The Tonic & Mixer Masters 2022 results
An increasingly important part of the drinks industry, tonics and mixers have risen in popularity in recent times. In our second annual competition for the sector, we put the products to the taste test.
The thirst for premium spirits is soaring, and consumers are increasingly seeking out high‐quality tonics and mixers to accompany these luxury liquors. Naturally, savvy producers have been quick to respond, rolling out a veritable rainbow of new drinks designed to pair perfectly with gin, whisky, rum, Tequila and more.
But do these products deliver on flavour? To put the ever‐expanding category through its paces, we hosted our second annual Tonic & Mixer Masters competition, gathering two panels of industry professionals at the Novotel hotel in London Bridge.
The first group was chaired by Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, and featured Christine Perrett, director of A Twist of Citrus and The Spirits Hub, and Dimple Athavia, founder of All Things Drinks.
Sarah Miller, founder of the Gin A Ding Ding blog, chaired the second panel; she was joined by Alan Uresti, head of agave spirits at London restaurant Annabel’s, and Evan Prousaefs, bar manager and assistant general manager of Los Mochis in Notting Hill, London.
In true Global Spirits Masters style, all entries were judged blind. They were packed and shipped by Sensible to ensure anonymity.
A top-notch example
The opening flight of our tasting was dedicated to classic Indian tonic waters, and our judges managed to uncover a top‐notch example right out of the gate. Franklin & Sons Natural Indian Tonic Water earned a Master medal thanks to its “hints of quinine and sweet citrus on the nose” and “good carbonation”.
Our judges also discovered four Gold medallists in this round. Double Dutch Tonic Water was praised as “a great standard”, delivering “good carbonation with faint sweetness and subtle bitterness”. Hammars Bryggeri Tonic Original was enjoyed for its subtlety, with a “slightly chalky texture”.
Swedish Tonic Water Original impressed with its “cinnamon, citrus and tree‐bark notes on the nose”, while “well‐rounded” Thomas Henry Tonic Water offered a “nice citrus profile”. “There were a couple of really good classics that would definitely mix well with gin for a classic G&T,” Miller said.
Next, our experts turned to the growing sub‐category of light, slimline and low‐calorie tonic waters.
Three Gold medals were awarded in this round: one to Wildleaf Lumière Tonic, with its “lovely light nose and hints of rose, subtle carbonation and nice light palate”; another to Franklin & Sons Natural Light Tonic Water, which delivered “savoury notes” and “delicate citrus”; and a third to “zingy” Marlish English Tonic Water, with “good integrated carbonation”. Hammars Bryggeri Tonic Original Zero took home a Silver medal.
Overall, the judges thought health‐conscious drinkers looking for slimline or lower‐calorie tonic options would not feel they’re missing out, thanks to the quality on offer here. “For someone who likes a tonic, the quinine is there; you’re not missing anything,” explained Perrett.
The Master standard returned in the Tonic Water – Other group, as the top accolade was handed to Thomas Henry Botanical Tonic. Athavia described the nose as “super herby”, with “vermouth‐style aromas” and a “beautiful balance of sweetness and bitterness on the palate. I love it.”
Thomas Henry also gained a Gold medal for its Dry Tonic, described as “pretty classic in style”, and Wild Leaf North African Tonic secured a Gold thanks to its floral aromas of “roses, elderflower and cherry blossom”. Finally, Silver winner Coast British Tonic was celebrated for its “unusual” profile with “cucumber freshness”.
Some of the most exciting innovations in tonic water are happening in flavoured variants, and our judges were pleased to find three Master medallists among this contingent. East Imperial Grapefruit Tonic was praised for its “aromas of freshly squeezed pink grapefruit”, which came across “brilliantly”.
Hammars Bryggeri Pink Tonic Grapefruit and Hibiscus took the top award too. “A good balance of grapefruit and hibiscus on the palate,” noted Perrett. “The bitterness dances among the flavours quite nicely and does as it promises.”
Swedish Tonic Water Raspberry secured the third Master medal in the round, with judges enjoying its “clear aroma of raspberry” and its “distinctive fruity sweetness” with “quinine notes at the end”.
Going for gold
This flight also produced six Gold medallists. Franklin & Sons claimed four of them – one for its “quite savoury, really nice” Mallorcan Tonic Water, one for its “very fresh” Pink Grapefruit Tonic Water with Bergamot, another for its “herbaceous” Rosemary Tonic with Black Olive and a fourth for its “traditional” Sicilian Lemon Tonic Water.
