Published: March 2, 2015
What is lacking in the majority of bars today? Great soda. It's true, the majority of today's mixed drinks are made with overly sweetened sodas with unreliable carbonation pour from plastic (sometimes glass) or passed through often unsanitary hoses. And yet, we insist on using these with our finest spirits.
It applies to both home and professional bars. We think about the quality of our liquor and have been touting the benefits of fresh juices and homemade mixers, but rarely do we talk about soda.
It may be time for a soda revolution and there are a number of companies that are working to make this happen. Q Drinks is one of those brands and in just a few short years their portfolio of flavors has expanded to take care of virtually all of your mixed drink and cocktail needs.
Q Drinks' Standard Sodas
In reality, Q Drinks are designed to be mixed and meant to react perfectly with other ingredients, particularly spirits (though I have enjoyed a fair share of mocktails with Q Drinks). A bottle of Tanqueray next to a plastic-bottled tonic water is what led founder, Jordan Silbert, to create Q Tonic, and it was a success.
The brand's portfolio has been growing steadily and now includes eight impressive sodas, five of which will cover all of your basic recipe needs. These are made with all natural ingredients (you can pronounce everything on the label) and are sweetened with agave rather than high fructose corn syrup.
The carbonation of each is perfectly balanced to create a clean, crisp soda you will be proud to pair with your top-shelf stock.
The first release from Q Drinks was noted far and wide through the bartending community. This is the tonic water that you want for your Gin & Tonic because it reintroduces a balance of sweet and sharp that is often lacking in tonic waters.
It is what tonic should be and it pulls out the best flavors of your spirits.
Q Tonic's sweetness is calm and lasting and is punctuated at the beginning with the crisp taste of quinine sourced from the Peruvian Andes. Beyond the G&T (or Vodka Tonic), use Q Tonic in a Mango Tonic, Leprechaun, Autumn Spiced Tonic, It's About That Time, or your favorite tonic mix.
Q Ginger Beer
The newest release, Q Ginger Beer is here just in time to take over the Moscow Mule craze. If you have been enjoying your mules with any other ginger beer (or forbid, ginger ale), then it is time to grab this bottle and experience the best Moscow Mule of your life (when paired with good vodka, of course).
Q Ginger Beer is spectacular because it has what Silbert calls a "big ginger punch" balanced with extra carbonation and it is not overly spicy like some ginger beers. Excess spice is okay if you're drinking it straight, but not so much if you want to taste the rum in your Dark & Stormy, and it's an aspect that has many opting for ginger ale over beer. This ginger beer is the perfect remedy and is also accented with coriander, cardamom, and lime to make it even more interesting.
I had nearly a case of Q Ginger Beer to play with and have tried it in almost every ginger beer drink you could imagine.
The two I mentioned above are the obvious options, though it is also fantastic in a Pot of Gold, Scotch Lassie, and the very interesting Kabocha Spiced Cocktail. It shines in mocktails as well and if you're looking for a great booze-free shandy try it in the Cran Dandy Shandy or simply mix it with lemonade.
Q Ginger is the brand's answer to ginger ale. Just like other sodas, this is a style that is often too sweet so that with some brands it is best to skip your cocktail's sweetener all together. Q Ginger, on the other hand, has a soft balance of real ginger and sweet agave and has coriander, cardamom, rose oil, and orange peel to accent the delicate flavor.
Ginger ale is a staple of the bar and too many drinks require it to count. I can almost guarantee that any ginger ale drink you add Q Ginger to will be just a little bit better than your last one. A few that I may recommend include the Floradora, Irish Farmhouse, Tamarind & Tequila, and Shiso Mojito. Of course, there are the simple favorites like the Gin Buck and innocent Shirley Temple.
Club soda - sparkling water with a hint of salt - seems like such a basic thing that it is hard to believe that one is better than any other. As is the case with so many things in life, there are advantages to a little upgrade and it is noticeable when comparing Q Club with other club sodas. Simply crisp, clean, and perfectly sparkled, Q Club has to be close to those volcanic mineral waters that inspired soda production in the first place.
In the case of Q Club, Himalayan salt is used along with that bit of extra carbonation, which keeps your mixed drink from going flat before you really get to enjoy it. It is a club soda that you will not regret using in your Scotch & Soda, Gin Rickey, or any of the collins drinks. It is also the perfect crisper for mixes like the Chicago Fizz and Singapore Sling. If a cocktail requires soda or club soda, Q Club is one of your best options.
While many of us will be able to relate to each of the sodas already mentioned, it is Q Kola that may seem most unfamiliar. The colas we often rely on are the epitome of those far too sweet, syrupy sodas that are taking over our mixed drinks. Don't get me wrong, I love popping open a chilled (glass) bottle of Coke every now and then, but when it comes to mixing, it is often too much. It and its modern competitors either mask every other flavor of the drinks it tops.
Q Kola is really a step back in the timeline of cola history and uses the actual kola nut (thus the 'k'), which is naturally bitter. This is probably the most surprising aspect when comparing it to today's idealization of cola. The fact that Q Kola includes other natural flavors like cinnamon, clove, coriander, lemon, lime, orange, and even nutmeg is a welcome surprise as well and each pop through when tasting it straight.
Also, this is a cola that will not leave a syrupy coating in your mouth.
In drinks, Q Kola is spectacular. It allows the molasses to sweeten a Rum & Coke, accents the oak notes in whiskey, and transformed the Mussaka Cocktail into something to really talk about. It is also very fun in soda shop favorites like the Roy Rogers and Lime Cola, not to mention this Soda Shop Cola.
Q Drinks' Citrus Sodas
Now that you know Q Drinks has all of your basic sodas covered, it's time for a little citrus. You may not find as many uses for their citrus sodas, though they are very useful and just as perfect for mixing as their counterparts.
The benefits of Q's citrus sodas follow the brand's mission. They are perfectly balanced in flavor and carbonation, made with all natural ingredients, use organic cane sugar, and have nearly half the calories of sodas from other brands. They too are made specifically for mixing and are fun to experiment with, even in drinks that do not specifically call for these flavors.
Mix the freshest lemonade possible and add a clear, clean soda and you will have an inkling of how spectacular Q Lemon is. It is made with fresh lemons and has a fantastic tart flavor that is perfect for cocktails.
Use this one in place of Sprite, 7-Up, or any other lemon-lime soda. You can make up for the lack of lime by simply adding a bit of lime juice to your drink if you like, but I didn't find the need. A few recipes to recommend include the Rosemary Sparkle, Super Sleigh, Espaloma, and the always popular Lynchburg Lemonade.
Orange sodas are right up there with colas on the too sweet to drink scale and because of sodas like Q Orange you can now really enjoy a great orange soda cocktail. This is a fascinating one because it uses a mix of oranges including Valencia from Florida, Peras from Brazil, and Mexican tangerines.
Again, there are not many drinks that specifically call for orange soda, though anytime you are tempted to use something like Sunkist or Orange Crush, choose Q Orange instead. To perfect recipes for this soda are the Smoked Lime and Marmalade Havana Mojito and Fields of Gold.
About Q Drinks:
- All natural, hand-crafted sodas.
- Available in 9-ounce glass bottles and 12-ounce cans.
- Sold in packs of four at liquor stores and specialty grocers nationwide. Also available in 24-pack cases at online retailers for around $48 (see the website for locations and links).
- Visit Q Drinks website
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.