Imagine: You're at your favorite bar. You order a cocktail off the menu, you hear the bartender shake and watch them strain some magic into a glass. It's a sensory experience from the start, but the taste is where it all comes together.
While most bartenders have a more nuanced relationship with sugar these days, the ingredients has long been used to mask or hide the harshest tasting spirits. These days, a well-crafted cocktail will feature a balance of sweet, sour and bitter, highlighting the spirits instead of hiding them. However, we as consumers should be mindful of the types of sugars we're consuming: inferior and/or highly-concentrated sweeteners will alter our cocktail experience for the worse.
Usually a mix of granulated sugar and water, simple syrup is just that: simple. Long used as a way to add sweetness to cocktails and spirit-free recipes, natural cane sugar is typically what simple syrup is made from, however some syrups are corn-based, made from either corn syrup or powdered sugar (which contains corn starch). Watch the amount of simple syrup being used in your drink. One ounce (30 ml) can contain as much as 36 grams of sugar, more than the amount of sugar found in can of regular soda.
As prohibition hit the United States, illegally-made spirits had to be cut with higher sugar-based mixers to mask the low quality of the alcohol. These days, high-quality spirits don't need - and shouldn’t be - hidden with sugar excessive amounts of sweetener. However, commercial colas and tonics often contain high fructose corn sugar (HFCS) and more of it than necessary.
Top Note's Sparkling Mixers, on the other hand, are made with American-grown and GMO-free pure cane sugar as the primary sweetener in all of our pre-sweetened mixers. We never use artificial or highly-concentrated sweeteners because they don’t mix well with spirits. On average, our mixers add just 7–10 grams of sugar per cocktail, allowing for the creative use of liqueurs and syrups to be layered into your drinks without over-sweetening.
Sugar cubes, date sugar, and unrefined sugars such as turbinado are also common in the world of craft cocktails. For instance, we use California-grown date sugar to enhance the complex flavor profile of our Ginger Beer. Just like with simple syrup, we encourage you to be conscious of the amount used to sweeten your cocktails. A little goes a long way.