Review: Q Drinks – Tonic, Soda, Ginger, and Kola

Q Drinks Mixers
Q Drinks Mixers

It makes no sense: imbibers often spend a great deal of time and money to acquire quality spirits, and then throw them into a glass with a commercial mixer that’s full of crap (i.e. high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavorings). Jordan Silbert, founder of Q Drinks, recognized the opportunity to deliver higher quality mixers made from natural ingredients and sweetened with agave. His line includes core cocktail mixers Q Club Soda, Q Tonic, Q Ginger Ale, Q Ginger Beer, and Q Kola.

The Q Drinks line was designed to be mixed in cocktails, so they aren’t generally meant to be consumed on their own. Q Ginger Ale, however, is so good and such a stand out, it works quite well both mixed and on its own.

Q Club Soda (9oz, ingredients: carbonated water and Himalayan salt) – You don’t realize how harsh and salty most soda waters are until you sip the wonderfully balanced and flavorful Q Club. Balanced and flavorful aren’t words that are typically associated with a mixer that’s often unpalatable on its own. By using Himalayan salt, the saltines is softer, sweeter, and much less chokingly sharp than most other commercial soda waters.  As with all of the Q Drinks line, Q Club is jam packed with carbonation. The carbonation is a rushing effervescence with small bubbles. Carbonation is what Q Drinks does best, consistently, across the entire line of mixers.

We mixed Q Club Soda with Reyka Vodka (our go-to mid-range vodka). Q Club helped draw out some of the sweeter, softer elements of the Reyka while complementing its minerality. Using a slightly softer and sweeter salt really helps make Q Club Soda a very affable mixer, and with the level of carbonation it really is a stand-out among the other options available.

Q Tonic (9oz, ingredients: carbonated water, organic agave, natural bitters, handpicked quinine, citric acid. 12g of sugar) – For all Q Drinks Mixers that contain a sweetener, Q Drinks uses agave. Agave is much sweeter than sugar and much higher in fructose. While agave can be a good sweetener (especially for tequila drinks), it does have a habit of reading slightly syrupy and very sweet. That’s the case here with Q Tonic.

Q Tonic’s carbonation level is on par with the Q Club Soda and that’s a huge advantage – the light, bubbly character helps balance the underlining sweet agave along with the citrusy lime peel. Q Tonic isn’t as bitter as some of the other tonics, and so may be preferred by drinkers looking for something softer and sweeter. Mixed with our benchmark gin, Tanqueray, Q Tonic did okay – the sweet agave did stand out when mixed, making it a little sweeter and rounder than we prefer. The bitterness of Q Tonic is light and doesn’t overwhelm the mix, although a slight increase would have balanced things out better.

Ultimately Q Tonic is hampered by the choice to use agave. Q Drinks has done a fairly good job managing it, but it’s simply the wrong sweetener for the task. This tonic with sugar and more bitterness combined with Q Drinks fantastic carbonation would be a rock star. As it stands it’s only a slight step up from the other options out there.

Q Ginger (9oz, ingredients: carbonated water, organic agave, ginger extract, extracts of coriander, cardamom, cayenne, orange peel and rose oil, citric acid. 15g of sugar) – By far the best of the Q Drinks mixers, Q Ginger Ale pulls together some great flavor from the ginger and spices, a dash of heat, great carbonation, and then balances it out with the right amount of sweetness.

With the Q Tonic the choice to use agave really hampered the mix, but here in Q Ginger it’s precisely the right tool for the job. Q Ginger manages to create a superb balance between the spice and the sweet while still finishing fairly clean and crisp. As with the other Q Drink offerings, the carbonation for Q Ginger is spot on.

We mixed Q Ginger with a variety of spirits including Reyka Vodka, Belvedere Intense Unfiltered, Goslings Dark Rum, and Bulleit Rye, and it mixed with each one perfectly.  Q Ginger is a clear upgrade over most of the other ginger ales on the market. It’s crisp, balanced, and clean enough to convert even the most obstinate vodka soda drinker.

Of all the Q Drinks, we found that Q Ginger worked best on its own as well as mixed. It’s a great product and by far Q Drinks’ best.

Q Ginger Beer (9oz, ingredients: carbonated water, organic agave, ginger extract, extracts of lime, coriander and cardamom, citric acid. 22g of sugar) – On the first sip of Q Ginger Beer, you’re really hit by strong ginger root. It’s much more earthy and sharp than in the Q Ginger Ale. Right behind the spice is a much stronger agave, making it much sweeter and less balanced than Q Ginger Ale. The ginger spice does linger on the palate a lot longer than with Q Ginger Ale, but it lacks any sort of balance.

We mixed Q Ginger Beer with Goslings Dark Rum and lime for a Dark and Stormy, as well as with Belvedere Intense Unfiltered and lime for a Moscow Mule.  In both cases the Ginger Beer tasted too sweet and unbalanced. Whereas Q Ginger Ale really intertwined with what we threw at it, Q Ginger Beer never seemed to really get along. The carbonation level with Q Ginger Beer is great, but it really lacks the overall mixability that the other Q Drinks have.

Q Kola (9oz, ingredients: carbonated water, organic agave, phosphoric acid, extracts of cinnamon, cloves, coriander, kola nut, lemon, lime, orange, and nutmeg, caramel and caffeine. 20g of sugar) – Trying to put out an alternative cola is like tilting at windmills – it’s an impossible task and you’d be crazy to do it. Most people aren’t just looking for cola, they’re looking for a specific cola (either Coke or Pepsi). Q Kola does a good job of blazing its own trail with an interesting mix of sweet, familiar cola notes along with a slightly spicy and citrusy finish.

As with the other Q Drinks mixers, Q Kola has very nice carbonation, much better than the harsher carbonation of conventional commercial sodas. Again, Q Drinks has turned to agave as a sweetener which gives it a slightly syrupy quality. We’re torn on this point: the agave does balance with the citrus and spice, but again we’re wondering if sugar would have been a better and more mixable choice.

Still, when we put Q Kola to the test, mixing it with Jack Daniels, Wild Turkey 101, Bulleit Rye, and Bacardi 8, it performed very well. As with the Q Ginger Ale, Q Kola did a good job of actually mixing with and complementing the flavors of the spirit.

On its own, Q Kola is a little bit of an oddball and the delivery of sweet and spicy don’t make as much sense as it does when mixed.

Overall, Q Drinks delivers on the promise of upgraded mixers. The two standouts are clearly Q Ginger Ale and Q Club Soda. These two represent the absolute best of what Q Drinks has to offer.