Coca-Cola unveils range of bartender-developed premium dark-spirit mixers

Kate Malczewski

Kate Malczewski

02 May 2019

Softs giant Coca-Cola is looking to make the most of the ever-increasing market for premium dark spirits with the launch of a line of bartender-developed products called Coca-Cola Signature Mixers.

The range boasts four flavours, each crafted by a different big-name bartender: Woody Notes by Alex Lawrence (Mr Lyan); Herbal Notes by Antonio Naranjo (Dr Stravinsky, Barcelona); Spicy Notes by Pippa Guy (The American Bar at The Savoy, London) and Adriana Chía (La Antigua Compañía de las Indias, Barcelona); and Smoky Notes by Max Venning (Three Sheets, London).

To develop the mixers, Coca-Cola gathered 12 bartenders for a two-day workshop, where they were given free range to play with the original Coke recipe. ‘Coca-Cola let us do what we wanted to do, and we came to those flavours ourselves,’ Venning told Imbibe.

‘They said “Here are the fresh ingredients and vials of the Coca-Cola flavour molecules that we use for our range”. I hedged my bets and did just one, others did two, three, four, and they chose the concepts they liked best.

‘At the end of the second day of the workshop they had 30 consumers come in and each bartender had to explain what they'd made, why they'd done it and their perfect serve. From that information they took the products we made and reformulated them into something they could reproduce.’

For Venning, the most exciting part was the unexpected freedom the bartenders were given in the project. ‘The guys at Coca-Cola left it up to us to name [the products], and we were like... what? Are you sure? They put a lot of faith in us.’

The flavours

Each cola riffs on the classic Coke recipe for a result that the brand claims is ‘a totally innovative and unique product range for mixology’. Imbibe got a first taste of the flavours at the collaboration’s launch on 1 May.

Woody Notes, which has citrus flavours layered with sandalwood, basil, yuzu and patchouli, was developed to pair with Tennessee whiskey or spiced rum. At the launch, it was served with Chivas Regal Whisky.

Herbal Notes is blended with dill, citrus and lemongrass, resulting in an almost hoppy, minty palate. We sampled it with Grey Goose Vodka, and it’s also developed to pair with scotch.

Spicy Notes, infused with lime, ginger and jalapenos, was Imbibe’s favourite of the bunch. It’s suggested to pair with scotch or reposado tequila. We tried it with Bacardi Cuatro Rum, but we’d like to see how it works with a vegetal, saline blanco tequila as well.

Smoky Notes, meant to pair with dark rum and scotch whisky, marries a subtle smokiness with oak, ylang ylang and warm baking spices. We drank it with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, and found it highlighted the bourbon’s notes of vanilla and cherry.

The details

Each flavour is packaged in a 200ml Hutchinson glass bottle, a style that is ‘ideal for instant mixing’. The silhouette was first used by Coca-Cola in 1894, even before the company adopted its signature curvaceous glass bottles.

The four Coca-Cola Signature Mixers will be available to the on-trade from June. Over the coming weeks, the brand will be rolling out back bar displays, bespoke glassware, menus and staff training sessions.

But we reckon these flavours won’t be the only Signature Mixers – Coca-Cola has hinted that there might be more to come by calling them the ‘four initial variants’ in the range. Watch this space…

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