Virginia is for Mixers

Mix some local flavor into your craft cocktails.

Photo by Fred + Elliott

Stirring in a quality mixer is one of the simplest ways to create a tasty cocktail in a hurry. Forget those giant jugs of neon mix you’ve seen in the grocery store, and reach for something made right here in Virginia. With locally bottled bitters, shrubs, sodas, and more to choose from, it’s easy to mix things up behind the bar. 

Blackwater Bitters

Proving the expression that less is more, bitters can change the profile of a cocktail with just a drop or two of liquid—and Lynchburg’s Blackwater Bitters’ highly concentrated concoctions don’t disappoint. The aromatic bitters are ideal for an Old Fashioned, while flavors like grapefruit, celery, lavender, rosemary, and coffee will bring out the mad scientist mixologist in you.

Element Shrub

This Arlington-based outfit uses a wholesome mixture of apple cider vinegar, fresh fruit, cane sugar, herbs, and spices to create its line of shrubs, available either as concentrates or ready-to-sip (or mix!) bottles made with club soda. The honeydew jalapeño shrub pairs naturally with tequila or mezcal, and the blood orange saffron gives a decadent kick to, well, just about anything.

Keep It Simple Syrup

What started out as a mojito shortcut for Richmonder Susan Martinson became a line of all-natural flavored simple syrups, called KISS for short. The original spearmint syrup plays nicely with bourbon and rum, and it brightens up iced tea, too.

Red Root & Co.

This company specializes in shrubs, bitters, tonics, syrups, and oxymels made in the Shenandoah Valley. Mix a dash of the elderberry syrup with your favorite cider for a sweet spritzer, or add a couple drops of the house bitters to soda water for an easy digestif.

J.T. Copper Syrups

Handcrafted in Floyd using traditional techniques, J.T. Copper’s small-batch syrups are made with pure ingredients—that means no artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, or preservatives. Made with real pomegranate juice, the grenadine is a staple item for any home bar (tequila sunrises, anyone?), but the sugar and spice cola syrup is our favorite mixed with dark rum or bourbon.

Sorva Syrups

Simple syrup is key to adding sweetness to a drink without the graininess of pure sugar. Yorktown-based Sorva Syrups ups the ante on this humble sweetener with flavors like cinnamon, hibiscus, and mint. Try the lavender syrup with vanilla vodka and a touch of lemon for an herbaceous martini, or use the ginger syrup to add a kick to a Moscow Mule.

Navy Hill Tonic + Soda

Electrolytes are the secret ingredient in Navy Hill’s mixers—they are said to replace essential elements that tend to be depleted when drinking alcohol. Based in Richmond, the company offers original, juniper, and ginger variations of its easy-drinking bottled soda and tonic.

Mother Shrub

Mother Shrub’s founder Meredyth Archer grew up drinking sweetened vinegars with her grandmother in West Virginia, then decided to make it herself after rediscovering an 1800s-era family cookbook. Her Richmond-based company makes a black cherry shrub that lends a welcoming tartness to a mint julep. Other flavors include cranberry, ginger, grapefruit, and lime.

This article originally appeared in our Drink 2019 issue. For cocktail recipes using these mixers, click here.

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