As the world of craft spirits continues to change and evolve, so has the world of craft mixers.
The leader of the pack, Fever-Tree has recently brought out three new flavours that centre on the humble Ginger Root. These new expressions, smoky ginger ale, spiced orange ginger ale and a ‘refreshingly light’ version of their premium ginger ale, open up a whole new subcategory.
To discuss these developments and what they mean to your home bar, we talk with Fever-Tree USA CEO Charles Gibb.
[00:01:21] – Fever-Tree has made their name through tonic waters. What made the company think to expand further into ginger ale?
[00:02:21] – And why release three variations?
[00:03:22] – And how would you describe the flavours of each and what do you recommend is paired with each?
[00:05:32] – So really you’re looking at more than basically a mule to mix with.
[00:06:32] – Do you think it opens up spirits to people who may not have drunk them before?
[00:07:55] – Now you spoke of where the ginger originates. How did those locations come about?
[00:09:20] – Now we’re starting to get a lot of, especially with Belvedere, for example, terroir brought through with a lot of spirits. So, the ginger itself has its own terroir from where it comes from?
[00:10:50] – If you’re sourcing things like ginger in such a wide variety of spaces, places, how does that work with sustainability?
[00:11:26] – Now Ginger is popping up all over the place in a variety of cocktails and as well as in your mixes. Why do you think ginger has become so popular recently?
[00:12:58] – Now you were talking about some of the darker spirits that the ginger can be mixed with. Do you think those darker spirits are beginning to take perhaps a little bit of shine off gin?
[00:14:15] – And what about rum? Rum is one of those dark spirits that you can mix with ginger beautifully. Is Fever-Tree perhaps predicting that Rum will have its time?
[00:15:25] – Now, you were talking earlier about the light version being, having been created so that people don’t have quite as much sugar, which has also come about because of people’s wanting to drink better but simpler. How do you think that ginger, the ginger mix
[00:16:46] – Aside from using ginger in highballs, are they more complicated drinks that you would recommend someone creating with it?
[00:18:01] – Well, I was about to ask, how have bartenders reacted to the ginger mixes? What extraordinary things have you seen people create?
[00:19:45] – If a home bartender goes and buys the spicy ginger for example, and they bring it home for the first time, how would you recommend that they use it?
[00:21:04] – You spoke earlier about orange and also chocolate as being two good flavours that work with ginger really well. What other flavours, what other things can people sort of adapt to their cocktails at home?
[00:22:06] – Now you guys actually have a really good pairing wheel on your website. So obviously that would be a place where people can go to kind of fiddle around with flavours and try and work out what they can mix.
[00:23:27] – We touched a little on the category of mixes when we started, really it’s changed so much and so dramatically since the brand started. What do you think it’s meant for the brand?
[00:27:22] – Now talking of innovating, what is next for Fever-Tree?
[00:28:48] – Do you think the brand will be concentrating more in future on mixes for dark spirits?
As the world of craft spirits continues to change and evolve, so has the world of craft mixes. The leader of the pack, Fever-Tree has recently brought out three new flavors that center on the humble ginger root. These new expressions, smokey ginger ale, spiced orange ginger ale, and a refreshingly light version of their premium ginger ale, opened up a whole new sub category. To discuss these developments and what they mean for your home bar, we talked to Fever-Tree USA CEO, Charles Gibbs.
Thank you for joining us, Charles.
A pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Now, Fever-Tree has made their name through tonic waters. What made the company think to expand further into ginger ale?
Fever-Tree's always prided itself on being the leader in premium mixing and clearly, people mix with a lot more than tonic because people drink a lot more than that. They drink whiskey ginger's, they drink obviously a lot of mules. A lot of drinks now are consumed obviously in spritzes and ginger I think is such a vibrant and exciting category. We already had a ginger beer, which is delicious in a mule and we'd crafted this amazing ginger ale, which goes beautifully and brings out the characters of great whiskeys, great bourbons, great brandies, and cognacs. And, I think it just adds to the story around mixing. Yes, it was born in gin and tonic, but clearly there's many more opportunities within the mixing category.
