While it’s the spirit that typically gets the star billing, when it comes to highballs and coolers it’s just as important to consider the mixer’s supporting role. For years, the bottled tonic water or ginger ale that bartenders reached for were, more often than not, loaded with artificial flavors or high-fructose corn syrup. But the rise of premium mixers has completely revised the highball category for modern drinkers, both at the bar and at home.
Fever-Tree is arguably the most ubiquitous of the premium mixer brands. Launched in 2005, their Premium Indian Tonic Water—which leans on natural quinine, the oils of Mexican bitter oranges and a lower sugar content than your typical tonic—became an overnight staple in cocktail bars around the country. Since then, the brand has been building a portfolio of flavored tonics and club soda. And, as of this spring, they’ve set out to revitalize another beloved mixer: ginger ale. While Fever-Tree Spiced Orange Ginger Ale and Smoky Ginger Ale are both made from the brand’s signature blend of gingers sourced from India, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria, their profiles diverge quite drastically from there. The Spiced Orange Ginger Ale, for instance, is rounded out with cold-pressed clementines and Sri Lankan cinnamon, while smoked Applewood provides a savory depth and complexity to the Smoky Ginger Ale.
As a mixer, ginger ale can shine in highballs, bucks and mules and can complement a wide range of spirits, from vodka to mezcal. And while both of these new expressions are meant to slot into those classic blueprints, they also invite experimentation. So, we asked three alumni from our Bartender in Residence program to each create a pair of cocktails highlighting the profile of both of Fever-Tree’s new hot takes on ginger ale.
In Orlando Franklin McCray’s Several Types of Orange he “triples down” on the orange profile of his aromatic vodka highball with the addition of Aperol and Shrubb J.M Liqueur d’Orange, plus a touch of pimento dram to kick up the spice profile of Fever-Tree’s Spiced Orange Ginger Ale. “The nice thing about highballs or long drinks, is that you can have a pretty intense sounding list of ingredients like this get lengthened so that you’re actually able to experience layers of flavor in an evolving drink,” says McCray.
Chip Tyndale of Dutch Kills, who is known for a nuanced style that subtly iterates on the classics, went to two familiar blueprints when creating his drinks. “I immediately thought of creating highball-style and Collins-style drinks using the Fever-Tree ginger ales in place of tonic water,” says Tyndale. His St. Johns Cooler started out as a low-ABV cocktail with the subtler flavors of vermouth and Aperol complementing the Fever-Tree Spiced Orange Ginger Ale. But he ultimately leaned on Appleton Estate VX Rum to give the drink the extra kick it needed to amplify the orange profile of the ginger ale.
“Ginger ale is one of those ingredients that pairs well with most any spirit—and tequila and orange is always a nice combination,” says Young American’s Julia McKinley. In addition to tequila, McKinley also adds aquavit to the mix in her Fair Play to amp up the overall complexity of the drink, while a touch of Campari bolsters the orange notes of the Fever-Tree Spiced Orange Ginger Beer.
Switching it up from spicy to smoky, McKinley’s House on Fire presents an alternate take on a Moscow Mule that’s a study in contrasting flavors, with the floral combination of yellow Chartreuse and Old Tom gin shaking it up with the aromatic Applewood notes of the Fever-Tree Smoky Ginger Ale.
For his Smoke Flowers, Orlando Franklin McCray looked to the Chrysanthemum cocktail—a somewhat obscure classic stirred drink made with dry vermouth, Bénédictine and absinthe—for inspiration. He takes the combination of Bénédictine and vermouth, adds a measure of apricot liqueur and lemon, and tops it off with Fever-Tree Smoky Ginger Ale for a drink that is a study in savory.
Chip Tyndale’s Eldridge Highball, meanwhile, is a tribute 134 Eldridge Street, the address of the original Milk & Honey. The drink is also a tribute to a classic, albeit a modern one. A spin on the Sam Ross’s well-traveled Penicillin, Tyndale combines all the elements of the original—smoke, citrus, honey, ginger—in a brand-new package.