For the past few months I have been seeking out premium mixers, especially tonic water and hard to find ones like bitter lemon. I finally narrowed down the field to the top few, but none were what I would call premium. I then caught news about some new mixers coming to market. Several are just in test stages and one that seems very promising is in the pre-production phase and will be coming out later this spring. (Yes I will have a review and interview with the creator)
I had heard about Fever-Tree premium mixers from the UK but they haven't been available in the US. For the past 18 months they have been taking Europe by storm, but with always a limited availability. Well now things have changed and they are coming to the US market. I was sent some samples to try a few weeks ago, but a severe bout of the flu had me on my back for almost two weeks. Finally, with great anticipation, I felt well enough to open them up, and I am so glad I did.
Fever-Tree presently makes four premium quality, artisinal mixers. Indian Tonic Water, Bitter Lemon, Ginger Ale, and Club Soda. Just recently Fever-Tree won the prestigious 1st prize as the 'International Gourmet Product 2006' for their Indian Tonic Water at the World Gastronomic Festival in Spain. All Fever-Tree mixers are completely natural and contain no artificial sweeteners, flavors or preservatives. They also don't have any synthetic colors, chlorinated water, manufactured quinine, and any sodium or high fructose corn syrup. One thing they have is a very high carbonation level which means a great fizz and delivers the drinks botanical aromas better than other mixers.
I had quite a few questions about Fever-Tree mixers and contacted them. I communicated in depth with several helpful folks in the UK and US. My questions were speedily answered and made it to the top levels. This has been a great company to work with and they have tons of great energy. Here are some of the questions I asked them.
Who created Fever-Tree?
"Charles Rolls is the managing director of Fever-Tree Ltd, UK. (He is the former part-owner and managing director of the sublime Plymouth Gin and brought it back successfully when it was starting to fade from notice.)
What is the driving force behind Fever-Tree mixers?
Charles Rolls states, "The marketplace is dominated by inferior mixers that actually obscure and adulterate, rather than enhance, the subtle flavors of quality spirits. Our mission at fever-Tree is to raise both standards and expectations of what a mixer should be."
What ingredients are used in the Fever-Tree mixers?
"Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water and Bitter Lemon derive their crisp, clean refreshing flavors from the variety of chinchona grown along the Rwanda-Congo border that is known to yield some of the world's finest quinine. Fever-Tree Ginger Ale owes its brisk, distinctive flavor to three varieties of ginger from Ecuador, Cochin and Nigeria including the unique use of fresh green (young) ginger, while the Club Soda gets its pure taste from soft spring water from Scotland."
When was Fever-Tree first released for sale?
"Fever-Tree tonic water was launched in the U.K. in May 2005, but really began to gain momentum around October 2005. Shortly thereafter they launched the bitter lemon and in March 2006 the ginger ale."
What about here in the U.S.?
"The official U.S. launch is (right now) in March 2007 and the product is currently available thru BevMo (Beverages and More!) in California and Arizona. Brands of Britain is the importer and they are hard at working setting up other distribution channels throughout the U.S. (gourmet grocery retailers, etc.) and we will certainly keep you posted with further updates. "
The Fever-Tree premium mixers will be available in the US in 4-packs retailing for around $5.99.
Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water is a blend of natural flavors including cold pressed by hand orange oil, coriander oil, lime oil, African marigold, Kenyan bitter orange oil, cane sugar, and the highest quality quinine from the Fever Tree (Chinchona ledgeriana.) Fever-Tree suggests pairing it with premium gin and vodka, as well as enjoying it on its own.
The tonic water is very dry and tart with just the right amount of sugar to balance it out noticeably. It has more chinchona quinine bark than other tonics and faint glimpses of the bitter orange, marigold, coriander and lime oils are present. This is a great tonic water and compared to all the tonic waters currently on the market, is in a class by itself. No other tonic water on the market even comes close.
Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon is hazy to look at because it is made with natural Sicilian lemon juice and then blended with cold pressed by hand orange oils, various secret botanical flavors, cane sugar, spring water, and quinine. Sort of like old fashion handmade lemonade with the dry, tart taste of quinine.