And why release three variations?
I think we wanted to, well, I always think sort of it was two real flavors and then really offering consumers a lighter version, a lighter version is very sort of... is the quickest and easiest to deal with because obviously, we are looking at the trend towards sort of low calorie, low sugar, how can I take sugar out of my drinks and so releasing a light version with 40 plus percent less sugar in it because we use fruit sugars as opposed to cane sugar in it. That was just a natural fit. But the two flavors was really to sort of, to start challenging and thinking about different ways to consume ginger. So one is a smoky ginger ale, one's a spiced orange ginger ale, and they both go with different types of spirits and they both pair beautifully. But again, they start bringing very different flavors into the glass.
And how would you describe the flavors of each and what do you recommend is paired with each?
Oh, there you go. Well, the great thing is you can pair them with whatever you like. No, the smoky ginger ale, so we take our three signature gingers. So we get our ginger from a Cochin, which is in India. We get it from the Ivory Coast and we get it from Nigeria. And basically one of those is a very sort of chocolatey one, quite earthy and one's quite sort of lemongrassy and we believe it's a blend of those three gingers that makes the ideal ginger ale. Then when we come to adding a flavor, what we did with the smokey ginger ale was we used applewood smoked water. So essentially, which is using this pure smoke technology. So you get all those wonderful sort of barbecuing notes and smoky notes coming through, which pair beautifully then with sort of more complex with bigger whiskeys, with mezcal, with those types of spirits and versus with the spiced orange ginger ale where we use cold pressed clementines and steam distilled Sri Lankan cinnamon.
We use those so the spice comes from this delicious, Sri Lankan cinnamon and the clementines come from South Africa giving you that wonderful orange flavor. And if you think about orange and ginger, they're two very complementary flavors. I always think back to my childhood and Terry's chocolate orange because it was very orangy and quite gingery at the same time and quite rich and very interesting. And that works really well with cognac. We used, in fact the brand we used was Hennessy VSOP. That was the benchmark. And we tend to work with sort of benchmark spirits to really craft and create something. But what we're finding is it tastes delicious with a wide range of spirits. So, even when we start thinking about low alcohol stuff, so we think about Lillet. It tastes delicious with Lillet. Tastes delicious with St-Germain, believe it or not because that's spiced orange and the St-Germain, you get a beautiful flavor and flavor profiles coming through.
So really you're looking at more than basically a mule to mix with.
Absolutely. We were looking at kind of, we got a great drink and a menu... a daytime old fashioned, which is actually using bourbon and then our ginger ale and that fantastic drink going amazingly well. And I think, again, people are looking for ginger highballs. People looking for highball drinks, they're looking for long, simple, long mixed drinks. And the joy here is that you can have a two ingredient cocktail that's actually got multiple ingredients inside it because not only have you got all three gingers, but in the spiced orange case, you've got a bit of cinnamon and you've got a little bit of the orange coming through as well. So you can make a complex cocktail, yet only using two simple ingredients.
A girlfriend of mine believed that she didn't drink whiskey and couldn't drink whiskey until we made her a highball with the smoky ginger ale and suddenly that's all she drinks now. Do you think it opens up spirits to people who may not have drank them before?
100%. I think sometimes, particularly when you look at some of the bigger and more complex whiskeys, or certain mezcals, or tequilas, I think it makes them more approachable. "Wow, I'm really enjoying this drink." This is light. It's refreshing. It's got lots of tastes to it whereas traditionally when we start drinking whiskey, we either drink it with Cola let's say. Well actually, I don't want to drink my drinks with Cola anymore, or I'm less attuned to Cola as a consumption and so, I don't want to drink them neat because neat, or over ice, it's like they're too strong. I don't want that impact. They're quite confrontational on the pallet. And this is why I think the simple, long mixed drinks suddenly opens up a whole raft of new spirits, categories, and brands to people. And of course because there's this, not only are they simple, but they actually got real tastes to them and real taste and complexity which are something that people are really after.