Five Silvers rounded out the flight: two for East Imperial, for its Royal Botanic Tonic and its Yuzu Tonic; plus medals for Hammars Bryggeri Tonic Lemongrass and Mint, Swedish Tonic Water Grapefruit and Lixir Pink Grapefruit Tonic Water.
“It’s really interesting to see the different flavours and experimentation with flavour combinations,” Athavia said. “I’d like to see more purity of flavour and more balance between the quinine bitterness and sweetness.” On the whole, she said, the category still feels as though it’s in an “experimental place”.
An eclectic, impressive group of Flavoured/Infused Carbonated Mixers followed, with four Master winners leading the flight. Coast Maple Soda was lauded for its “very distinct maple flavours”. “I can see it as a perfect mixer for darker spirits and great for non‐alcoholic serves, giving complexity,” Perret said.
Double Dutch Cucumber & Watermelon also received a Master medal for its “fresh aromas”. The drink offered “authentic flavours, and they complement each other very well”, Kiely noted.
Franklin & Sons earned a Master for its “decadent” Pineapple Mixer with Almond, with judges praising its “stunning nose of fresh pineapple with some almond‐cherry‐marzipan notes”. And East Imperial continued its Master‐winning streak with its Grapefruit Soda, which delivered “fresh grapefruit both on the nose and palate, with the sweetness balanced well with pithy bitterness”.
Five Gold medallists were found in this round, including “tropical” Thomas Henry Mystic Mango and “juicy” Two Keys Pink Grapefruit Soda. Two Silver medals were also awarded.
Things became spicy in the next heat, as a tasting of ginger ales produced three Gold medallists: “restrained” East Imperial Thai Dry Ginger Ale, “beautifully aromatic” Artonic French Oak Infused Ginger Ale with Rosemary, and “on point” Thomas Henry Ginger Ale. And the zingy flavours continued in the tasting of ginger beers.
Master award winner Double Dutch Ginger Beer wowed our experts with its “powerful ginger aroma”, “great carbonation and brilliant spice”. This flight also boasted four Gold medals – among them, Scotty West Ginger Beer with Raspberry Juice. Three Silver medals completed the round. “The ones that did well had a good amount of heat that developed nicely on the palate and delivered a long finish,” said Miller.
In the Lemonade flight, Franklin & Sons pocketed another Gold with its “bright” Original Lemonade, and Swedish Tonic Lemonade also lived up to the Gold standard with its “nice freshness”. East Imperial bagged a Silver award for its Yuzu Lemonade.
Our judges considered this to be a solid round, showcasing “a good industry standard across the category”. “It provides the consumer with security in terms of what he will get with his money,” Prousaefs said.
A Gold was given to East Imperial Kima Kola in the Cola heat, thanks to its “distinctive smoky element” and cinnamon notes.
Then it was time for our tasters to shift gears as they tackled fruit‐based non‐carbonated mixers. Three Gold medals were awarded here, with two going to Funkin – one for its Zombie Pre‐Batched Cocktail Mixer, and another for its Passion Fruit Martini Pre‐Batched Cocktail Mixer. The latter was appreciated for its “sweet soft mango with tropical fruits on the palate”. Funkin also nabbed a Silver medal in this round.
The final flight of the day, Non‐Carbonated Mixer – Other, concluded our regular proceedings on a high note, as Muddle and Mint’s Hibiscus and Sage mixer secured a Gold, thanks to its “nicely controlled sweetness” and “nice tartness”.
With each entry assessed, it was time to crown the overall champion of our competition. Our judges re‐tasted each Master winner to discover the product that showcased the highest standards of quality and flavour, and ultimately named Double Dutch Ginger Beer as this year’s Tonic & Mixer Taste Master. “This was an excellent industry standard,” Prousaefs praised.
On the whole, our experts were thrilled by the ample choice and quality reflected in the tasting – particularly among the flavoured carbonated mixers. As so many spirits categories continue to premiumise, we’re looking forward to seeing how the world of high‐end tonics and mixers takes off.
