If you’re looking for a mixer or some other cocktail ingredient, chances are The Cocktail Artist makes it. This series of “mixologist-inspired bar ingredients and mixes” now runs to 15 products, eight of which we’re reviewing below, running from the basic (simple syrup) to the complex (pina colada mix).
Try not to mind the horrendous packaging, which plasters the poor bartender’s face who helped designed the product, in faux watercolor, right on the front of the bottle, and focus on what’s inside instead.
Cocktail Artist Simple Syrup – Not just sugar, but agave and a little vanilla, too. The lattermost of these really stands out, giving the syrup a candylike character to it. It’s not at all a bad thing, but it does change the texture of cocktails made with it a bit, so keep that in mind. A- / $3 (375ml)
Cocktail Artist Mint Syrup – Just mint, sugar, and water, keeping it classic. A little sweet on the whole, with the slightest hint of chemical notes (preservatives?) on the back end. Worked reasonably well in a mint julep, though again a touch more mint-to-sugar would be preferred. B / $3 (375ml)
Cocktail Artist Lime Juice – Not actually lime juice but rather a blend of water, sugar, and lime juice, in that order. This is lime juice sweetened enough so that it can actually be consumed straight from the bottle. As with the simple syrup, the addition of sweetener is something to remember when using it in lieu of fresh lime juice, and the difference is noticeable in an otherwise identical cocktail. That said, the lime flavor is authentic and full of zippy tartness. While bottled juice is never a real substitute for the real thing, this will work in a pinch. B+ / $3 (375ml)
Cocktail Artist Sweet & Sour – Classic sweet & sour is lemon, lime, sugar, and water, but Cocktail Artist adds to that bill, folding in apple juice, agave nectar, and orange extract, making for quite a complicated flavor profile. Ultimately, it’s a bit heavy on the “sour,” overwhelmingly limey in a way that echoes the margarita mix below. Really dominates most spirits, so while it may work in a pinch, my recommendation if you do is to mix cautiously with it, and cut it with a bit of sugar syrup. C / $4 (750ml)
Cocktail Artist Manhattan Mix – Water, sugar, “vermouth flavor,” cola flavor, lime flavor, and purplish coloring. Considering a Manhattan is (aside from the whiskey) vermouth and bitters, that’s a lot of stuff to replace the work of two bottles. That said, when mixed with whiskey (I used a hearty bourbon), it reasonably accurately simulates the real thing, offering a winey character with a lightly bitter edge and a chocolaty finish. The main difference between a real Manhattan and this version is a vaguely vegetal character that lingers on the finish, the vestige perhaps of the purple carrot juice used to provide color. Still, given how simple the Manhattan is, and how ubiquitous its ingredients are (especially since “Robert’s Twist,” per the label, is to add actual bitters to the cocktail!), there’s not a lot of excuse for using this bottled version in lieu of the real deal. In the spirit of respect for those who live nowhere near a bottle of vermouth, though: B / $4 (750ml)
Cocktail Artist Margarita Mix – Water, sugar, lime, and orange flavor. Sounds simple, but this mix is bursting with lime notes that are quite sour, with a powdery, heavily-chemical note to them. That bitter-sour note (a preservative, perhaps?) lingers well into the finish, which takes the completed margarita (just 2:1 mix to tequila) out on a muddy, almost barnyard note. C- / $4 (750ml)
Cocktail Artist Pina Colada Mix – I assume no one out there is cracking open coconuts and juicing pineapples to make pina coladas (if you are, invite me over), so some level of premade product (i.e. Coco Lopez) is almost essential for this beach classic. Cocktail Artist’s mixer includes everything but the rum: sugar, coconut cream, pineapple juice, and various thickeners, and it works. As far as one stop shops go, this offers a good balance between coconut and pineapple, and I can even see this one working, blended with ice of course, as a virgin drink on its own. That said, most of you will want to dose it with plenty of good rum. Try an aged rum, and throw in a splash of Cocktail Artist’s lime juice to give it a more acidic kick. One caveat: You’ll get 6 drinks out of a full liter bottle, if you’re lucky. A- / $4 (750ml)
Cocktail Artist Bloody Mary Mix – A solid, if standard mix, composed of the usual components, heavy on meaty Worcestershire notes, with plenty of black pepper. There’s ample heat on the back end, but a slight chemical note catches on the back of the throat, marring an otherwise perfectly agreeable bloody. B / $4 (750ml)