It’s tough to beat a made-from-scratch margarita, Bloody Mary, or other craft cocktail. But, really, how often do you have the time, the patience, or the fresh fixings on hand—let alone the mixology expertise—to whip up one of these concoctions? You can turn to premade mixers, of course, although most are just high-fructose corn syrup and water laced with artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. And truth be told, they taste about as saccharine and synthetic as they sound.
Good news: There’s a new crop of natural and organic cocktail mixers made with real ingredients that far surpass the old standbys in quality and flavor. Most of these still have sugar, usually in the form of cane sugar, so we’re not saying they’re lower calorie than conventional mixers. However, they incorporate real fruit and herbs, botanical extracts, and natural flavors instead of scads of synthetic ingredients. Plus, many pack a potent punch, so you can use a lot less and still make a solid drink. We gathered a crew of thirsty guys and gals for a Saturday-long sampling session in order to help you stock your home bar with the best of the best. Caution: Don’t try all of these in one day, like we did—unless you’re hoping for a full-tilt living-room dance party before sundown.