Now you spoke of where the ginger originates. How did those locations come about?
Yeah, absolutely. I think it's been, the two founders, Charles and Tim, when they set up the business, I always love their story about Tim's first trip to the Congo when he was looking for the best quinine in the world. And he had to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo and fly and then, jump in a Jeep and drive and go through various military checkpoints and this, that, and the other. And then he discovers the Nirvana for the Cinchona tree right in the middle of the Congo. And, I think that's been the dedication of the company from day one, which is if we want to source the best ingredients, then you've got to go and travel the world to find those ingredients.
And I think with ginger, what happened here was while one ginger gives you one flavor profile, one ginger gives you another flavor profile, and another one gives you another one. And then when you start blending them because they loved all three of them, you start blending and go, "Wow, actually well, a bit of this and a bit of this is really nice. Oh, I quite like this. I want the richness of the chocolate one, but I don't only want that, I want some of that lemongrassy feel. I want some... " Ginger should be quite earthy. So I think not only finding the best, but then actually blending them and bringing them together. I think that was an act of genius on their behalf.
Now we're starting to get a lot of, especially with Belvedere, for example, terroir brought through with a lot of spirits. So, the ginger itself has its own terroir from where it comes from?
Absolutely. Well, I'm glad you say that. That was my last act whilst I was running the Belvedere business. I'm glad that you make mention of that, but that was a labor of love, that particular project. But I think, no, I think the real thing is consumers care, people care. Obviously, bartenders care, they always have cared. But, the consumer also cares now about where's this stuff come from? How is it made? And we are a premium brand, then people expect you to have a real and authentic story, be able to point to whether it's a field in Poland, or whether it's a ginger plantation in India or in Africa, they expect you better point to these places and say, "Yes, this is why, and this is where we chose to go to find this," and be able to tell the story about that. And I think that's just inherent now in what people expect, particularly from premium and luxury brands.
If you're sourcing things like ginger in such a wide variety of spaces, places, how does that work with sustainability?
I think it works because in fact you're actually sustaining businesses, which... in these places, so you're actually sustaining the business, the local business, and keeping the local people, you're doing that from an employment perspective and again, you can't grow ginger in certain parts of the world. You don't grow the best ginger in other parts of the world. So I think the sustainability actually comes from being able to give back and sustain the local economies and sustain local business there.
Now Ginger is popping up all over the place in a variety of cocktails and as well as in your mixes. Why do you think ginger has become so popular recently?
There's no doubt that it has and I think there's a number of things. One is the perceived health benefits of ginger. And you know I always love going down to my local juice bar and I got talking to the people there and they said basically if I put ginger in any of the drinks, whether it's a green drink or a red drink or a orange drink, if I add ginger in there, it always sells better and it always sells more. And I think there's that aspect to it.
I think the other aspect is the fact ginger is a wonderful flavor that cuts through and it brings something to, there's nothing tasteless about ginger, it brings something to every drink. It brings a little bit of sharpness. It could bring a little bit of life, a little spritz of life into a drink. It brings character, it accentuates certain characters in drinks and I think it's no accident that people are looking for things with taste and enjoy things with great taste. And I think ginger brings so many things to the party in so many different ways that I think it's that and then there's the perceived health benefit on the other side of it. And of course in America, people drink ginger ale when they're sick, again, because of that perceived health benefit.
Yes, no, of course. Now you were talking about some of the darker spirits that the ginger can be mixed with. Do you think those darker spirits are beginning to take perhaps a little bit of shine off gin?