The Bitter Lemon is absolutely excellent. It is TANGY AND TART6 WITH A GREAT LEMON ZEST FLAVOR. The sugar is barely there, just to calm down the dryness of the chinchona. There aren't many bitter lemon mixers on the US market. I have had Canada Dry and Schweppes bitter lemon before and while they are good, the Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon just blows them away. It's a sublime mix that goes great with a great gin or even vodka, and is complex enough to be drunk straight as an aperitif or digestif.
Fever-Tree Club Soda is made with pure, soft Scottish spring water that has been carbonated with small, energetic bubbles like you get in a fine sparkling wine. Fever-Tree suggests pairing it with "whisky, Scotch, and bourbons of distinction."
The Club Soda is exceptionally fizzy with a clean clear spring water taste. I wanted to see exactly what the water quality was like and let it lose most of the carbonation. After the loss of most of the carbonation I could taste the pureness of the water. Soft, sweet, and clean. I wouldn't mind tasting this Scottish spring water as bottled water, it was that nice.
Fever-Tree Ginger Ale is made with a combination of natural young, green ginger from Ecuador as well as mature ginger from Cochin and Nigeria; plus other secret botanicals, and cane sugar. Fever-Tree suggests pairing it with rum, whisky, bourbon, and tequila.
The Ginger Ale is perfect to match with a fine whiskey or premium rum. It's not too sweet and not too spicy. You can tell that young green ginger is one of the focal ingredients because the unique floral and herbaceous taste that ginger has when it is young is very present. The light gold color is also indicative of fresh young ginger. This is an excellent ginger ale. There are ginger ales on the market that have more spice and heat to them which are great to drink as sodas, but not good for mixing with premium spirits. I don't usually drink whisky or rum with ginger ale. Fever-Tree is now the exception. It paired fantastically with both Bourbon and fine aged rum Agricole. I didn't have any tequila in the house (my tequila reviews are still off in the future) but can see that combination working well. Fever-Tree's ginger ale is one of a kind, with the fresh bright flavor of young ginger. I could see myself drinking this a lot, just on its own.
I had some additional questions about the botanicals in the Ginger Ale and these were forwarded to Charles Rolls by e-mail.
What are the exact botanicals used in the ginger ale?
Charles Rolls says, "We wanted to make the best ginger ale we could and started where it seems everyone begins, with Jamaican ginger.
Jamaican ginger has a great reputation for producing a highly aromatic ginger - very 'eucalyptus' like in aroma. The flavour was 'nice' but not interesting enough for us. We're working with Europe's top ginger extractor so we had a fantastic opportunity to work with as many samples of gingers as anyone in the world.
What we loved about the combination of Cochin and Nigerian was the rich earthiness of the Nigerian ginger and then the intense aromatic ginger of the Cochin – almost a chocolate-like density to the flavour. However, the masterstroke is in adding in some fresh green ginger which we get from Ecuador.
Most ginger root is dried first and then the oils extracted. But in this case, they extract the oil fresh. The aroma has a lime freshness and gives this ginger quite the most fantastic aroma and taste. In combination you have, we think, the most dynamic ginger ale taste of any on the market. We've packed as much of this into the bottle as you can get without the whole lot going cloudy and coming out of solution - so it's intense."
Is Fever-Tree going to be introducing any new products in the future?
"Regarding plans for future new product introduction, whatever they produce will place an absolute premium on quality, so the process takes quite awhile."
As Charles pointed out, "...As explained above (and hopefully is also clear in our sourcing of natural quinine and hand cold pressed orange oils for the tonic), we take a long time over each new product. But watch this space because we've been working hard!"
Fever-Tree assured me that I would be one of the first notified if they are going to be releasing any new products. My personal wish list would be the development of several other bitter citrus mixers like bitter orange, bitter lime, bitter grapefruit, and maybe something really unusual like bitter Buddha's Hand citron. I would think that with the quality of the spring water they are using they might want to consider bottling the water as well.
For all you folks who enjoy premium spirits and only want the best, keep your eyes peeled for Fever-Tree mixers and ask your retailers when it will be available in your area. By the way, if you want to try a Royal Gin and Tonic, use Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water and Cadenhead's Old Raj Dry Gin. It will be the best gin & tonic you ever had.