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Mixology. If the word triggers PTSD of mustachio-ed men in suspenders taking ten minutes to smoke an orange peel, you're not alone. But as exhausting as some of the more, erm... performative bartenders can be, there's no denying the pleasure of a gorgeously crafted cocktail. Therein lies the genius of WithCo, the pre-bottled cocktail mixer that elevates your drinking experience while leaving out the three-ring circus.
I'll admit I came in with some skepticism. Would all the juices, spices and herbs store equally well in a bottle? The "enjoy for 6 weeks after opening" label had to be too good to be true, right? Wrong. WithCo delivers on its promises, and with Cozy Season officially upon us, I can't tell you how hyped I am to make my own Bourbon Honey Sour without putting on real-people clothes.
So read on for the lowdown on the new king of cocktails. This one goes down smooth.
The name "WithCo" stands for "With Company," a notion that became the North Star for founder Joshua Ellis. Originally centered around in-person events in the Nashville area -- tastings, VIP catering -- pouring WithCo was always a communal event, designed to bring people together. And then 2020 happened. We all know what came next.
Like so many of the brands we know and love here at TQE, WithCo embraced the world of online, direct-to-consumer sales. Just because we couldn't be together physically doesn't mean we couldn't find community in other ways. And while we're now at the point in our Zoom fatigue where virtual happy hours sound totally skippable, for a while they were all that kept us going. Which means that WithCo's pivot to #quarantiningwithcompany providing an easy, in-home cocktail experience for those connected only by WiFi, paid off. In a big way. Like, a sales-increased-by-400% kind of way.
But I don't know about you: I'm ready to see people again. Lucky for us, WithCo tastes just as good out of solitude.
TAKING IT FOR A TEST DRINK
The ultimate test for any host -- and any cocktail mixer -- is without a doubt the dinner party. That most magical of gatherings where anything you can do to minimize prep time and maximize mingling becomes your Holy Grail. I decided to put WithCo through the wringer at a gathering with a few close friends, all with a range of favorite liquors (including a sober pal) and a track record of telling it straight. But despite my history of overcomplicating every detail, this party was a breeze. No more trips to the store for limes and rosemary sprigs -- once that package hit my door I was ready for showtime.
What struck me most about WithCo was the simplicity. Every one of the brand’s cocktails (except the Ellis Old Fashioned, which I'll rave about in a second) calls for equal parts mixer and spirit. While WithCo recommends 1.5 ounces of each per drink, that means as long as you pour equally, you're nailing it -- taking the guesswork out of even the biggest batches.
All of this, of course, is customizable. If you like a boozier drink (guilty), give that bottle of bourbon a heavier hand. If a sweet tooth is more your vice, then load up on mixer. The options don't stop there: included on every bottle of WithCo is a list of the liquors that pair best with that particular flavor. Fans of whiskey, vodka, mezcal, tequila, rum and even bubbly are equally represented here, which meant my eclectic little crowd would all find something to enjoy. And enjoy we did.
The experience of playing with a bunch of different bottles, both spirit and mixer alike, was nothing short of decadent. Drinking WithCo is like a Choose Your Own Adventure -- one with no dead-ends in sight.
To say we were fans is putting it mildly. The experience of playing with a bunch of different bottles, both spirit and mixer alike, was nothing short of decadent. Drinking WithCo is like a Choose Your Own Adventure -- one with no dead-ends in sight. I'll spare you the real-time rundown, but to guide your shopping experience, let me recommend our top three faves.
JUDGES' SCORES, PLEASE
- Ellis Old Fashioned ($20)
Wow. The biggest surprise of the night came from the Ellis Old Fashioned, which stays true to the drink's simple nature while delivering a flavor that's truly unique. While all the old standbys are reporting for duty -- bitters, pure cane sugar -- it's the addition of whole vanilla bean and cinnamon that had us intrigued. Any worries we had that this would skew saccharine went away on the first sip. Instead, we immediately tasted why Liquor.com voted this the Best Old Fashioned Mix of the year. Run, don't walk, my friends.
- Hey Girl ($20)
Cool, crisp, refreshing: the Hey Girl is the jack of all trades here. With versatile ingredients like lime, cucumber and mint, this bottle pairs equally well with tequila, gin, vodka or rum. But the biggest fan of all was my friend who poured them all non-alcoholic. All the Hey Girl needs is an equal dash of soda water (bring in the Pamplemousse!) and you couldn't ask for a better mocktail.
- Agave Margarita ($20)
There are some tasks in the kitchen that are rewarding in their tediousness, the slice-and-repeat giving your mind a place to wander and decompress. Juicing limes is not one of them. Those citrusy little suckers have made sure that I hate making margaritas as much as I love drinking them, so praise be to WithCo for giving me a way forward. Lime and agave included. This bottle was a knockout with tequila but even more so with mezcal, and yes approximately five different people asked if they could get "salt all around that rim rim rim rim."
If that trifecta hasn't convinced you, here are five more reasons to go bottoms up with WithCo:
- Each bottle contains enough mixers to make 8-10 cocktails, with the exception of MVP the Ellis Old Fashioned… which makes a whopping 32. That'll keep you busy this fall.
- WithCo has plenty of mixers to choose from but they're still rolling out new flavors, and they're open to requests from all you cocktail fans at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- More of a day drinker? No judgment here. The Bloody Mary mix ($16) is first-class, with bougie touches like celery salt and apple cider vinegar, but that same classic taste you know and love.
- You've got your blankets and candles ready to go. Who needs an ice-cold beverage? If you're craving something piping hot, the #SweaterWeather mixer ($20) lends itself perfectly to a batch of warm cider. I'll see you by the fire.
- Even though I threw shade on mixologists, their garnish game is no joke! WithCo makes it easy to get a homerun on the visuals too, with its lemon, lime and orange kits ($7 each) full of dehydrated citrus for the perfect 'grammable accent.