It seems like mixers are at the intersection of many current trends in the hospitality industry—wellness, the demand for high-quality ingredients, and mocktails and low-ABV cocktails. The quality of the selections has increased as well, and mixers made with natural ingredients that are low in sugar and calories are leading the pack.
Meet the Mixers
Twisted Alchemy. Recently rebranded from Industry Juice, Twisted Alchemy feels its new name better reflects its story and products. “Twisted Alchemy offers some magic to the experience in the bar,” says Scott Holstein, CEO and Co-Founder of Twisted Alchemy together with his wife, Kim. “Alchemy is the intersection of art and science, and high level beverage crafting is just that—it’s the intersection of the mixologist’s creativity along with science.”
Twisted Alchemy currently offers eight flavors of cold-pressed juices—lemon, orange, grapefruit, pineapple, watermelon, Persian lime, blood orange, and Key lime—all of which are available to direct ship anywhere in the U.S. within 48 hours.
The company has also rolled out a garnish line, starting with fresh pineapple tops/leaves. Look for CBD products and new sizes like two-ounce bottles and a 10-liter bag in a box (with an optional tap system) to be available soon.
Multi-Flow Beverage Solutions. This “one-stop shop” supplies fountain soft drinks, bar mixers, energy drinks, ice machines, dispensing equipment, beer line cleaning and dispensing, and more all along the East Coast.
“We produce over three million gallons of product a year that we sell to bars and restaurants within our footprint,” says Dwayne Schwarz, Vice President of National Sales, Multi-Flow Beverage Solutions.
In addition to traditional dispensing options, Multi-Flow also offers unique options and partners with companies like iPourIt, who manufacture self-serve systems. “Bars and restaurants today, in addition to the products that they’re serving, are looking for unique dispensing opportunities,” says Schwarz, “something that gives them a point of difference.”
Multi-Flow also goes beyond products to offer its customers consultation, custom solutions, and even custom graphics to help brand their business. “We really do look at our customers as our business partner,” says Schwarz. “When we walk through the door, we’re walking in with an arsenal of products, equipment options, and most importantly, the knowledge on how to give them the best system for their bar or restaurant that serves the best quality products. We know what works and what doesn’t, and we make recommendations. We work with our customers to tailor a program that makes sense for them.”
Multi-Flow typically releases two to three new flavors a year, and is currently working on a soda alternative to sangria. “We watch what’s happening in the marketplace, and we try to be ahead of the curve when we create new products,” says Schwarz.
Anna’s Kitchen. Owner Anna Scott has gone from mixing up shrubs in her kitchen to selling cases to on-premise accounts in just a few short years. Her bottled shrubs currently come in five flavors: Banana Turmeric, Peach Jalapeño, Cranberry Mint, Apple Cider Ginger, and Strawberry Lemon Thyme.
“The banana flavor seems to be the most popular with bartenders,” she says.
One of Scott’s biggest challenges has been education. “What we’re finding the most is people don’t know what a shrub is,” says Scott, who says once a client tastes her product they’re sold, and from there, it’s all about educating.
Anna’s Kitchen is currently working on getting more distribution, and she will soon be rolling out a smaller four-ounce size to add her collection of 16.7-ounce bottles.
Consistency is King
A big benefit of bottled mixers is the guaranteed consistency. At Twisted Alchemy, that consistency starts at the grower level. The company buys based on the ripeness, the sugar level in the fruit, which is known as the brix level. “Every time someone opens a case of fruit, you have no idea what the brix levels are, nor do you know what the yield is going to be of that case. With us, every time you buy a bottle of juice, you get 25.4 ounces of fluid,” says Holstein, noting this also helps with inventory control. “We’re providing a lot of accuracy, data, and consistency to the process.”
An added benefit to that consistency is the shelf life many of these bottled mixers offer, including Twisted Alchemy. Their juices have a shelf life of 120 days for unopened bottles and seven days for opened bottles, which they achieve through high pressure processing (HPP). This process is preferable to the use of heat, which kills off enzymes and fundamentally changes the chemistry and flavor of the juice.
