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Tasting & matching: Premixed Cocktails

Premixes are the Vauxhall Astra of the barworld: as sexy as corduroy, but practical? Hell yeah! Nushi Wijewardena and a team of bartenders put a stack of time-saving contenders to the test 


It’s not exactly easy to sell a premixes tasting to busy bartenders. But then I’d wager that many of those very bartenders who fail to take premixes seriously have probably quite happily used at least one brand in their career, and possibly even still do. 

Yes, many bars are shifting not only towards freshly made, but even making their own liqueurs, syrups, mixers and bitters, and this has to be applauded. But it must not be forgotten: premixed cocktails still have their place in the market. Fresh produce and homemade ingredients are all well and good for the less crowded, intimate cocktail bar, where the bartender can take his or her time over the perfect drink, but when the line is 10-deep and the standard call is for Piña Coladas, it’s probably not the time to start coring pineapples.

We called in 19 premixed cocktails, as opposed to mixed drinks like rum & coke, and a panel of four willing tasters, and met up at The Drift – recently opened on London’s Bishopsgate – to set about finding the best on offer, with drinks mixed up, not by the venue’s experienced bar team, but by the maître d’, to really put the premixes to the test. 


HOW IT WORKED

  Suppliers submitted their premixed on-trade cocktails at any price. They provided a simple-serve recipe, which was followed and served by a relatively inexperienced bartender. Scores out of 10 were given for appearance, nose and palate. The panel also guessed the cocktail and gave points for the premix’s similarity to the original. The tasting was done blind and in no particular order. All prices are wholesale ex-VAT.


TASTING PANEL  

Kane Brooks, The Drift  

Nushi Wijewardena, Imbibe 

Oliver Williamson, The Light Bar  

John Willy, Bedford & Strand


RESULTS 


79 Bloodshot Bloody Vodka Spirit 

‘Nice, solid and peppery; exactly what a Bloody Mary should be,’ KB.  £13/50cl bottle, requires the addition of tomato juice. 

Coe Vintners, 020 8551 4966 


78 VnC Margarita 

‘A good punchy Margarita with a definite tequila follow-through,’ OW. £44/6x70cl bottles. 

Whyte & Mackay, 0141 248 5771


76 Funkin Strawberry Daiquiri 

(with white rum) ‘Nice balance; like a fresh strawberry, and the spirit is prevalent,’ OW. £26.88/32x120g packs,  requires the addition of rum. 

Funkin Pro, 020 7328 4440


76 Funkin Piña Colada 

(with white rum) ‘A very fresh tasting example of a Piña Colada, though perhaps more rum should be advised,’ JW. £26.88/32x120g packs,  requires the addition of rum. 

Funkin Pro, 020 7328 4440


73 VnC Passionfruit Caprioska 

‘Neither I nor the rest of the panel could identify this cocktail, but it was clearly a good product,’ NW. £44/6x70cl bottles. 

Whyte & Mackay, 0141 248 5771


64 Finest Call Bloody Mary Mix (with vodka)

‘Clearly a Bloody Mary, and lots going on: nice and complex,’ OW.  £4/1l bottle, requires the addition of vodka.

Cellar Trends, 01283 217703


63 VnC Pomegranate Cosmopolitan

‘It’s sweet for my taste, but it’s what a consumer would expect,’ KB. £44/6x70cl bottles. 

Whyte & Mackay, 0141 2485771


59 Finest Call Margarita Mix (with tequila) 

‘The tequila notes were very prevalent in this recipe,’ OW.  £4/1l bottle, requires the addition of tequila.

Cellar Trends, 01283 217703


59 VnC Pacific Mai Tai 

‘We weren’t quite sure what this was... we all thought it was a Piña Colada. If you weren’t particularly expecting a Mai Tai or a Piña Colada, it would probably be a good drink,’ JW. £44/6x70cl bottles. 

Whyte & Mackay, 0141 2485771


58 Funkin Mojito (with white rum) 

‘It would have been excellent if there was more rum in it. The mint flavours were very fresh,’ NW. £26.88/32x120g packs,  requires the addition of rum. 

Funkin Pro, 020 7328 4440


58 Bacardi Mojito Classic

‘Light, crisp and refreshing,’ KB. £20/case of 15 227ml cans. 

Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands, 01962 762450


49 Funkin Strawberry Woo Woo (with white rum)

‘Lots of very fresh strawberry,’ KB £26.88/32x120g packs,  requires the addition of rum. 

Funkin Pro, 020 7328 4440


45 Finest Call Caipirinha Mix 

(with cachaça) ‘With Caipirinhas, freshness is key and lime is the main ingredient. This product did quite well at getting the freshness right,’ NW. £4/1l bottle, requires the addition of cachaça.

Cellar Trends, 01283 217703


41 VnC Vodka Mojito 

‘We knew it was a Mojito but couldn’t really taste the rum. It makes sense now that we know it’s made with vodka,’ JW. £44/6x70cl bottles. 

Whyte & Mackay, 0141 2485771


41 Finest Call Sour Apple Martini Mix (with vodka)

‘It definitely does the job of making a palatable Sour Apple Martini,’ KB.  £4/1l bottle, requires the addition of vodka.

Cellar Trends, 01283 217703


Also tasted Caribbean Rum Punch, Finest Call Cosmopolitan Mix (with vodka) and Finest Call Piña Colada (with white rum)


Many thanks to the team at Drake & Morgan’s The Drift for hosting the tasting and for all of the help they provided on the day.


Conclusions 

Premixes can get a bad rep, but overall the products tasted were impressive. It was important to our tasters that the drinks looked, smelled and tasted similar to what we associate with the cocktail. It was imperative that a premixed Mojito had definite minty notes, that Caipirinhias had that  familiar lime aroma and that fruit cocktails tasted fresh. 



Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – September/October 2011

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