How Common Mixers Are Ruining Your Whiskey Cocktails

The concept behind that old adage "don't cook with a wine you wouldn't want to drink" applies to any thing you put in your cocktail glass, too. Don't mix up just any old ingredient in your favorite drink recipes. That old, preserved lemon or lime juice in a bottle (even worse — the plastic squeezer) or the suspiciously cheap bottle of sweet and sour mix with a long list of ingredients are unlikely to make your tastebuds happy sipped solo. We can guarantee it's not going to improve the taste of your whiskey cocktail, either.

Citrus is used to balance drink flavors, and fresh juice doesn't stay flavorful very long. As it ages, bitterness develops. When it's bottled and sold as a shelf-stable product, small amounts of chemicals like sodium benzoate and sodium metabisulfite are added to prevent mold and bacteria growth in the bottle. You'll find some of those same chemicals in bottled simple syrup and mixers like inexpensive grenadine, too. If you enjoy the taste of whiskey, don't ruin a drink with bad mixers that impart unfortunate bitterness or sulfur notes.

Improve your whiskey cocktails with quality ingredients

The best option for citrus juice in your next whiskey sour or whiskey smash is always fresh squeezed or pressed, but if that's not an option due to cost or seasonality, leave the bottled juice at the store. The next-best choice is a single ingredient, small jug of refrigerated juice — the kind with no added preservatives or artificial flavors and colors. You're likely to get the best, fresh flavor from these options. Avoid concentrates if at all possible since they've been processed to remove water, and that alters the texture of the juice as well as the flavor. If you don't, you could have an unintentionally thick mouthfeel in the glass.

Whiskey makers all around the world go to great lengths to coax complex flavors from simple malted grains or corn mash and water, so whether your taste leans toward high-end Japanese sipping whisky or middle-of-the-road blended whiskey, don't bury those flavors under a blanket of harsh chemical tastes. If your whiskey drink calls for juice, whether it's simple lemon or lime, pineapple, or apple cider, stay away from bad mixers and look for the freshest alternative.