mixing cocktails has expanded far beyond these basic categories and is limited only by imagination and taste.

Know the Label

Virginia ABC offers a wide variety of mixers and mixing ingredients, but our selection only begins to cover the possibilities. If you have difficulty locating a specific ingredient, please talk to staff at your local Virginia ABC store about how to obtain it.

Club soda
Soda water
Club soda is sparkling water with additional mineral ingredients to enhance taste; it is interchangeable with seltzer or sparkling water. All of these fizzy waters are essential ingredients in the “fizz” and “rickey” categories of cocktails, including the Gin Fizz and Gin Rickey.
Originating in the mid-nineteenth century, grenadine is a nonalcoholic syrup that provides a sweet-sour character to cocktails, similar to a fruit juice. It is colored deep red, and was first made from pomegranate juice. In fact, pomegranate juice can be used as a substitute. Use it in cocktails such as the Tequila Sunrise and the Alabama Slammer. It is also useful in creating mocktails, such as the Roy Rogers and the Shirley Temple.
Lime juice
Lime juice is a classic sour element in cocktails; it is available commercially in both sweetened and unsweetened forms. Use it in cocktails such as the Gin Rickey, the Daiquiri and the Margarita.
Commercially available cocktail mixes make it easy to create your favorite classic cocktail—simply add a distilled spirit. Especially popular are mixes for Bloody Marys and Margaritas and Daiquiris. These prepared nonalcoholic mixes are particularly useful in sizing up cocktails to serve as punch or to large numbers.
Olive brine
Olives are more than just garnishes. With their briny and savory characteristics, olives subtly affect the taste of classics such as the Dirty Martini. Some bartenders even add olive brine or olive juice directly. Beyond the basics, olive brands are also available with additional ingredients, such as pickles or pimento, that add further complexity. Often, cocktail olives are skewered on an olive pick, which makes them easier to consume before or after the drink itself.
A cocktail onion is a small, pickled pearl onion—perfect for skewering on an olive pick. They are sweet and slightly seasoned, adding subtle undertones to cocktails, especially the Gibson.
Orgeat syrup
There really is no substitute for this unique cocktail ingredient. Orgeat is almond syrup mixed with sugar and rose or orange water. For its sweet, nutty qualities, it is especially popular in tiki drinks such as the Mai Tai and Scorpion. Available commercially, it is also easy to make at home.
Simple syrup
Simple syrup is a sugar solution in water, providing a convenient way to add pre-dissolved sweetness to cocktails. Beyond the basic recipe, simple syrups are also available with flavorings, such as mint and lime. Use it in cocktails such as the Mint Julep and Mojito.
Sparkling water
See club soda.
Tonic water
Tonic is sparkling water with a tincture of quinine and sugar. The history of tonic water goes back to the British empire, when quinine was added as a means of malaria prevention. Not coincidentally, tonic water is often combined with gin, which originated in the same era. Tonic water has bitter characteristics, which is why it has remained popular for many cocktail uses, such as the Gin and Tonic.
Product list rankings on this page are based on 2015 Virginia ABC sales.

Cocktail Conversation

There are limitless possibilities for cocktail ingredients beyond those listed on this page, from orange juice, coffee, tea and cola to eggs, cream, Worcestershire sauce and honey. Visit our recipes section to explore the mysterious ways that ingredients combine into perfect cocktails.

The term "cocktail" has a highly debated origin, with a highly debated etymology. Does it refer to a coquetier, a small egg cup? Is it somehow derived from cock-tail, the term for a horse's docked tail? There are at least seven theories to explain the origin of the term. 

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