Tonic Water – Indian Tonic Water
|Franklin & Sons||Franklin & Sons Natural Indian Tonic Water||Master|
|Double Dutch||Indian Tonic Water||Gold|
|Hammars Bryggeri||Tonic Original||Gold|
|Swedish Tonic||Swedish Tonic Water Original||Gold|
|Thomas Henry||Thomas Henry Tonic Water||Gold|
Tonic Water – Light/Slimline/Low‐Calorie Tonic Water
|Wild Leaf Drinks||Wild Leaf Lumière Tonic||Gold|
|Franklin & Sons||Franklin & Sons Natural Light Tonic Water||Gold|
|Marlish Water||Marlish English Tonic Water||Gold|
|Hammars Bryggeri||Tonic Original Zero||Silver|
Tonic Water – Other
|Thomas Henry||Thomas Henry Botanical Tonic||Master|
|Wild Leaf Drinks||Wild Leaf North African Tonic||Gold|
|Thomas Henry||Thomas Henry Tonic Dry||Gold|
|Coast Drinks||Coast British Tonic||Silver|
Tonic Water – Flavoured Tonic Water
|East Imperial||Grapefruit Tonic||Master|
|Hammars Bryggeri||Pink Tonic Grapefruit and Hibiscus||Master|
|Swedish Tonic||Swedish Tonic Water Raspberry||Master|
|Hammars Bryggeri||Tonic Elderflower Power||Gold|
|Thomas Henry||Thomas Henry Cherry Blossom Tonic||Gold|
|Franklin & Sons||Franklin & Sons Mallorcan Tonic Water||Gold|
|Franklin & Sons||Franklin & Sons Pink Grapefruit Tonic Water with Bergamot||Gold|
|Franklin & Sons||Franklin & Sons Rosemary Tonic Water with Black Olive||Gold|
|Franklin & Sons||Franklin & Sons Sicilian Lemon Tonic Water||Gold|
|Hammars Bryggeri||Tonic Lemongrass and Mint||Silver|
|Swedish Tonic||Swedish Tonic Water Grapefruit||Silver|
|Lixir||Lixir Pink Grapefruit Tonic Water||Silver|
|East Imperial||Royal Botanic Tonic||Silver|
|East Imperial||Yuzu Tonic||Silver|
Flavoured/Infused Carbonated Mixer
|Coast Drinks||Coast Maple Soda||Master|
|Double Dutch||Cucumber & Watermelon||Master|
|Franklin & Sons||Franklin & Sons Pineapple Mixer with Almond||Master|
|East Imperial||Grapefruit Soda||Master|
|Double Dutch||Pomegranate & Basil||Gold|
|Franklin & Sons||Franklin & Sons Mandarin Mixer with Ginger||Gold|
|Thomas Henry||Thomas Henry Pink Grapefruit||Gold|
|Thomas Henry||Thomas Henry Mystic Mango||Gold|
|Two Keys||Pink Grapefruit Soda||Gold|
|Marlish Water||Marlish Sparkling Raspberry Flavoured Spring Water||Silver|
|Thomas Henry||Thomas Henry Wild Berry||Silver|
|East Imperial||Thai Dry Ginger Ale||Gold|
|Artonic – Premium Organic Mixers||French Oak Infused Ginger Ale with Rosemary||Gold|
|Thomas Henry||Thomas Henry Ginger Ale||Gold|
|Double Dutch||Ginger Beer||Master & Taste Master|
|East Imperial||Mombasa Ginger Beer||Gold|
|Thomas Henry||Thomas Henry Spicy Ginger Beer||Gold|
|Artonic – Premium Organic Mixers||Naturally Spiced Ginger Beer with Notes of Cardamom||Gold|
|European Beer and Beverages Company||Scotty West Ginger Beer with Raspberry Juice||Gold|
|European Beer and Beverages Company||Scotty West Original Ginger Beer||Silver|
|Franklin & Sons||Franklin & Sons Brewed Ginger Beer||Silver|
|Swedish Tonic||Swedish Tonic Ginger Beer||Silver|
|Franklin & Sons||Franklin & Sons Original Lemonade||Gold|
|Swedish Tonic||Swedish Tonic Lemonade||Gold|
|East Imperial||Yuzu Lemonade||Silver|
|East Imperial||Kima Kola||Gold|
Non‐Carbonated Mixer – Fruit Based
|Funkin Cocktails||Passion Fruit Martini Pre‐Batched Cocktail Mixer||Gold|
|Muddle and Mint||Grapefruit Rosemary||Gold|
|Funkin Cocktails||Zombie Pre‐Batched Cocktail Mixer||Gold|
|Funkin Cocktails||Strawberry Daiquiri Pre‐Batched Cocktail Mixer||Silver|
Non‐Carbonated Mixer – Other
|Muddle and Mint||Hibiscus Sage||Gold|