Monday, January 21, 2008
Product Review Stirrings Tonic Water
I want to like the products that I have had from Stirrings, I really do. However, something about their smug proclamations about specially formulated cocktail sodas to offerings like a sugar plum martini mixer (do they even know that a sugar plum doesn't have plums in it?) makes me feel like I'm being cheated by someone who knows next to nothing about cocktails, but a lot about marketing. Stirrings Tonic Water is exactly one of these products that leaves me feeling so disappointed. I'm lucky enough to live in Portland Oregon, where local bartenders like Daniel Shoemaker and Kevin Ludwig compete to make the best tonic water possible. I don't expect a premium bottled brand to come close to what local mixologists are crafting, but it would be nice to have something better than the big chemical tasting (Schweppes, Canada Dry) tonics on the market. I have heard of some artisan tonics making it onto the market, but so far haven't come across any here in Oregon. Stirrings Tonic Water claims to be made from cane sugar, "champagne" carbonation (whatever the heck that is, I doubt that they would use champagne yeast to provide carbonation) and Cinchona Bark Extract. Perhaps its the use of an extract rather than real cinchona bark that provides the flabby mouthfeel, but this is the the worst commercial tonic that I've encountered in my life. Its overly sweet and one dimensional and lacks the structure and crispness that a good tonic water needs in order to be the perfect compliment to gin. When I mixed Stirrings Tonic Water with my favorite gin, House Spirits Aviation gin, instead of a well balanced gin and tonic, the sweetness in the tonic threw the entire cocktail out of balance, ruining, for perhaps the first time in my life a gin and tonic. Next time I lack an artisan product, given the choice between Stirrings and one of the commercial brands, I'll grab the Schweppes.
A couple of other strange things I've noticed about some of the products at Stirrings. Their "Blood Orange Bitters" is really just a syrup. It contains no bittering agent. And they advertise their "Club Soda" from their line of cocktail sodas as containing both Cinchona Bark extract (huh?) and Fleur De Sel (wtf?). I don't think I'll be buying any more Stirrings products in the future, and my quest for a good commercial tonic continues.