A well-stocked home bar isn’t just about the booze. Sometimes the sodas and carbonated mixers are as essential to crafting that perfect cocktail as the base spirits themselves. I mean what would a Mojito be without the Soda Water? A Gin & Tonic without the Tonic? Or a Moscow Mule without the Ginger Beer?
It would definitely be difficult to create a long drink without the effervescence that makes them perfect sippers on a weekend afternoon. Carbonated sodas often impart flavour (be it sweet or tart), are inexpensive (for now at least) and can help out in a pinch if you have a guest who wants a non-alcoholic option.
For any home bar, a selection of sodas is essential but like different types of Gin, every soda brand is different – some Tonics may be fruitier or Ginger Ales may be sweeter. The best rule of thumb is to remember that you should only ever put into your drinks, sodas that you would be happy to drink straight. With a little experimentation, you’ll find a brand that suits your tastes and your cocktails.
Now it might seem more economical to buy the largest bottles you can (especially of something like soda water or tonic water that you will probably use a lot of) but honestly, it’s a bit of a false economy. A majority of carbonation is lost when the seal is cracked, so a day old soda will produce a weak, flat and pretty undesirable cocktail. What does this add up to … well, smaller bottles are better. It will be fresh, bubbly and usually, you can easily get one tall and two small drinks out of a smaller bottle of soda.
Simply put, Soda Water is just carbonated water. Call it Mineral Water, Sparkling Water, Club Soda or Seltzer, its sparkling effervescence is what makes a lot of long cocktails so refreshing. It helps to dilute, as well as lighten up cocktails and draws out and often mellows anything that’s strongly flavoured. While most brands have a bottled Soda Water, a lot of people will tell you that the freshest soda comes from an old fashioned Soda Siphon.
Make: Tom Collins
Tonic is flavoured with quinine and is often quite bitter in taste. Its most popular use is in a Gin and Tonic but due to it’s refreshing bitter element, there are an increasing number of cocktails in which it is used. Historically it was often used by the British in India, who combined the botanicals in gin with the quinine on Tonic Water to prevent malaria. It’s worth seeking out high-quality Tonics that use natural sweeteners rather than high fructose corn syrup.
Make: Hedgerow Tonic
One way to think of Ginger Ale is as Ginger Beer’s more sedate cousin. Sure it has a Ginger flavour, but it’s quite delicate and subdued. The colour is also very light (which often makes it the perfect substitute for Soda water if you’re in a bind. Not just for sick days any more, Ginger Ale’s sweet spiciness make it an extremely versatile mixer. It has special appeal as it pairs well with a number of spirits, (we particularly like it with Gin).
Make: Mimie Taylor
With a decidedly spicier ginger taste, Ginger Beer pairs especially well with brown liquors like dark rum and bourbon. No matter what the name implies, it isn’t actually an alcoholic beer, but a fermented ginger soda. As carbonation occurs naturally as part of the brewing process, it is less carbonated than other sodas. It’s a good idea to always check the label, as some modern Ginger Beers are alcoholic and some are not.
Make: Berry Nice
If appearance is your thing than Citrus Sodas can add wonderful colour to your cocktail but taste is the issue, they add some pretty refreshing sweet-sour notes. Blood orange, lemon, lime, or orange sodas pair well with vodka, gin, and other clear liquors. Go for the higher-end brands that don’t contain corn syrup and contain actual fruit juices and/or pulp. Honestly, we believe you can’t go past the Italians for Citrus Soda but who are we to judge …
Make: Rosé Paloma Cocktail
We’re not going to get into any sort of cola war – we don’t car which brand you use. We will say though that if you’re after a cola that is less syrupy, then you should have a look at some of the boutique brands. Rum and whiskey are popular spirits to pair with cola and what makes the combination so good? Well, it is commonly believed that most Colas contain both cinnamon and citrus flavours, which on the surface don’t seem to be a good idea but somehow work.