Anna’s Kitchen Shrubs are shelf stable for three years. “They don’t need to be refrigerated, and they don’t need to be refrigerated after opening, which is nice if you’re running a busy bar—you’re not reaching into the refrigerator to grab things, it’s out on the counter,” says Scott.
Bottled mixers can also be a big deal for franchises or bars with multiple locations, which are always looking for consistency across the brand. Multi-Flow takes things one step further and offers brands the ability to create their own custom recipes. “We work with chain accounts on creating private label products,” says Schwarz. “If they have a formula that they would like to create, we have a quality assurance department, a full lab, and food techs that work in our lab creating these different flavors.”
Return on Investment
Bottled mixers also offer cost savings on wasted ingredients and stock. Scott finds that her shrubs eliminate the need for certain ingredients altogether. “They can make a craft cocktail that goes on their cocktail list with three to four ingredients instead of muddling and grabbing seven different things,” she says. “It’s cost effective within price and time.”
The cost savings add up even more as these mixers enable bartenders to make drinks faster. This is especially true in high-volume establishments that batch cocktails, which can be a boon for establishments during busy seasons like the summer or the holidays.
Many bars are also finding ways to use mixers outside of their beverage program—extending the benefits and the return on investment. Multi-Flow cites the example of its sour mix. “Bars and restaurants use it for not only making drinks, but they’ll use it in some of their food recipes,” says Schwarz, who explains Multi-Flow encourages this by sending out a newsletter to its customers with recipes using its many products. “It gives them the ability to stretch their profit because they’re substituting something that they would get from a kitchen supply or a food vendor with something they’re getting from their beverage supplier. The yields are a lot higher, giving them more profitability in all of their servings.”
Bottled mixers also make trying something new less risky. “It gives the ability for people to bring in product that they maybe normally wouldn’t want to buy the fruit for—like blood orange, which is an expensive fruit,” says Holstein. “You may not know if the drink is going to sell, but you can buy one bottle of juice, try it out, and run a weekend special.”
One of the biggest differences in the mixers of today is the quality—they are lower in sugar, lower in calories, and use all-natural ingredients.
“I am the only shrub on the market that has a combination of being 100% organic and uses raw apple cider vinegar with the mother, which has a lot of health benefits,” explains Scott, noting she’s seen a shift in consumers looking for healthier options. “Restaurants are being pushed to be healthier, and fresh is really popular.”
Holstein agrees. “I think people are just more interested in what’s going into their bodies, so that lends itself to less sugar, higher quality ingredients. None of our products currently have any sugar that we add in. It’s all just fresh juice,” he says. “People are willing to pay for quality, which I don’t think in the past they were.”
Schwarz says bars should take advantage of ways to generate revenue based on this trend, “For example, we have a product called Nourish Water. Bars and restaurants typically give away water every time someone sits down at the table. We’ve created a product, and we have it in a flat version as well as a sparkling version, that now gives the operator the opportunity to charge for a product [while charging] less than a typical soft drink.”
Multi-Flow’s other products, including its fountainhead products, also fit into the wellness trend as they’re made with real cane sugar. “In addition to the traditional cola and ginger ale type products, we also have products like orange cream and black cherry. We have a pineapple cream, a mojito soda,” says Schwarz. “We found a need in a lot of our markets that restaurants were looking for alternatives to a Shirley Temple product.
“The mixologists are actually using it in New York City, for example, and they’re creating specialty drinks around the pineapple cream, the orange cream, the mojito soda, and it gives them a point of difference from the cookie-cutter products that are out in the industry.”
Those Shirley Temple alternatives—also know as mocktails and low-ABV cocktails—are also in demand, and this is where a quality mixer is key. “Mocktails and the non-alcoholic world are exploding. The juices and the mixers now become the star—it’s not the spirits,” says Holstein. “So you better make sure the quality of the ingredients that you’re using for a shrub, or a tonic, etc. taste really good.”
Scott says her shrubs are good stand-ins for spirits in zero-proof cocktails. “The complexness of the apple cider vinegar has a very similar complexness to a hard liquor,” she says. “When you’re making a low-alcohol drink, or a no-alcohol drink, the shrub can replace all or some of the alcohol very easily and very tastefully.
“You can have a nice drink, in a martini glass, that’s not laden with sugar, that actually tastes complex, like a cocktail should.”