I think, certainly in the US I'd almost put it the other way around, which is gin is really starting to get quite exciting. There's lots of new gins and lots of fun gins coming onto the marketplace. But I think the dark spirit, dominance and strength in this market is undoubted and whether it's a brand like Hennessy, which I think is now the number one brand in the US by value. But then you've got all these wonderful bourbons and whiskeys. So I don't think it's taking the shine off gin, because those all dwarf gin in the US and I think gin is just, starting to evolve more and more now and we're certainly seeing that. And I think if you talk to Diageo or Pernod they would say the same thing, gin is beginning to take off. And it's one of the interesting trends where I would say that the UK and maybe other markets around the world are ahead of the US in terms of that development of gin and I think it's, I think that's what I think we're going to see gin develop more and more in the coming years.
And what about rum? Rum is one of those dark spirits that you can mix with ginger beautifully... Are Fever Tree perhaps predicting that Rum will have its time?
I'm very excited about rum. Rum obviously hasn't premiumized, it hasn't been able to cross that sort of basic rum level from a sort of Captain Morgan or Bacardi and really start to elevate. But when you talk to the people in rum, they really are excited about, I think the development of more interesting rums at a middle and upper level, and then how do you consume them, how do you differentiate where you consume them? And I think a clearly that the dark and stormy, the ginger beers, the ginger ales, I think give a real diversity. And again, rum as a flavor is absolutely delicious. But I think the ginger just brings something else. It brings something else to the party there. So no we're very excited and indeed when we're talking to some of the spirits companies, you talk to the likes of Bacardi, they get very excited about their Cuatro and Ocho and the opportunities for those. And those are both stunningly delicious products.
Now, you were talking earlier about the light version being, having been created so that people don't have quite as much sugar, which has also come about because of people's wanting to drink better but simpler. How do you think that ginger, the ginger mixes are going to impact?
Oh, I think, yes, absolutely. I think we're going to have, I think as soon as you start talking to whether it's a bourbon company or a whiskey company and you've seen recently, Johnnie and Johnnie and ginger, a nice long drink with Johnnie Walker or you talked to Jameson, Jameson and ginger ale. You talk to some of the bourbon people, they really, so I think you've got, we've got tremendous opportunity with the ginger highball, which I think is a really, again, it's an exciting drink, ginger whiskey highball, lovely drink because you've got the complexity of the whiskey coming through. Be that from wherever it's from around the world and then you add in this, this wonderful, complexity, but you deliver it in a simple, long mixed drink, that's also provides refreshment and of course, when people start drinking in an evening, the number one need is a refreshing drink. What do I want to drink? I want to drink something that's refreshing. So I think that's where the spritz and the high ball play a big role there.
Aside from using ginger in highballs, are they more complicated drinks that you would recommend someone creating with it?
I mean, I think that's the bit where we would always, and what I love about the Fever-Tree portfolio is we very much focus on, what is the simple long mix drink version of this. And then as soon as you give it to a bartender or you give it to a mixologist they love it because it's suddenly it'll bring an extra little bit of character to a cocktail that they're making. And I've seen some people doing some fun things with mezcal cocktails and well you know what, if I want to add a little bit of extra smokiness to this particular drink, I'll use the smoky ginger. Or if I want to bring a little bit of extra citrus, fruity, spice to this, I'll use the spiced orange ginger ale. But when we're kind of, when we're working on the drinks ourselves, we tend to work on what is the simplest expression of this. And then we're always delighted when they're embraced by the bartenders and mixologists who often go and have some fun with them and create their own creations using them.
Well, I was about to ask, how have bartenders reacted to the ginger mixes? What extraordinary things have you seen people create?
Now you're putting me on the spot. I mean, no, I think honestly, a couple of them, I mean, got a live we were at, where was I the other day? I was at Ghost Donkey. I'm trying to find the specific recipe that somebody had for us on here because that would be fun to share with you. Whether it's the guys at Dante or the guys at Saxon and Parole, all those people, we've had some fun drinks created in and around them. And also I think, just even really simple drinks and using sort of the aperitif style, whether it's the Lillets or whether it's the Aperols or whatever. They've all been having fun with these. So here we go, so this was Maxime Belfand at Saxon. So his wonderful creation was with Westland Peated, a little bit of Sherry, some ginger bitters, a dehydrated lemon, and then our delicious spiced orange ginger ale, for example. So that was kind of, how do you do something? Sorry, that was with smoky ginger out. Apologies. That was with smoky ginger ale. Then another one of the great drinks we saw recently was somebody with Bertoux Brandy, a little bit of italicus, some lemon juice, and then the spiced orange ginger ale.
Oh, that's interesting. I would never have thought to mix Bertoux and italicus together.
Well it was obviously more Bertoux than italicus, but again, just interesting and fun.
If a home bartender goes and buys the spicy ginger for example, and they bring it home for the first time, how would you recommend that they use it?
I'd go, how was this originally created? This was originally done for Hennessy, Hennessy VSOP and I think it's, that is absolutely delicious. So if you're going to try it for the first time, try it with a good Brandy or good Cognac. So I think that would be the sort of, absolutely the first port of call for that one there.
If I was looking at something like the smoky, you might look to try it with, if you have a favourite, a favourite whiskey, but a strong whiskey, a robust whiskey, a Johnnie Walker Black, or if you're a malt drinker, one of the more powerful malts, an isle or a talisk, or a skye malt, something like that, then I think you could, then I think that would be great for the smoky to give that a shot with.
Or even perhaps some of the American single malts that are starting to come out.
Or even some of those. Absolutely. Absolutely.
You spoke earlier about orange and also chocolate as being two good flavors that work with ginger really well. What other flavors, what other things can people sort of adapt into their cocktails at home?
I think, I mean ginger and citrus work very well, experimenting and playing with citrus fruits I think is really interesting. So you can, and again, each citrus fruit brings a slightly different personality. I always find that ginger and grapefruit are a fantastic mix. And indeed when we were creating Belvedere's pink grapefruit expression, we couldn't quite get the grapefruit to kind of pop enough. And when we added a bit of ginger, as soon as we added a little bit of ginger, that grapefruit really popped and it was amazing just the addition of a little bit of ginger, it was a great fruit forward thing, but grapefruits are tough fruits to work with and the ginger really just made it, made it pop and made it really exciting there.
Now you guys actually have a really good pairing wheel on your website. So obviously that would be a place where people can go to fiddle around with flavors and try and work out what they can mix.
Yes. We created this wonderful ginger wheel. So we worked with a local American mixologist who then helped create all those wonderful concoctions and different drinks because we wanted to show the versatility of ginger and all the ways in which it can be used. And I think, they did or she did an amazing job of bringing that to life.
Yes. It's a really, I think it's a really helpful thing for people to be able to refer to.
Well you could yes, because the number one question, I mean exactly as you've asked is it sounds nice, how the hell do I use it? What do I do with this? As soon as you tell people, well actually spiced orange, you can do it with a rum, you could do it with a bourbon, you could do it with, some Aperol. You can obviously do it with cognacs or you can do it with lillet blanc. Wow. That's a really interesting diverse range of uses for something. And half of them you'd probably never have considered. And certainly I'd never considered before she opened my eyes so brilliantly.
We touched a little on the category of mixes when we started, really it's changed so much and so dramatically since the brand started. What do you think it's meant for the brand?
I think it's given us the confidence to continue to innovate. I think there's so many trends out there and I think we just happened to be hitting all the sort of key trends at the moment. One has this trend of call it craft, call it authenticity, call it farm-to-table, whatever it is. But we really hit that trend. We hit this trend of simple, long mix drink. People are looking, they're watching their calories, they're watching how much sugar they put in. They're also watching how much they drink. I mean, people drink a lot less alcohol than they did. And it's fascinating to watch the rise of a Seedlip or some of these non-alcoholic bars that are even popping up that are probably years ahead of their time.
And I think for us, what it's meant is, wow, okay, well this category is really exciting. People want to drink simple, long mix drinks, but they want to drink them with flavor, with personality. They want to drink a diverse range, not just about a gin and tonic. This is about a whiskey and ginger, this is about a mule. This is about spritz occasions and how can you attack those and all the rest of it. And I think it's really allowed us to think about, well, what else could we do? And you know, I mean, since we started Fever-Tree USA. We launched the aromatic tonic, which is fantastic. Then we launched these two new gingers, we recently launched the cucumber tonic and all of these just go, wow, I hadn't thought of doing that. Oh, that would be great. And now suddenly somebody hasn't got to try and work out at home, how the hell I make a cucumber essence because we've done it for you and we've simplified that journey so that you can now make a delicious tasting cocktail at home. And I think the other thing is, I was talking to a foodie the other day and I said, well look, imagine your delicious Wagyu beef or your delightful piece of Alaskan salmon and imagine if the chef just poured a whole lot of grease or covered it in just a whole load of generic, horrible sauce. You'd think they'd just destroyed your delicious bit of beef for your delicious bit of salmon. Well, that's what we're doing to people's spirits.
The last thing that happens to a spirit before somebody gets it, in the old days is that they got out one of those wretched guns and then they inject this spirit that somebody's carefully, distilled and then matured in barrels and then blended and done everything to perfection. And it's, this is a 10 year or 12 year process. And then just before you're about to get your mule or your gin and tonic or your whiskey ginger, somebody takes one of those revolting guns and just injects it with artificial flavors, syrups and destroys it. And you've just destroyed somebody's work, some 15 years of labor in one second with the press of a gun. So, I think people really appreciate that and it's allowed us to innovate. It's allowed us to continue the conversation. It's given us the confidence, obviously, to start doing all the work with the gingers. And it's also broadened our minds about thinking, wow, what else might people want to drink? Or how else could they drink them? And it was talking to Aperol awhile ago and we did Aperol with the cucumber tonic and he thought, my God, this is just, a it's a delicious drink and it's a simple two ingredient drink. And again, if you don't want to drink a full bottle of Prosecco, well fine. Here's a simple drink with a twist to it, which is the cucumber twist. It's lovely.
Now talking of innovating, what is next for Fever-Tree?
Well, what we spend our life doing is, we're passionate about drinks and making every drink taste better. And I, what are we here to do? We're here to make every drink taste better. So what we do is we're looking at what are the drinks trends, what are people drinking, where are people going? What can we add to the experience, and if we do add to the experience, how can we do it in a Fever-Tree way? So how can we bring a twist, how can we bring elevation to the drink but also a fun twist, an unexpected twist. I mean I would never have thought of cucumber tonic water.
No, you wouldn't think there would be much to that really would you?
No, but the product is delicious. So yes, I mean we're always looking at what are the drinks trends, what's going on? And I think this is what led to partnerships like the patron and citrus partnership that we going to launch last year, because patron was keen to find a simple long mix drink that tasted great. Quality of margarita mixes was a bit iffy and variable. What else can we do? Well actually, tequila and tonic, delicious drink, but how can we do a twist to it? So, we're looking absolutely at that.
Do you think the brand will be concentrating more in future on mixes for dark spirits.
In the US absolutely. I think we, that's, when you look at the consumption here, if we, once we take out vodka, everything, the next two or three categories are all dark spirit categories and they're all growing fast and they're all big and they're all looking to premiumize. All those categories are in many cases premium and then looking to elevate even further.
All right, Charles. Well, look, thank you so much for joining us today.
My pleasure, Tiff.
If people want more information, especially if they want to have a look at the pairing wheel, if they go to Fever-tree.com.
Thank you for that.
My pleasure. Absolute pleasure.
For more information (and the flavour-wheels) go to fever-tree.com